Can anyone confirm the identity of the 13 gentleman playing basketball in Memphis Grizzlies uniforms tonight? Because it sure as hell wasn’t the Memphis Grizzlies, I can tell you that much. Everything the Grizz are known for fell by the wayside tonight, as the Clippers made their usually mighty defense look not just mortal, but downright weak. You can only tell so much from one game, but tonight’s loss was a bitter pill to swallow.
First off, let’s talk about the rebounding. It just….disappeared tonight. The usually reliable Z-Bo only had only four boards, while Marc Gasol could only reel in two. For a team known for its defense, I can only assume this was a horrible aberration. The Grizzlies continued to allow the Clippers to pick up offensive rebounds, which they would inevitably convert into more points. The Clippers grabbed 14 offensive boards on the night, while the Grizzlies only had three. No, seriously, they only had three offensive rebounds for the entire game. Let’s be honest; the Grizzlies aren’t known for their jump shooting prowess, which is why they need to grab offensive boards if they are going to have any chance of winning. They’re woeful ineptitude in that department was a huge factor in their eventual defeat.
But of course, this was a close game at one point. Early in the fourth quarter, the Grizzlies had narrowed the deficit to one, and it looked like we were headed towards an epic finish. Then, something funny happened; the Grizzlies just turned to mush. That’s really the only way I can think to describe. The Clippers continued to rack up second chance points, while the Grizzlies played sloppy basketball, and struggled mightily to get any stops on defense. For people who had followed the Grizzlies all season, and gotten to know them as a defensive-minded team that grinds out tough wins, there must have been an overwhelming feeling of cognitive dissonance. This was the exact opposite of the grizzlies team we’ve gotten to know over the past few seasons.
Zach Randolph made some key plays in the post, but his usual rebounding prowess was sorely miss. His ability to grab offensive boards, and convert tip-ins is a huge part of what he gives to this team. That element of his game was notably absent in tonight’s proceedings, and while he made some solid plays in the post, the Grizzlies obviously missed his usual rebounding skills, as they suffered through a night of endless one-shot possessions.
Meanwhile, Marc Gasol didn’t look quite right tonight. He was decent on offense, putting in 16 points, but his defense was below his usual standard, as Clippers players continually blew by him for easy buckets. Maybe it was just nerves going into the opening night of the playoffs, but he didn’t look like his usual self, and Grizzlies fans can only hope he’s playing at 100 percent. For the Grizzlies to get back in this series, they need Gasol to go back to being the defensive beast he’s been all season long.
The only Grizzly who was particularly impressive tonight was Jerryd Bayless, who put in 18 points, and displayed the fearlessness that marked his improved play in the second half of the season. One can only hope that Bayless can continue to play at this level, and put his skills to work in a game where his teammates match his excellent effort.
The only other silver lining Grizzlies fans can take from this game is that Blake Griffin had a decidedly off-night, putting in just 10 points and five rebounds before fouling out. Still, the fact that the Grizzlies effectively shut down Griffin and still lost by 21 points doesn’t say anything good about them, so maybe that’s the wrong avenue to go down, too.
Chris Paul had what amounts to an average Chris Paul performance, which is to say he was brilliant, but it didn’t see like a big deal because we’re all used to it. One could only feel bad for Mike Conley who was compared to Paul all night long by ESPN’s graphics department. We all love what Conley can do, but no one is going to mistake him for Chris Paul. As it stands, Grizzlies fans can only hope he can contain CP3 for the rest of the series. He’s not exactly off to a rollicking start, though.
The good news it’s just one game, and if the Grizzlies are victorious on Monday night, they can still reclaim home court advantage. this was a decidedly uninspiring start to the 2013 playoffs, however, and Grizzlies fans can only hope that the team who takes to the court on Monday night is closer to the Grizzlies we’re all used to than the impostors who were humiliated tonight.