Thursday, April 3, 2014

Timberwolves 102, Grizzlies 88: Wolves, Lower

Posted By on Thu, Apr 3, 2014 at 9:53 AM

Ed Davis was one of the only Grizzlies who played well last night.
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Ed Davis was one of the only Grizzlies who played well last night.

Not much to say about last night's 102-88 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves other than that it probably wouldn't have happened if the Grizzlies' starters had put forth the execution and effort they're capable of.

Watching the game was so frustrating that I was sort of a mess at the end of it, tweeting stuff like this:


The truth is that I know why the starters couldn't do much, though: they've played too many minutes on this road trip at each of the five stops along the way. It's been a good month now since Dave Joerger announced he was going to "start to shorten the rotation" down the stretch, and it's been about a month since that seemed like a good idea. Armed with one of the deepest rosters in Griz history—in which players 1-13 can all come in and contribute immediately. If there were ever a time to bring back the Hubie Brown 10-man system (and maybe with a second unit that changes based on matchups), this would be the roster to do it with.

But... no, that's not what's happening. The starters—who are not the Grizzlies' best or most efficient lineup—are being asked to carry a huge workload on a brutal stretch of basketball against West playoff teams and East frontrunners, with a few random sub-.500 teams sprinkled in for good measure.

I said in a piece yesterday that I thought Dave Joerger was doing a good job, but that rotations were his weakness. He apparently read that article and went into last night's game determined to make me look like an idiot. The starters were completely fatigued from the word go, but they never got the hook until it was far too late to do anything. Mike Conley got worked over by Ricky Rubio in his 33 minutes, going 3-15 from the field for 7 points. Zach Randolph was 1-8 from the field and played 26 minutes, most of which were spent standing there pretending to defend. Courtney Lee finally had a good night offensively, but his defense suffered. Only three Grizzlies scored in double figures, and only two of them were starters.

Meanwhile, one of the best benches in the league continued to be just that, at least compared to how the starters looked. On fresher legs because of the minutes load on the starters over the last 4 games, the bench players—mostly Nick Calathes, Mike Miller, Tony Allen, and Ed Davis, with a healthy dose of James Johnson (and kudos to Johnson for not doing the Vulcan Death Grip on Kevin Love after Love elbowed him in the head on what should've been a Flagrant-2)—came in and closed the gap.

After playing the usual "too much of the starters in the third quarter" routine, the Griz were down by 16. The bench lineup came in and got the lead down to ten points with a few minutes left in the game. I tweeted this then, knowing that Joerger falls into the trap of thinking that starters have some sort of mystical power that makes them win at the end of games:




They came back in, and the Grizzlies immediately went down 18, at which point the bench guys came back in, at which point it was too late to salvage a game that the Grizzlies really needed to win if they want to do anything other than barely squeak into the 8 seed. And honestly, if that's the Grizzlies team that shows up for the playoffs, I'd rather just not have to watch them. Last night was frustrating and miserable, and these guys look like they're wearing down in a major way.

The Grizzlies have been fighting back furiously from the hole they were in while Marc Gasol was out. Their record over the past three months has been nothing short of ridiculous. It shouldn't be surprising that on the fifth game of a five game road trip against a sub-par team that "should have" been in the playoffs, they'd suffer. But last night was poor game management. Joerger should've just trusted the bench guys to take it home, because the starters didn't have anything left to give. That, or some of them didn't care. But I know better than that. Fatigue is a big deal this time of year.

Dallas, Memphis, and Phoenix are still tied at 44-31 after a Suns loss to the Clippers last night. Thanks to tiebreakers, Dallas is 7th, the Griz are 8th, and Phoenix is on the outside at 9th. It's probably going to come down to the last two games of the season—against Phoenix and Dallas—to determine who gets in and who gets a lottery pick. If these tired, lackluster Grizzlies are the ones we're going to be watching the rest of the way, all bets are off.

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