Thursday, February 27, 2014

Grizzlies 108, Lakers 103: A Voyage to Uglytown

Posted By on Thu, Feb 27, 2014 at 8:01 AM

The Gasol brothers jump for it while Z-Bo adjusts his britches.

Well, the Grizzlies won.

At times, it may have looked like they were trying not to, but they won.

And it's not just that: the Grizzlies won, and the Suns lost, and the Warriors got drilled. The Mavericks won, but that's just going to have to be okay for now. Last night was a very good night for the Grizzlies as they continue their pursuit of the 8th spot and a playoff berth.

All those things happened, leaving the Grizzlies just half a game back of the 8th and final playoff spot in the Western Conference, moving Dallas up to 6th. With 26 games left to play, the Griz are in perfect position to make a run at the postseason.

The problem with that? They'll never make it if they play the way they did in the second half of last night. Sure, it was related to effort—the Lakers are a bad team, and everyone (including the Lakers) knows this—and on other nights the starters will try harder. But everyone involved from the coach down can't afford to make many more performances like the one last night if this team is serious about making it into the playoffs.

Herewith, some scattered thoughts:

§

The James Johnson/Tony Allen combo needs a nickname, and they need one fast. I've been calling Tony Allen the Lord of Basketball Chaos for years, so I just made it plural. I soon realized that the L.O.B.C. sounds like a great name for some sort of outlaw motorcycle gang, and Twitter took it from there:


There was also Peter Edmiston, bringing the Death Row rap game:



I speculated about a possible clubhouse location:


So, clearly these guys need to develop a Sons of Anarchy-like pilot about outlaw basketball player martial arts assassins (I'm including Tony Allen in "martial arts"—remember the kick to Chris Paul's face?).

Also clear was that I was much happier to talk about this stuff on Twitter than to actually watch the third quarter, which was hideous, as the Grizzlies turned a 22-point lead into a 7-point lead, with the Lakers pushing the tempo and the Grizzlies looking annoyed that they had to actually run back on defense (with the starters out there for something like seven and a half straight minutes). Yeah... the motorcycle gang stuff was more fun.

§

Is Jodie Meeks invisible to Grizzlies players? I feel like every time these teams have played—three so far—Meeks ends up taking and making a ton of wide-open threes. After two games of that, maybe someone should make a note somewhere that says "Keep Jodie Meeks from being wide open so often." That seems like valuable scouting information. It didn't look like that had happened.

§

Coach Dave Joerger did some things I didn't agree with at the end of the game. With 3:49 left and a double-digit lead, and Calathes on the floor holding it down just fine (Calathes, Lee, and Gasol all had 5 assists to Conley's 3), he pulled Calathes and put Conley in. Why then? Why not do everything in your power to keep your starters out of the game?

The same thing happened about a minute later: with 2:49 left and an 11 point lead, Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol came back into the game. This move was even more questionable to me, because the bench was playing with more energy and more determination than the starters—who looked for most of the night like they were pondering whether Danver's or Arby's had a better roast beef sandwich instead of where they should be on defense.

Also, I know Joerger is trying to shorten the rotation, and that he's determined to try to make things work, but... Mike Miller played 20 minutes again, and Ed Davis and Jon Leuer were apparently kidnapped by space aliens last week. With Johnson playing a little more at the power forward spot, I certainly understand that Davis may not be as necessary, but if he was just going to rack up DNP-CD's, was the trade market really so bad that he couldn't be dealt for some sort of asset instead of playing the patented O.J. Mayo "We're just going to bench you and then let you walk" game?

§

Overall, the Grizzlies are lucky they won this one. They came out in the first half and hung 65 on the Lakers, and then tried a hundred different ways to lose the game down the stretch. Fortunately for them, the Lakers are so terrible that they couldn't figure how to get back on top. The way the Grizzlies were playing—especially on defense—they would've had a struggle regaining the lead.

They won, so we're not having to have this conversation from a place of despair—simply frustration. But they were this close to blowing this one, and that would've been a disaster on a night when so many of the other players involved in the playoff race slipped back down to earth a bit. Instead, it's on to the next one, and let's just pretend last night's game was called at halftime.

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