With personnel changes at Beyond the Arc headquarters I'm finding it difficult to do the mammoth post-game reports that have been the semi-norm here over the past few seasons. This has me thinking of ways to rework how this blog operates heading into the summer and next season.
For now, I'm just going to feel my way through, probably with shorter, more subject-specific posts rather than long single-game previews and reviews. For starter, a few thoughts on the fourth quarter of last night's exciting and disappointing 99-98 Grizzlies loss to the Los Angeles Lakers:
For three quarters last night, O.J. Mayo was having a terrific game. He'd scored 23 points on 13 field-goal attempts and was playing Kobe Bryant, if not even, then close enough for the Grizzlies purposes.
Then the fourth quarter came around and Mayo was mysteriously absent from the Grizzlies offense, getting few touches and only one shot attempt within the offense until the very end of the game. Mayo was still active, getting a couple of steals and a defensive rebound, but despite having been the team's most effective player through three quarters, the offense seemed to go away from him. Mayo entered in the fourth quarter at the 9:26 mark and for the next four minutes was on the floor with one starter (either Marc Gasol or Zach Randolph) and three bench players. In that stretch, Mayo took one of the team's eight field-goal attempts. The other seven went to bench players, who shot 2-7.
Mayo had a chance to make up for this at the very end of the game and his failure was crushing. Fouled by Kobe Bryant with 18 second left, Mayo went to the line with a chance to push the Grizzlies lead from two to four, and missed both. This from an 83% free-throw shooter who had been playing well all night. It was surprising and not only cost the Grizzlies the game, but may have cost whatever slim shot the team still had at the playoffs. At least that's how it felt.
Instead, Kobe Bryant put the Lakers up one with a clutch three-pointer and Mayo had another chance at a game-winner at the buzzer, but just overshot a contested mid-range jumper. Can't really fault him for that. He missed a tough shot. I would have gone to Rudy Gay on that last shot, in part because I fear Bryant as a defender at this point more than I fear Ron Artest (who was horrible last night), and in part because I think it's easier for Gay to get a clean look.
Of course, Mayo's missed free-throws weren't the only ones that factored strongly in the outcome of the game. Up four points with about a minute and a half to play, Marc Gasol got called for a moving pick and Hollins came out near mid-court, apparently to chastise Gasol for the foul. The referee — who was at the other end of the court — apparently thought Hollins was protesting the call and gave him a technical foul. Bryant made the foul shot, that point ultimately giving the Lakers the victory margin. I don't see how that technical wasn't a bad call. First of all, in the last couple of minutes of a close game, there's presumption that referees are going to be more judicious with those kinds of calls. Secondly, how can you make that call when it isn't absolutely clear what Hollins is yelling about? I don't fault Hollins for getting that technical, because I didn't see any reason it was warranted.
One last point is that all of that drama at the end of the game obscured how fortunate the Grizzlies were to be taking a lead into the final minute anyway. Up four points at the 4:35 mark, the Grizzlies watched the Lakers miss 5 of 6 of their own free-throw attempts in an otherwise scoreless two-and-a-half-minute stretch. Meanwhile, on the other end, the Grizzlies were getting bailed out on some rocky offensive execution: First with Zach Randolph tipping in a Rudy Gay miss and then with a deflected ball happening into Marc Gasol's hands at the end of the shot clock, just in time for him to flip in a hook shot.
If the Lakers don't go dormant from the line and the Grizzlies don't get a couple of breaks on their end, then the team is never in position to potentially seal the game from the line.