The Lead: Let's be honest, both of these teams were due for this. The Grizzlies hadn't lost a regular-season home game since March. The Nuggets are a good team who got off to a rougher than expected start. Regression to the mean collided at FedExForum tonight.
With the Grizzlies playing their third game in four nights, the Nuggets younger legs and superior depth made this a game. For the first time all season for the Grizzlies, the outcome came down in final-minutes execution, which did not go well for the Grizzlies.
For starters, after having big vs. small match-ups go their way in multiple games last week, lineup imbalance worked against the Grizzlies tonight. The Nuggets played starting small forward Danilo Gallinari as a stretch four for most of the fourth quarters while the Grizzlies played small and Gallinari was able to drive and shoot his way to 9 points in the quarter. After the game, Lionel Hollins second-guessed the decision to stay big.
And the Grizzlies twice committed turnovers coming out of timeouts in the last minute. The most galling of these came with the Grizzlies down 93-92 and 46 seconds left in the game. Despite having a size mismatch on the post — and, admittedly, Marc Gasol had turned the ball over on an offensive foul on the previous possession — the Grizzlies chose to isolate Rudy Gay, who was being covered by Andre Iguodala, one of the two or three best perimeter defenders in the league. Gay was bottled up, picked up his dribble, and lost it trying to pass out.
Man of the Match: Tough call here as production was relatively balanced and nobody was superb. By default, I guess I'll give it to Rudy Gay, who lead Grizzlies scorers with 22 points on 8-13 shooting and made some nice plays on both ends in the fourth quarter until that bad late turnover.
Nightly Number: I warned about the Nuggets abilities on the offensive boards in my game preview and they were dominant tonight, besting the Grizzlies 21-12. Kenneth Faried outboarded Zach Randolph offensively 7-3, while center JaVale McGee and Kosta Koufos combined for another 7.
The Match-Up: I also warned about the Nuggets better bench in my pre-game, and they outscored their Grizzlies counterparts 34-23. Quincy Pondexter and Jerryd Bayless made some good contributions, but combined with a fading Wayne Ellington to go 1-9 from long-range. Meanwhile Corey Brewer (with his energy), Andre Miller (with his peskiness and passing) and JaVale McGee (with his swooping exploits around the rim) all put a bigger stamp on this game.
Elements of Style: The Nuggets roster is sort of a Gallery of Notable NBA Athletes. Who's quicker than Ty Lawson? Who's skinnier than Smiling Corey Brewer? Who's got more pterodactyl to his game than JaVale McGee? Who's quicker off the floor than Kenneth Faried? Who's got more church-league craft than Andre Miller? The Grizzlies saw plenty — too much — of all of that tonight.
The Jacob Riis Report: The Nuggets are going to be better than their early record has indicated. It's partly a product of a road-heavy schedule and partly the result of unsustainably bad shooting from a few key players. There are other issues, perhaps, but those two, at least, should sort themselves out. Keep an eye on Denver as the season progresses and their schedule turns.
Tweet O’ the Game: Power Rankings jinx > Madden cover jinx — @ESPNSteinLine
Arena Action: The Michael Heisley-Robert Pera Game Counter is now Heisley 4, Pera 1.
Where They Stand: The Grizzlies fall to 8-2 and are now tied with the Los Angeles Clippers for the Western Conference's top record.
Looking Ahead: The Grizzlies get a nice three-day break through Thanksgiving and then face the Los Angeles Lakers Friday night in the second game of the current five-game homestand.
Announced Attendance: 15,111
Rookie guard Tony Wroten was on an excused absence tonight after a death in his family. He's set to report to the Grizzlies' D-League affiliate, the Reno Big Horns, after the Thanksgiving holiday.
The NBA announced before tonight's game that Zach Randolph has been fined $25,000 for “confronting Oklahoma City’s Kendrick Perkins in the locker-room area following their ejections with 2:05 remaining in the fourth quarter of the Grizzlies at Thunder game on Nov. 14.”
Randolph maintained his season-long streak of double-doubles, but couldn't keep up his 15-10 streak, finishing with 12-13.