Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Five Thoughts on Game 2: Spurs 94, Grizzlies 68

Posted By on Wed, Apr 20, 2016 at 8:32 AM

click to enlarge LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski

Well, here we are again. The Grizzlies and Spurs faced off in game 2 of their first round series last night, and all it did was make me sad, as the Grizzlies failed to score 75 for the second consecutive playoff game and fell to the Spurs, 94-68.

I'm not going to go with a quarter-by-quarter breakdown of what happened on the court during the game, because unlike other playoff series, there was no ebb and flow to this game, no real swings of momentum, no unity to the way the game was played. That's been a problem with the Post Goon Squad Era in general, since Chalmers went down: the games are so ugly and brute-force that they're hard to even analyze as basketball games. Last night was the same. It's apparent now (and probably should have been all along) that not only are the Grizzlies overmatched in the series, they're grossly overmatched in the individual games themselves. They can defend, but they can't really score. Without a means of scoring 90 or more points, I just don't see any way they're even going to win one of these things.

That's not even the fatalistic, Eeyore's Gloomy Place analysis that sometimes pops up on my Twitter feed during a blowout—that's just an honest assessment of where the Grizzlies are at, contrasted with the Spurs. They just don't have enough good players to be in these games. These are two different classes of basketball teams right now—so much so that the Grizzlies aren't even really a coherent team so much as three or four good old guys and a bunch of rookies, D-Leaguers, and retreads on the last legs of their NBA journeys. It doesn't make me feel anything to watch these games because they're so predetermined. The scores, the end-of-the-quarter Spurs runs, the swallowed whistle under the basket, the inability of the Grizzlies to get the ball in the hoop. It's all just rolling out, predestined, and the Spurs are the Elect and the Grizzlies are the Preterite.

Five Thoughts

The starting lineup is getting killed. The five man unit of Jordan Farmar, Vince Carter, Matt Barnes, Zach Randolph, and Chris Andersen has made twelve total shots in the series so far. You read that correctly:

Which is to say, they're not getting it done. It seems like the Grizzlies' best lineups so far have Xavier Munford, JaMychal Green, and/or Jarell Martin in them, but I'm not sure starting those guys is the answer, either, because then Farmar and Andersen still have to play bench minutes. Randolph is struggling with LaMarcus Aldridge, and there are always two or three more Spurs coming to help as soon as he starts jab-stepping. Carter shouldn't have to carry the team all by himself, but Lord knows he's going to try, because he's Vince Carter. He just can't do everything all the time, not anymore.

The third quarters are getting away from the Grizzlies immediately because the starting unit can't get it done. If I were making adjustments, that's where I'd start—bring in a different look to start the second half. We know the first five guys are going to get demolished.

Apparently the Spurs needed this tune-up. San Antonio hasn't shot the ball very well in the series, either, and it doesn't seem like that's just because they're throwing up bad shots. They've struggled to get into a groove offensively. It's hard to tell how much of that is actual struggle and how much of that is a realization that they don't have to play at their peak to get past the Griz, but I figure Gregg Popovich probably doesn't really care much about that distinction. They've had plenty enough firepower to get around the Grizzlies' facsimile of an NBA roster, but there are some underperformance issues that might crop up for them in future rounds.

Tony Allen looks hurt. He doesn't look as bad as he did in last year's Warriors series, but Tony Allen is yet again running around on one hamstring trying to carry the Grizzlies. Allen has been struggling with injuries all season long, nagging knee and leg issues, but he's been on the court playing through them for a while now because there's simply no alternative for the Grizzlies. Just like last year, he's playing through it, but you can tell he's not 100%, and at times the injury really appears to be hampering his movement. Just another reason this playoff series is The Worst.

JaMychal Green had a good game. He might have been the only one besides TA, really. Green was making all of the effort plays he needed to make, keeping his composure, playing through contact—doing all of the things he's been doing all year that have proved he's a valuable rotation player for the future of this team. On a night when nothing is going the team's way, that matters, and I still assert that the best thing that can happen in this series is for Green, Jarell Martin (who didn't have a great night offensively last night) and Xavier Munford to get exposure to the playoff game. The caveat there, of course, is that this series has turned out not to resemble "playoff basketball" much, other than the lack of foul calls (on both ends). Still, Green's growth this year is a success story in a season that hasn't had many of them.

I feel kinda bad for the vets. They would never want to hear this, but my heart goes out to Zach Randolph, Vince Carter, Tony Allen, and Matt Barnes. And Lance Stephenson. And really all of the guys who have been in playoff situations on good teams before. This isn't how this is supposed to go. They're giving it everything they've got, and it's just not good enough, and that frustration has already started to show itself a little bit. If this were the way the team had been all year, they wouldn't even be in the playoffs, because they're not good enough, and those guys know that. It can't be easy. With any luck, the home games will be closer, but I'm not counting on that luck.

Tweet of the Night

Presented without comment, because I have no idea what this is about, but it's funny.

Up Next

Game 3 in Memphis is at 8:30PM Friday. I will be there, gazing into the abyss for another 48 minutes.


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