Crunch Time. Make or break. The moment that separates the winners and the forgotten. Nobody is going to talk about the Grizzlies hard fought battle to get back into Game 4 of the NBA Playoffs today. No ESPN Roundtable about the Grizzlies’ glorious comeback to make it to overtime at least. No Silver Medals. That’s not how things work. They’re going to be talking about Reggie Jackson, they’re going to go back to the story of OKC facing the Heat in the Finals, Durant and Westbrook’s on the court relationship. Grizzlies, reduced to a fallen bear that almost made it out of Yellowstone park. A worthy adversary but Park Ranger Jackson will be in the front newspaper headlines for shooting it down.
Take a look at that hug Durant gave Reggie Jackson last night after the end of the game. Reminiscent of Lebron James embracing Ray Allen in Game 6 of the Finals last year. Reggie saved careers last night. The Grizzlies go up 3-1 and the axe comes down. The guillotine arrives, fans want someone to roll, someone to pay for not delivering on the hype and unspoken promises made from regular season standings. Scott Brooks? Possibly fired. Durant’s legacy takes a hit. OKC’s GM accused of ruining the team once again for trading Harden. The talk of never making it back to the finals begins. Dissension in the ranks between Westbrook and Durant started by the media goes in house. Everybody is friends in victory, enemies in the shame of loss.
Crunch Time came last night. About 10 seconds left on the clock in overtime, and the Grizzlies have to hit a three to send the game to a second overtime. They take a timeout, breath heavy, and Coach Dave Joerger draws up a play. This time it will be the wrong play. A mistake, a crucial young mistake. Vince Carter yesterday, he’s been through it all playoffs, wins/losses. Media scrutiny. Millions of times to think back to 2001 when he missed the three at the peak of his career in Game 7 of the playoffs. A reflection of what if. What did he do? He took the three with no hesitation against the Spurs. In Crunch Time, Vince Carter came through, he took the reigns and accepted the consequences. Love or hate them.
The Grizzlies are battle tested, they are an old school rough and tumble post basketball team. But nobody stepped up last night in the clutch. In Crunch Time, when somebody needs to take the responsibility for winning or losing the game they procrastinated. They went for the undefended two. And what happened a mere minute later? They were in the same position they were just in. Except now they had three seconds to make that three point shot instead of 10.
In Crunch Time, a team that has gracefully brought defense back to forefront of NBA television made a crucial error. Delayed gratification or shame. They wanted to delay the feelings of the outcome for as long as possible. This time the other team did not relinquish the error. There was no Westbrook to miss free throws after Tony Allen fouled him from half court the previous game. In fact there was no one to stop them except time itself. They procrastinated one time too many, and that made two point shot from Conley cost them the game on their home court. Everything else that lead them to getting to that overtime in the first place, forgotten.
However, they will learn from this. They will look back to this moment. This Crunch Time. They will watch replay after replay, tape after tape. They will curse this moment before they sleep for a day or two and they will come back hungrier. The Grizzlies are not out yet, they’ve been hit. The shot was nonlethal. It was a sleep inducing dart. The Grizzlies are about to rise from hibernation and ultimately take this series. Next time, Crunch Time.. Will be Go Time.