Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Suns 96, Grizzlies 90 — This Defeat Was No Orphan

Posted By on Tue, Feb 5, 2013 at 11:29 PM

Jerryd Bayless scored a season-high 29, but it wasnt enough in a game where so much went wrong.
  • LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Jerryd Bayless scored a season-high 29, but it wasn't enough in a game where so much went wrong.
After two days of practice to get a feel for their new players, the Grizzlies debuted a new starting lineup and still-evolving new rotation Tuesday night and ended up with perhaps their worst loss of the season, though I think the causal link between those two things is limited.

It's said that victory has a thousand fathers but defeat's an orphan. Not here. Zach Randolph, in the midst of an encouraging 21-13 bounce-back game, getting only one fourth quarter shot?

“I'll take the blame for that,” Lionel Hollins said.

Marc Gasol fouling out in only 23 minutes and probably playing his worst two-way game of the season?

“It sucks, but it happens. This one's on me,” Gasol said, dismissing the notion that the roster changes were to blame,

The fourth quarter, in which the Suns outscored the Grizzlies 31-19 to complete a come-from-behind victory, was a perfect storm of things going wrong for the Grizzlies:

Randolph didn't get the ball, and wasn't happy about it after the game.

The Grizzlies had more turnovers (7) than made field goals (5), and some of those turnovers were inexplicable, entirely unforced errors.

Phoenix point guard Goran Dragic, who's often proved a tricky match-up for Mike Conley, got rolling, scoring 15 points on 5-6 shooting in the quarter, including a deja vu spinning lay-up when it seemed like the Suns were on the verge of a shot-clock violation.

And the Grizzlies had a head-scratcher of a late possession. Down four with the ball and 32 seconds to play, the Grizzlies came out of a timeout and, when they failed to get a good shot in the first few seconds after the in-bounds, settled for a rushed Darrell Arthur three-point attempt. An early shot would have been preferable given the shot-clock/game-clock margin, but a good shot was necessary.

But all that bad stuff late obscured some bad stuff early, including a disastrous — for one game at least — new rotation wrinkle in which Hollins — apparently determined to not play rookie back-up point guard Tony Wroten Jr. — inserted Austin Daye on the wing while moving Jerryd Bayless to point guard. In seven minutes with Bayless and Daye on the floor together and Conley on the bench, the Grizzlies were outscored by 13 points and had six turnovers.

Gasol was bad on both ends, his post attempts too casual and his post defense bizarrely ineffective, as both Marcin Gortat (20 points on 8-10 shooting) and reserve Jermaine O'Neal 14 points on 5-7) had big games, with much of that scoring against Gasol. And with Gasol struggling or unavailable, Arthur wasn't able to give the team a boost, missing his mid-range shot and playing awkwardly around the rim on the way to a 1-10 shooting night.

This loss is made even worse by the increased level of difficulty in the next two games, a roadie at Atlanta Wednesday night and a potentially standings-changing home game against Golden State on Friday.

Aside from the lost opportunity, I might be prepared to shrug this one off a bit. What are the odds of Marc Gasol and Darrell Arthur playing that poorly at the same time again? And even if Hollins doesn't want to play Wroten, those extra up-in-the-air perimeter minutes are going to be claimed by the much-missed Quincy Pondexter in the near future. But with Hollins moping post-game about not having an extra big man at his disposal (presumably he was thinking of Marreese Speights, not Hamed Haddadi) and Randolph grousing about not getting the ball and the body language on the bench looking a little too defeatist as the game was unraveling in the fourth quarter, it feels like damage to morale and chemistry could be a much bigger danger in the wake of recent roster upheaval than the actual change in on-court ability or options. Certainly, the Grizzlies were in no way lacking the horses for a home win against the 16-32 Suns.

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