Coming into tonight’s game, with the remaining schedule the Grizzlies have, and all other teams schedules considered, this was now a true “must-win” game. After a disappointing road trip by most standards, the Grizzlies were welcomed back to the Grindhouse by Grizz Nation with open arms.
The game started out like the Grizzlies were snuggling into the warm embrace of FedexForum with a 14-2 lead only 3:38 seconds into the game. It seemed now that the Nuggets were the ones who were needing to adjust to the oxygen levels in the humid air of Memphis.
However, if you looked closely at the box score, the 14 points the Grizzlies scored were all by Tayshaun Prince & Marc Gasol, with the exception of ZBO’s opening bucket. We all knew, this wasn’t going to sustain for long, and indeed it did not.
From that moment on, the Grizzlies allowed a 37-20 run by the Nuggets as they went up 39-34, and stretched that lead to as many as 8 points. However the Grizzlies would score the final 4 points of the first half to make what could’ve been an “on the ropes” type of half, to a manageable 4 point deficit, 47-43.
In the first half, the Grizzlies shot 33% but limited the Nuggets to 36%. The teams were even on points in the paint, Grizzlies held a 2 point edge in 2nd chance points, but gave up 24 boards and 9 fast break points, while securing 21 boards and yielding 0 fast break points. All things considered, to be down only 4 points was pretty wild.
The Grizzlies however would fall behind by 9 to start the 3rd quarter, 52-43. Quincy Miller stole the ball from Courtney Lee and had a breakaway dunk go array, or else it could’ve been 11. However, missing dunks on the road is not an advisable move, because usually it awakens a crowd and allows the home team to capitalize. The Grizzlies would do just that, outscoring the Nuggets 19-6 over the next 5:39 minutes of play leading to a 62-58 lead.
Zach Randolph scored 6 points during the quarter and Mike Conley became the aggressor and took the ball to the hoop every time down the court, placing him at the free throw line 6times during the quarter. He would finish with 10 points in the 3rd and the Grizzlies were on top 69-65 at the end of 3.
Then came the 4th quarter. The Grizzlies wobbled back and forth for the first 5 minutes of the quarter before the Grizzlies forced three straight Faried turnovers. The Grizzlies would capitalize and after a jump ball tie-up between Gasol and Darrel Arthur, Mike Conley secured Gasol’s tip, stepped-back (travelled) and nailed a 3 point shot that put the Grizzlies on top 89-76, folowed by a Bryan Shaw tech to give the Grizzlies their largest lead at 90-76 with 4:43 to go. The Nuggets would get it no closer than 4, and the Grizzlies secured the must win victory, 100-92, their 11th straight home victory.
Tayshaun Prince injured his ankle in the first half and did not return to the game.
17,011 tickets were sold
The Grizzlies now have a day off before they travel to San Antonio for a game on Sunday. Pretty much no one is giving them a chance to win that game. And honestly, the numbers back that up. However, stranger things have happened. Since the Grizzlies will most likely be facing the Spurs in the first round of the playoffs, there will be special attention paid to lineups. Yet, there is a part of me that thinks Popovich will intentionally not show his hand, because he is willing to give up the battle (one game) in order to win the war (first round).
Of Note: If you listen below to Coach Joerger’s post game press conference, the final question was asked by me. I was hoping (trying) to give Coach an opportunity to clear the air about his lineup choices and how much he relies on analytics and data in selecting them. Apparently, he did not see it that way, and responded quickly and definitely, “NONE.” I was not trying to be arrogant, nor confrontational but simply giving the coach a way to address all the fans, media and speculators at one time. I regretfully acknowledge the way I presented my question was not in the most appropriate of ways. However, I do not think his answer was all that far from the truth. I do not believe he consults data regularly when selecting his rotations. Not that he should, though. As much as I love analytics and data, I do not think there has been a large enough sample size, except 6 five man lineups, to effectively guage cohesiveness and effectiveness. I expected an answer along these lines. However, I think he is tired of addressing the issue. I suspect no more of these questions will be asked, even though some will still question it in the media and among Grizz Nation.