March 15th is the Ides of March. It is the day in history associated with the death of Julius Caesar. Caesar had been warned by a seer that harm would come to him no later than the Ides of March.
The time from now to the Ides could also lead to the demise of the Grizzlies playoff hopes.
The Memphis Grizzlies have overcome numerous injuries to key players and some completely baffling losses at home early this season and have now clawed themselves back into the playoff picture just a game and a half behind Dallas and Phoenix and two games behind Golden State. That accomplishment alone is remarkable.
However, now is when Dave Joerger’s success or failure in his rookie campaign will be judged. With 24 games remaining in the season and one each against Dallas, Phoenix and Golden State their season is in their hands but, before they can get to those games against their closest challengers, the Grizzlies need to play a brutal set of games leading up to March 15th.
First up is tonight’s game at the Washington Wizards. Washington is sporting an impressive 6 straight wins after battling to get above .500 for the longest time. The streak includes wins on the road against Cleveland and Toronto and a home win over New Orleans. The Grizzlies record against that competition is 1-5 this season.
Wednesday night the Grizzlies face Brooklyn who is 6-3 in their last nine games and the losses were at Chicago, at Golden State and at Portland. There is nothing to be ashamed about in losing those games. The Nets have wins against Charlotte and New Orleans over that stretch as well. The Grizzlies are 0-4 against those two teams this season. The Nets also should be confident after winning in Memphis without many of their best players participating.
Chicago has weathered the loss of Derrick Rose and Luol Deng to win 9 of their last 10 games with their only loss being at Miami. They beat the Warriors on the road by 20 points, at Dallas by 9 points and at Toronto in that stretch. Clearly they are playing their best basketball of the season right now.
The Grizzlies return home from this road trip to play Charlotte on the second game of a back to back series so it is more like a road game than a home game in that regard and I am sure no one has forgotten the loss at Charlotte last month after beating the Clippers in Memphis. A win over Chicago followed by another loss to the Bobcats would hurt.
The Grizzlies then play Portland on Tuesday, March 11th. The Grizzlies took it to Portland in the Rose Garden and the Blazers will be looking for revenge. Despite losing their All-Star LeMarcus Aldridge for a few weeks to injury, the Blazers have won five straight games and should defeat the Lakers and Hawks in their next two games. However, the schedule actually works in Memphis’ favor here as the Blazers play at Houston and at Dallas heading into the Grizzlies game and still have San Antonio and New Orleans to face afterwards.
The next night Memphis travels to their nemesis New Orleans. The only time the Grizzlies have beaten up the Pelicans this season came in a pick-up mascot game when Grizz sent the New Orleans mascot to the hospital for cosmetic reconstructive surgery. Many people claim that the surgery was doing their mascot a favor.
Friday the 14th sees the Grizzlies heading up north to play in Toronto. The Raptors, led by former Raptor and Grizz Rudy Gay, destroyed the Grizzlies in Memphis. The Raptors are 6-2 in their last 8 games with wins over Cleveland twice, New Orleans and Washington. The Raptors only losses during that stretch were to Chicago by 2 points and the Wizards in Overtime. While the Raptors lost Rudy Gay they did pick up former Grizz Greivis Vasquez as well to join Kyle Lowry as former Memphis players looking for payback.
Caesar was warned about the Ides of March by a seer named Spurinna but failed to heed the advice. He even joked with the seer the morning of March 15th saying “the Ides have come” to which she responded “Aye Caesar but not gone.”
Likewise the Grizzlies reach the 15th but the games are not done. Lowly Philadelphia remains but animals with nothing to lose often have a way of biting when cornered in their lair. Likewise the Grizzlies can’t assume simply because Philadelphia appears to be in tank mode that they can’t still rise up to bite. Memphian Thaddeus Young, possibly a free agent this summer, will want to show well against his hometown team and the 76ers have a lot of young talent.
Now I am not trying to be Spurinna and warning the Grizzlies about their impending demise but for the Grizzlies to have any hope of making the playoffs this season their rookie head coach will need to be aware of the pitfalls ahead of him. He can’t allow the team to start slow or be guilty of scoreboard watching. The team needs to focus on what they can control which is how they play on the court.
Let what happens in April take care of itself. For now beware every game between now and the Ides.