An abbreviated post-gamer tonight due to a fussy baby (and, okay, a depressing game):
The Lead: An inconsistent, frustrating, and perplexing Grizzlies season took another bad turn tonight with one of the worst losses of the season.
The five best teams in the NBA so far this season have been the Celtics, Spurs, Mavericks, Heat, and Lakers. The Grizzlies have wins against three of these teams and have taken the other two to overtime. Meanwhile, the Grizzlies have now lost to the Cavaliers (8-20), Wizards (7-19), the Warriors (9-18), and the Nets (9-20) en route to a 8-7 mark against teams that currently have losing records. You can't be more than a mediocre team until you start beating the mediocre and bad teams more often. Extra note of frustration: Per ESPN, the Nets were 7-1 this season when point guard Devin Harris scored at least 21 points and 1-19 when he fell under that threshold. Make that 2-19 now, as Harris managed only 12 points on 4-11 shooting.
Making the loss more frustrating tonight was that the team's three most effective players for most of the game — Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph, and O.J. Mayo — ended up playing only 28, 32, and 27 minutes, respectively, and foul trouble wasn't really at the root of this. Gasol and Randolph sat to start the fourth quarter, with the Grizzlies down 9, and didn't re-enter the game until the 3:27 mark, with the team down 7.
At this point it was too little too late. The Grizzlies had taken a timeout at the 5:45 mark, which was already too late to get them back in, in my opinion, but coach Lionel Hollins waited until after the timeout to send Randolph, Gasol, and Mike Conley to the scorer's table only to watch two more minutes pass without a stoppage in play and be forced to call another timeout to get the starters back. Too little, too late at that point.
Perhaps you could argue, as Hollins suggested after the game, that the starters weren't getting it done defensively, but Nets center Brook Lopez was having very little trouble. Thabeet's 17 minutes tonight were his most since opening night, when first Gasol, and then Randolph were unavailable due to injury. Thabeet registered 2 points, 3 rebounds, 4 fouls, and 0 blocks. I think he should be getting more consistent minutes behind Gasol, actually, but maybe not deep into the fourth quarter of a close game when Gasol is playing well and not in serious foul trouble.
Also of note on the minutes-to-production ratio front tonight was Rudy Gay playing more than 44 minutes despite having one of the worst offensive games of his career with 4-16 shooting and 1 assist to 3 turnovers. I thought Rudy was taking decent, very make-able shots and still playing hard for the most part — as 9 rebounds, 4 steals, and 4 blocks also attest — but he really didn't have it tonight.
Arena Action: Mike Fratello was working the game as color analyst for the Nets television broadcast. Fans watching the Nets feed on television said Fratello and his broadcasting partner were also questioning why Gasol sat so long in the fourth quarter. Owner Michael Heisley witnessed this debacle from the front row, midcourt.
Where They Stand: The Grizzlies fall to 12-17, 11th in the Western Conference and three games behind the 8th seed Portland Trailblazers.
Looking Ahead: The Grizzlies have three games left this month — at Indiana, home against Toronto, and at Sacramento — and really need to win them all I think. Sweeping these three would put the team at 15-17 to start the new year, and I think you can make a run from that point in a conference where the eighth seed is very attainable for a team winning in the low-to-mid-forties. A 2-1 record would leave them at 14-18, still doable, but a steeper hill to climb. If they manage to go 1-2 or even — yikes — 0-3 in the this stretch, then I don't see them recovering.
Announced Attendance: 14,113