Prior to the Grizzlies vs Pelicans tipping off, a special buzz filled the air as downtown Memphis was teeming with people. However this was not the playoff buzz from a crowd whose team has been on a 5 game win streak (Grizzlies) playing one who has lost 8 straight (Pelicans). No, this buzz had more significance. Today we marked the life and legacy of a special man to our city, country and world, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It was a solemn moment, yet also a celebration of triumph.
Memphis certainly was in the spotlight today. Not just for its basketball but, also, for the celebration of a man’s dream. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr would’ve been 85 years old on January 15th. Prior to the game, there was a Sports Legacy Symposium where Dikembe Mutombo, Bernard King, and JoJo White spoke and were honored for their contributions to society. In addition, country folk singer Charley Pride gave a throwback halftime show and opened by singing the National Anthem. The Memphis Grizzlies organization did a fantastic job commemorating the significance of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and for that, I give an A+ performance.
Now onto the game action, the Pelicans entered today’s game having lost nine of their last ten and without 43.8 ppg and 16.5 rpg in Ryan Anderson, Jason Smith and Jrue Holiday, all out due to injury. The Grizzlies came in winners of five straight and 7 of their last 9. On paper this seemed like an easy win for the Grizzlies. However, that didn’t matter to New Orleans.
The Pelicans are the least experienced team in the NBA. And today, that played right into their favor. The Pelicans came out fighting, knowing they were backed into a corner and desperately seeking a win. The Grizzlies however, came out flat. They have done this the past three games since the return of Marc Gasol, save the first quarter emotional run versus the Thunder. Tonight however, the run and fun ended as the Grizzlies (20-20) fell 95-92 to the Pelicans (16-24) in front of 17,485 at FedEx Forum.
Anthony Davis came out with a vengeance defensively, blocking shots, denying passing lanes and protecting the rim for the Pelicans. The Grizzlies committed seven turnovers in the first quarter leading to seven points for the Pelicans. Courtney Lee did most of the scoring for the Grizzlies starting 5-5 in the first half. He would end up with 19 points on 6-8 shooting, 3-5 from three and 4-4 from the charity stripe. In addition, Lee gave the Grizzlies the best +/- when on the court at +12. Grizzlies trailed by 5 at the end of the first quarter, 25-20.
However in the second quarter, after being embarrassed by Anthony Davis (27 pts, 10 reb, 4stl, 4bl) for much of the first half, with 4:07 left Zach Randolph would kick it into gear and the Grizzlies held the Pelicans to 16 second quarter points. Grizzlies trailed 41-40 at the break. ZBo ended up scoring 23 points by the end of the third quarter, but would not score again in the game. ZBo ended the game with 23 points and 20 rebounds (10 off:10 def). The Grizzlies led 69-68 at the end of the third quarter.
It is quite a shame that ZBo’s effort went for naught, because he played angry in the third quarter and as we all know, nothing beats an angry ZBO. However, down the stretch Tyreke Evans (!!!) and Anthony Davis proved to be too much for the Grizzlies. Reke blazed by James Johnson several times late in the third and early fourth quarters leading Coach Joerger to opt for Tayshaun Prince’s length and experience to defend Reke down the stretch in the 4th. Unfortunately, Tayshaun could do no better than Johnson. Tyreke got to the rim at will and when the Grizzlies collapsed on him, he kicked it to Anthony Davis or Eric Gordon to inflict the damage. It’s a shame that TA was out because a guy with Tony Allen’s length and quick first step would’ve been a better match for defending Tyreke than either of our longer small forwards were.
There are so many other things that cost us the game, however. Coach Joerger said to open his post game press conference “(This game) got away a week ago versus Milwuakee,” adding that “we won’t play better until we play harder…from the first minute of the game.”
I can’t disagree with that. Ever since Marc Gasol’s return, the Grizzlies offense has struggled. Yes, the defense has been better, however the pace has slowed down a bit and shots are coming later in the shot clock. You can tell everyone is getting used to each other again, and these are pains that the Grizzlies must experience to get where we all want them to be. The Grizzlies were not nearly as active tonight on the defensive end as we as fans have expected with only two steals. Shots were not falling and Mike Conley had a poor shooting night with 13 points on 4-15 shooting.
It is an untimely loss. One that will set us back and moves us to 0-10 verse the Southwest Division. The Grizzlies are now the only team in the entire NBA without a win against a divisional foe. We now have 42 games left of the season. While I wouldn’t consider this a crushing loss, it is a bad loss. The Grizzlies next ten games are not easy. We have 42 games left on the season. Plenty of time to catch up and gain ground.
I’m not worried we won’t make the playoffs. In fact, I’m not worried at all. Games like today’s are what the NBA gives you. You win some you shouldn’t win, and you lose some you shouldn’t lose. I have confidence in these guys moving forward to work hard the next three days off and figure it all out.
Don’t get down. Don’t feed into your emotions. (I should talk right, I mean do you follow me on twitter?) Let’s move forward and support our team, Grizz Fam! “Never too high after a win, and never to low after a loss.”
Other Game Observations:
James Johnson, aka Dr. JJ, aka LunchMoney, aka Double J, aka Kid Dynomite had his worst game since becoming a Grizzlies player logging just under 15 minutes and posting a -15. However, he did have a powerful block on a Tyreke fast break as well as a blocked Darius Miller three to end the third quarter.
The Grizzlies bench put up 18 points, 10 rebounds and 4 assets and a collective -40.
Jon Leuer saw the floor for the first time since the win over OKC when he played only 3 minutes. He played 6 minutes tonight and was the only bench player without a negative rating (0).