by Kevin Lipe
Last night’s double-overtime 113–117 win over Charlotte was the ugliest game the Grizzlies have played (with the possible exception of their road win over the Sacramento Kings) since the last time they played the Hornets, another close game that ended 71–69. Last night’s game had a higher score (even at the end of regulation) but it was just as close, as defensive breakdowns on a last-second shot by Kemba Walker led to a game-tying tip in by Gerald Henderson at the buzzer, sending the game into extra time.
Of course, by the time the game was finishing up, it wasn’t as bad as it had been. A lot of it has to do with two defense-oriented teams trying to out-defense each other, but the first three and a half quarters of regulation featured some hideous play. Neither team seemed like they could get anything going out of sets—everything being scored was on a breakdown, something being grabbed off an offensive rebound, with no flow to anything.
The lack of offensive flow can easily be attributed to effort—that seems to be the main thing people choose to criticize when they don’t know why a team isn’t playing well, but last night it really may have been part of the problem—and I don’t think it’s any surprise that the Grizzlies’ focus may not have been at 100% heading into a back-to-back against the not-great Hornets and then immediately boarding a plane to Philadelphia to take on what may be the worst NBA team in history.
But I don’t think that’s the whole story. I think the Z-Bo/Gasol vs. Al Jefferson interior matchup dictates a lot of how these games go; both teams slow way down (the pace last night was 91, even counting the two overtimes) and as we know, when the Grizzlies slow down, they lose whatever aesthetic grace they may have attained since implementing Dave Joerger’s new offensive sets. Grizzlies fans love being in the mud, but once the mud gets up to your eyeballs it’s hard to do anything.
One interesting wrinkle last night: while Joerger was throwing in
anyone who wasn’t dead everyone but Nick Calathes random combinations of players trying to find a group who could play with a little more energy and intensity, Quincy Pondexter got the nod after a DNP-CD against Dallas, swapping time with Tayshaun Prince in the Miami game, and playing 38 seconds against San Antonio.
Pondexter has not been one of Joerger’s go-to guys this season, for better or worse, and even though Courtney Lee has firmly established himself as the Grizzlies’ main shooting guard, Pondexter played 18 minutes last night, show 3–7 from the floor (and 1–3 from three) and didn’t do anything really stupid. Even though I would’ve prefered to see Lee down the stretch, I assume that Joerger knows that he’s got to play Q-Pon every now and then to (1) keep him happy, lest he cuss out the coach again and (2) keep him ready to play in case he really needs him at some point in the near future.
I said at the beginning of the season that out of the trio of Lee, Tony Allen, and Pondexter, the Grizzlies really only need two, and Pondexter would definitely be the odd man out right now—save for the fact that the Grizzlies don’t feel like Jordan Adams is ready to play NBA minutes yet. If Adams were at a place where they could start giving him regular minutes (and maybe he is—but I’m not the guy making the decisions about sending him back and forth to Iowa) it seems like Pondexter would be sent packing (maybe in this mythical Koufos deal that’s starting to float around NBA trade rumor circles), but at this point, they need him too badly just in case something happens to somebody else.
All in all last night was a win that the Grizzlies should’ve gotten, and even if it took them ten extra minutes of basketball to get it, it’s in the books now, and they never have to play the Hornets again this season. If the fatigue causes them to drop tonight’s game to the 76ers—who have a nasty habit of making the teams they’re playing against look terrible even though they’re the ones who are 2–20 on the season—then we can talk about this game a little more. But for now, since it’s over, and since it was so brutal to watch for most of the evening, let’s just never speak of it again.