The magic times couldn’t last forever. After a wonderful 15 game stretch where the Grizzlies went 14-1, they’ve come crashing down to Earth with a rather loud thud these past few games. They lost winnable games to the Hornets and Wizards, while the horror show that was the first half of Wednesday’s game against the Knicks should speak for itself. So, is this just a bump in the road for a very talented team, or something Grizzlies fans should be legitimately concerned about?
Well, a lot of it has to do with the loss of Marc Gasol. He was out for the loss to the Wizards, and while he returned to the lineup against the Knicks, he clearly wasn’t himself. He looked extremely tentative especially of the defensive end. Usually, Gasol’s defensive is among the best in the game, but on Wednesday, the Knicks managed to push him around all night, allowing Clyde Frazier to make what felt like about a dozen references to “matador D.” Clearly, Marc needs some rest. I wouldn’t be surprised if Coach Hollins sat him for the next few game sin order to prepare him for the playoff run.
If Gasol is good as new before the playoffs, the team itself shouldn’t be in too bad of a place, but there should be some cause for concern about the Grizzlies playoff seeding. Right now, they are in fifth place in the West, meaning they wouldn’t have home court if the playoffs began today. Instead, they would travel to Denver for the first two games of what would be a grueling series against the Nuggets. This Denver team has looked increasingly scary lately, and they’ve gone 3-1 against the Grizzlies this season. This is already a team the Grizzlies would probably like to avoid in the playoffs. Having to win a game on their court only exacerbates the situation.
As the Grizzlies prepare to take on the Houston rockets tonight, we’ll see if they can bust their way out this temporary funk, or if it will become a prolonged issue. If there’s one good thing from this, it’s that the Grizzlies are falling on hard times now, rather than after the postseason starts, when it would be too hard to recover. My guess is this team is just a bit tired, especially after putting up such a great run throughout February and March.
Right now, the Gasol injury has to be the biggest concern. He’s the most important player the Grizzlies have, and it’s unlikely they would make it past the first round without him. If the Grizzlies are forced to go on the road in the first round, Gasol’s health could be the determining factor in whether they pull of the victory or not. I wouldn’t be too panicked about the Grizzlies losing a few games (and to respond to some tweets I saw last night, no they would not be doing better with Rudy Gay!), but Gasol’s health is a serious issue. If he’s back to his old ways by the time the playoffs begin, then I think this team can make a serious run. If not, they’ll be going down in round 1 for a second straight year.