The Memphis Grizzlies went 1-1 in a two-game series against the Orlando Magic. On the surface, that sentence doesn’t seem like an overwhelming negative, but the Grizzlies’ struggles have been front and center in these two games.
Heck, Orlando played their last game against the Grizzlies without their head coach, who was out due to COVID-19 protocols. The Magic were led by an assistant coach who had 9 healthy players to work with. And they beat Memphis.
With all due respect to the Magic, this should have been a 20+ point win for the Memphis Grizzlies.
The Memphis Grizzlies had big-time free throw issues
So if the Grizzlies are such a better team than the Orlando Magic, why couldn’t they find any separation in these two games? I could give you a few answers, but the simplest comes in a two-word phrase — free throws.
On the night, the Grizzlies couldn’t hit a free throw if the game depended on it. Actually, the game did depend on free throws on multiple occasions and the Grizzlies were throwing up bricks.
On the night, Memphis converted their 21 free throw attempts into 13 points. That’s 62% from the line. At the NBA level, that’s unacceptable.
Make no mistake — free throws lost Memphis this game.
But their conversion rate at the charity stripe isn’t even the worst part of the situation. The Grizzlies aren’t just struggling from the free-throw line, they’re struggling to get there in general.
Granted, the Magic are a solid defensive team, but the Grizzlies should be getting to the line more frequently against a squad that only had 9 healthy players and didn’t have their head coach. That said, it may be a positive that they weren’t getting there tonight, as they likely would have left even more points on the board.
Specifically, Ja Morant hasn’t been making a lot of trips to the free-throw line. This is especially worrisome considering the fact that Morant is the team’s leading scorer in that aspect. On the season, he shoots 6.0 free throws per game. In two games against the Magic, he only made six trips to the charity stripe in both games combined.
This is a number that will need to see some improvement if the Grizzlies want to be competitive.
Perhaps the worst part about the free throw shooting is that it has been an issue all year long and seemingly nothing has been done to fix it. Missed free throws in clutch time seems completely normal for the Grizzlies at this point. I don’t have to remind anybody of Grayson Allen’s pair of missed free throws that allowed for a Luka Doncic buzzer-beater.
Hopefully, these free throw shooting issues will not extend into the postseason, whether that be a play-in tournament game or a playoff series.