Thursday, January 17, 2013

Road Recap: Spurs 103, Grizzlies 82 — A Trend It Is?

Posted By on Thu, Jan 17, 2013 at 11:33 AM

Lionel Hollins and the Grizzlies have some things to figure out.
  • LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Lionel Hollins and the Grizzlies have some things to figure out.
Before last night's game in San Antonio, I suggested the team's performance — win or lose — would determine whether the previous big losses were a trend or a blip. Well, blip gave way to trend as the game went on, an early close contest turning to a laugher with a demoralizing second-half collapse.

What's wrong? Here's a short answer nobody likes: I don't know.

Unfortunately, renewed chaos and worry on the Griz front coincides with a moment where I don't have time for any kind of deep dive. Instead, for now, a few quick reactions to different potential answers to that opening question

Trend be damned, it's still a blip: I tend toward the “calm down” approach most of the time, but I'm skeptical about the “blip” notion. But I'll entertain it. The Dallas loss wasn't surprising given the scheduling aspects. The Clippers game was played without Rudy Gay and with some odd lineups — some forced, some, as with the early, disastrous insertion of Josh Selby, not. And the Spurs, well, the Spurs are really damned good. Even with all this, the Grizzlies are still fourth in the Western Conference. Certainly, a home game Friday against Sacramento could be a good way to get healthy again. But a big loss in that situation would end all doubt.

Trade rumors have ruined the chemistry: This sounds good but feels like nonsense to me. The Rudy Gay trade rumors have been out there for a while now. They were out there when the team started January going 5-1 with a perfect West Coast trip, a road win in Boston, and a home win over the Spurs. Trade rumors were a lot hotter with O.J. Mayo in the past and the team didn't go in the tank. Trades rumors are common all over the league every season. It's an easy excuse, but in the absence of some actual evidence, I have a hard time saying that's the reason for anything.

The offense is bad and keeps getting worse: The defense has been a problem the past three games, but the offense has been an problem for more than a month and seems to keep getting worse, including a 28-point second-half performance last night.

What's wrong with the offense? Let's count the ways, and these are only lead items:

Point guard production has been erratic at best. Mike Conley and Jerryd Bayless combined to shoot 5-14 last night. Conley's been inconsistent since December began and Bayless has been just plain bad.

The early team three-point shooting has disappeared. The team went 1-9 from three, while the Spurs were 9-18. With Quincy Pondexter out and most other options slumping, the team has fallen back to 29th in attempts per game and has now sunk below the median in percentage. The early three-point improvement that drove the November offense has totally evaporated.

The frontline isn't getting to the line, and, more specifically, Marc Gasol has been less of a paint presence. All of the frontcourt starters are getting to the line less frequently than in November, but with Gasol it's been a steep drop, as has his field-goal percentage.

It's the coaching: If Gay trade rumors have been around a while, conjecture about Lionel Hollins' future has been a more recent development. But that was last week, before the rousing home win over the Spurs.

There's a lot to say about Hollins' coaching, which has its considerable strengths and legitimate weaknesses, the latter perhaps particularly relevant to the offensive end of the floor, where struggles can't be fully explained by the notion that a lengthy list of players are all slumping at the same time. I'll get into that more in the near future.

But one hallmark of Hollins' tenure has been resiliency. This team has overcome idiocy (Iverson) and injury in each of Hollins' seasons, and while I think the reasons for the team's so-called “grit and grind” style include but extend beyond coaching, there's been a bounce-back combativeness that absolutely mirrors the demeanor of the head coach.

Can they bounce back from whatever this is? We're about to find out.

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