Watching the Grizzlies lose 113-111 tonight at New Orleans, I was struck by the similarity to the ending of the team's previous loss, January 9th at Charlotte.
At Charlotte: O.J. Mayo hits a clutch, contested three-pointer to tie the game. The Grizzlies then make a defensive substitution of DeMarre Carroll for Marc Gasol. Bobcats guard Raymond Felton misses a shot on the final possession, but Gerald Wallace goes right over Zach Randolph for the game-winning tip-in. The 7'1" Gasol, who had won the game the night before with final-possession blocked shot, watches from the bench.
At New Orleans: Rudy Gay hits a clutch, contested three-pointer to tie the game. The Grizzlies then make a defensive substitution of DeMarre Carroll for Marc Gasol. Hornets forward James Posey drives around Carroll (deplorable man defensive there) and to the rim, where Zach Randolph fails to rotate over and contest the shot. The 7'1" Gasol, who had four blocks in the game, watches from the bench.
Don't get me wrong: I think head coach Lionel Hollins has done a fabulous job with this team, getting players to buy in, play hard, and play together. In salvaging what could have been a lost season after the Iverson debacle and a 1-8 start, he deserves to be at the very top of any Coach of the Year discussion. But I was perplexed by this defensive substitution when it happened at Charlotte and even more dumbfounded to see the exact same scenario happen again. Randolph has been amazing this season, but not on the defensive end; I don't see why you'd possibly want him over Gasol as the only big on a final defensive possession.
Big picture, fans shouldn't be too concerned about the loss to New Orleans. The Grizzlies' three losses this month: Two roadie nail-biters against decent teams and one spanking at the end of a four-game road trip minus two starters. These are not bad losses. In fact, this team probably hasn't suffered a bad loss since mid-December with their road throttling against Atlanta and their home loss to Oklahoma City. They'll get a chance for revenge vs. OKC Friday at FedExForum, a game that now has playoff implications. Should be a good one.