Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Next Day Notes: Mavericks 103, Grizzlies 95

Posted By on Tue, Jan 20, 2015 at 7:55 AM

click to enlarge Mike Conley played against Dallas after missing two games with ankle issues. - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Mike Conley played against Dallas after missing two games with ankle issues.

Yesterday afternoon’s game did not go the way the Grizzlies wanted it to, but it could’ve been worse. At several points, the Griz had the ability to let it get away from them and coast to a blowout loss, but they never did, always reeling the Mavs back in from a 10- or 12-point lead. It was a game where Dallas took all kinds of advantage of weaknesses in the Grizzlies’ pick and roll defense, and the Grizzlies obliged by switching more often than normal, which led to all kinds of foul trouble and all kinds of restricted area scoring for Dallas.

It wasn’t all doom and gloom. For one, Mike Conley played after missing two games with ankle issues. Maybe he should’ve sat out again, because his minutes were somewhat limited and both Beno Udrih and Nick Calathes got a good deal of playing time, but Conley’s presence was a stabilizing force during a game that could’ve very easily gotten out of hand. (Speaking of Mike Conley, if you haven’t read yesterday’s Ian Thomsen feature on Conley, go read that now before you finish this. Required reading for any Grizzlies fan.)

Overall, it was one of those games where they were pushing a rock up a hill the whole time—to the point that many of us were making the same Sisyphus jokes on Twitter. The MLK Day game is always a shining occasion for the Grizzlies franchise, with the symposium before the game, the halftime performances (this year’s Sam Moore performance was just as great as Charley Pride was last year), and a whole lot of time and energy spent to make the day about more than “just” basketball, with the organization being very intentional about discussing the civil rights movement alongside whatever else is going on. You can have a discussion about whether co-opting a day to remember Martin Luther King, Jr. to promote a big slate of basketball games is the right thing or not—I certainly have my opinions on the topic—but you can’t deny that in Memphis, the Grizzlies do everything within their power to make it mean more than that.

But. The game is nice, too. And it would’ve been nice for the Grizzlies to get a win on NBATV and grab another win away from the Mavericks, because that tiebreaker could be really important at the end of the year. The day was about more than basketball, but the basketball could’ve been better.

Game Notes

The Mavs weren’t even guarding Vince Carter. There were several possessions where everyone in a Dallas jersey just sagged off and let him do his thing from beyond the 3-point line. Carter was 0–2 in ten minutes, so you know how that went. If Carter’s shooting has gotten so bad that he doesn’t even really take them anymore—causing the same “not enough attempts from outside” issues that Mike Miller had last year and everyone in that position had before Miller already—then I’m not really sure what his utility is. I wrote a piece suggesting that maybe Carter wasn’t going to be what he was cracked up to be this season, and he immediately started playing well, and I issued a mea culpa for doubting him… but maybe I wasn’t as wrong as had been hoped. Carter’s struggles are magnified by the lack of Pondexter and Prince out there to play small forward; it’s really just him and Jeff Green off the bench. It’s worth paying attention to going forward.

Carter wasn’t the only Grizzly who couldn’t hit anything from outside. The Griz as a team shot 3 for 22 from 3. Coach Dave Joerger said after the game that he thought the team “got good looks, but they didn’t go in.” That was definitely the case for Carter, Jeff Green, and Courtney Lee, all of whom missed multiple wide-open shots. While the Grizzlies’ success has never really been determined by whether they make or miss their threes, if they could even convert 3-point attempts at a rate somewhere close to the league average, they’d have a few more marks in the “win” column. I guess we’re just never going to see an iteration of this Grizzlies core that shoots the ball well consistently. It’s just not ever going to happen.

click to enlarge The curious disappearance of Kosta Koufos is one of the bigger questions surrounding the Grizzlies right now. - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • The curious disappearance of Kosta Koufos is one of the bigger questions surrounding the Grizzlies right now.

Joerger also made some curious rotation choices, most notably playing Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph the entire second half. I understand why he did it—he felt like the Grizzlies needed to close the Mavericks’ lead and felt like playing Gasol and Z-Bo was the way to do it, but given the fact that the Griz couldn’t pull off the victory, it looks less like a good strategy and more like desperation. In a season where Kosta Koufos is already pretty drastically underutilized, and where Koufos played some good minutes in the first half (only 2 points and 4 rebounds, but he only played 8:47, which is ridiculous), I’m puzzled as to why Joerger wouldn’t sit Gasol even for a couple of minutes to let him catch a breather. Same for Randolph.

Bring in Koufos with Randolph, let Gasol rest for four minutes. Bring Gasol back with Koufos, let Randolph rest for four minutes. Bring Randolph back, sit Koufos after he’s played eight minutes, and now both of your bigs have at least had time to drink some water and get resituated. Even if you go by single game +/-, which I generally dislike, Koufos wasn’t a net negative.

I’m not sure why Joerger is so reluctant to play him this year, but last night I thought was especially egregious. Gasol and Randolph aren’t going to make it all season playing 40 minutes—they’ll be worn down to nubs by the end of the year, especially given the Grizzlies’ road-heavy schedule. I thought it was short-sighted of Joerger to leave those guys out there that long.

Jeff Green played down the stretch and Tony Allen didn’t, and Rajon Rondo and Monta Ellis both had pretty big buckets for Dallas. That rotation decision bugs me less than the Randolph/Gasol one, but I’m sure Tony noticed that he wasn’t on the floor, and I’m sure that he wants to be a “closer” just like he wants to be a starter. I think the days where Joerger has to play Allen 25 minutes a night have probably passed, but against a team with multiple ballhandlers who can score, Allen would’ve been a good tool to deploy down the stretch, at least occasionally. Either way, Grizzlies fans love arguing about Tony Allen’s role and his spot in the rotation, so buckle up.

Tweet of the Night (Or, Afternoon)

This one made me (actually) LOL at my computer, which doesn’t happen that often:


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