Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Recap: Lakers 96, Grizzlies 92: The Walking Wounded

Posted By on Wed, Dec 18, 2013 at 9:55 AM

Mike Miller (pictured here with hair) was the latest Griz player to be injured last night.
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Mike Miller (pictured here with hair) was the latest Griz player to be injured last night.

When does it stop?

When do Grizzlies players stop getting injured?

Last night, the Grizzlies, still without Marc Gasol for several more weeks, and missing Mike Conley to a thigh contusion suffered on Sunday evening against Minnesota, came out and battled—without much organization and lacking any sense of offensive flow, but it cannot be said that they didn't fight for it—and in the end they couldn't pull off a victory. In the process, two more players went down with injuries: Tayshaun Prince, who left the game at halftime with a sore left knee, and Mike Miller, who turned his ankle so badly he fell over on the court, got up and tried to run it off down the tunnel to the locker room, but fell over halfway through the tunnel holding his ankle.

This season is a never-ending meat grinder of injuries. The list of Grizzlies players who have missed at least one game with an injury now, assuming Prince and Miller can't go tonight in Dallas? (That's right: the Grizzlies have to go on the road to play the second game of a back-to-back after last night's intense and ultimately draining loss to the Lakers.) It'd be easier to list the players who haven't missed time: Jamaal Franklin, Jon Leuer, Nick Calathes, Kosta Koufos, and... James Johnson.

It's possible that the Grizzlies could be down to nine healthy players again tonight in Dallas, right back where they were last week when we were saying "soon they'll be back on track." The nightmare continues.

I don't think it's time to give up on the season yet. The team is 10-14 right now, which is nothing that can't be brought back to .500 by a good week or two. The problem is that they're never going to have that good week if they keep having nine healthy players on the roster, getting guys back from injury only to lose another two guys the next night. And when they do have almost everybody (sans Gasol) they're still not able to execute.

I was sitting next to Don Wade of the Daily News last night at the game, and at one point in the third quarter he turned to me and said, "You know, this whole game has felt like garbage time." And he was right. There was no flow to what either team was doing last night. Neither team looked like they had a clear idea of what they were trying to execute, and often that led to miserable shots being hurled up as the shot clock expired. Unfortunately for the Grizzlies, the Lakers have Kobe Bryant (mostly) and Nick Young, two of the premier "horrible shot chuckers that sometimes improbably make them" in the league, so the lack of any semblance of an offense was more to the Lakers' advantage than it was to the Grizzlies'.

There are only so many clever ways to describe what happened last night, though. The Grizzlies came out and played hard but not well, and got beaten by a Lakers team that was also playing hard but not well, because the Grizzlies made more dumb mistakes than the Lakers did. And, as is now customary, in the process two more Grizzlies players got hurt. There's your recap. I need a drink.

But what about tonight?

Tonight the Grizzlies are on the road in Dallas to play a Mavericks team that is performing better than most observers predicted they would. The Grizzlies have been better on the road than at home, but given all the injuries, even if Mike Conley can come back tonight, the Grizzlies aren't that much better on the road.

Here's the thing: we have no idea what this Grizzlies team is. We never actually got to see them at their best, save for the 4-game road trip before Gasol got hurt. And even that was against two good teams (the Clippers and Warriors) and two bad ones (the Lakers and Kings). And because we've never seen the team at full strength, and the roster of available players is changing faster than Miley Cyrus' body art, it's hard to get a feel for what's working and what isn't with the coaching, the players, all of it.

The Grizzlies need more of this tonight from Jon Jonny Basketball Leuer.
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • The Grizzlies need more of this tonight from Jon "Jonny Basketball" Leuer.

So I have no idea what's going to happen tonight. Probably some Z-Bo stuff. Nick Calathes and Ed Davis will continue to play very well in the pick and roll. Jerryd Bayless will continue to be limited as a primary ballhandler. Jon Leuer will continue surprising people by being a very good basketball player. Kosta Koufos will continue to be able to put up a double-double in twenty minutes. But against the Mavericks, unless Leuer defends Dirk Nowitzki (who is "probable" against the Grizzlies tonight) the same way he did in preseason, it might not be enough to get their first division win of the year. (Read that sentence again: the Grizzlies have not won a single game in the Southwest division yet this year.)

I think the Grizzlies should be granted a W tonight if they can merely ("merely") avoid any further injuries, but that's not how it works. They'll have to win it the hard way. The NBA season grinds on with or without them.

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