“Sometimes you’re the bird and sometimes you’re the statue.”
I’m not sure who actually said it and I don’t want to Google it because I spent 20 minutes playing their stupid zamboni game yesterday, but someone definitely said it. If someone didn’t say it, then just attribute it to me from now on.
All too often lately, the Memphis Grizzlies have played the role of the statue. More specifically in their last three outings, they’ve looked like a rudderless lottery team. In two of those games, they’ve lost to hated division rivals, including a particularly embarrassing loss on the road to the Dallas Mavericks last Saturday, just a night after logging a big home win against these very San Antonio Spurs.
To be fair, two of these recent losses have come on the road where it’s much tougher to win and while Dallas isn’t a great team so far this year, it’s tough to win a road game on the back half of a back-to-back. The Spurs have had the Grizzlies’ number since the 2011 playoffs and it’s tough in beat them in their arena. I don’t necessarily disagree with those ideas, but those are games that you have to win or at least split if you want to win a division title.
But how do you explain the loss to the Clippers, with no Chris Paul and at home? I know the Grizzlies were without Rudy Gay, but Chris Paul is a legitimate MVP candidate and one of the best six or seven players in the game. The fact that the Grizzlies were outclassed by the Clippers without their leader is telling.
On Wednesday night, the Grizzlies hung with the Spurs for the first half but scored 28 points in the entire second half. The Spurs scored 25 in the 3rd quarter and 21 in the 4th quarter. That’s all you need to know.
The Grizzlies were led by Rudy Gay’s 17 points on an efficient 7-13 shooting from the field and a tidy 8 rebounds as well. However, he also turned the ball over six times, accounting for almost half of the Grizzlies’ total as a team. Still, Gay seemed to be the only Grizzly that was invested in the game aside from Marc Gasol who had 12 points on a tidy 4-6 from the field but only three rebounds.
I know there’s been a lot said about trading Rudy Gay and why they should or shouldn’t and how this could be the greatest season in Grizzlies franchise history but the fact is that since that scorching 14-3 start, the Grizzlies have played at a .500 clip, with a lot of losses against teams that they can count on seeing in the playoffs.
A neutral observer may look at the 14-3 start and think that it shows some sign of future greatness, but you never want to peak in November in any sport, let alone the NBA.
The Grizzlies have had no major injuries like they did last season with Zach Randolph missing two and a half month or Rudy Gay missing almost half of the regular season and the playoff run with a shoulder injury in 2011. The Grizzlies have had a full deck most of the time this season and while you may see that 24-13 record and 4th seed in the Western Conference standings and get excited, you have to also be aware of the alternating wins and losses since that time.
As currently constructed, I believe that the Grizzlies can still win a round in the playoffs, but as the 4 seed they can count on a second round match-up with the top-seeded Western Conference team which will either be the Oklahoma City Thunder or Los Angeles Clippers, the two teams responsible for chasing the Grizzlies from the playoffs the past two seasons.
Of course, I also thought that the Grizzlies would beat the Clippers in the playoffs last year, so maybe I’m selling the Warriors or Nuggets short.
I’m not saying that a trade will solve everything because it probably won’t, and if Rudy Gay is the guy traded then they will almost definitely be taking back a bad contract and a worse player at the small forward position.
Nevertheless, with games against the Chicago Bulls, Indiana Pacers, Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn Nets approaching and all four playing extremely well, the Grizzlies will either sink or swim. 2-2 may even be viewed as a success at this point, but if the Grizzlies score 82 points then they’re going to have a tough time beating anyone.
Wednesday’s game against the Spurs will be quickly forgotten if the Grizzlies can use it to put together a nice winning streak, but if they continue to sputter on offense and score 28 points in a half then it may go down as the moment that we knew that the 2012-2013 Memphis Grizzlies were no better and probably worse than the two teams that came before then.