Unfortunately for the Grizzlies organization, the franchise has been in this position before.
Prior to the 2011 series win over the Spurs, Memphis had played in three playoff series. In each of those series (all of which started on the road), the Grizzlies came home down 0-2. And in each of those series, the series ended after two more games.
In those earlier years, the Grizzlies were beat down by vastly superior competition. Their returns home felt like a death row inmate being marched to his execution. There was no hope for a stay. The end was coming soon and everyone was resigned to that fate.
This series is different though. There is hope. There is more a sense of missed opportunity than that of an imminent end. Memphis has proved it can battle with this Clippers team and, unlike those earlier teams, these guys just don’t quit.
After getting blasted on Saturday, the Grizz came out and played their brand of basketball. They fought and clawed for 48 minutes until Chris Paul pushed off made a game-winning running jumper over Tony Allen. Even then they didn’t quit (well except for Lionel Hollins, who left the court), forcing a play at the rim with 0.1 left on the clock.
But moral victories are for lottery teams. The Clippers are still up 2-0 and some things have got to change if Memphis wants to make this an actual series.
-The bench has to produce. In Mondays’ loss, the Grizzlies bench combined for 11 points. And 9 of that 11 came from Darrell Arthur. Quincy Pondexter gave them nothing. Jerryd Bayless gave them next to nothing except better lighting after Jamal Crawford set his ass on fire. The corpse of Keyon Dooling predictably gave them nothing (FREE TONY WROTEN!!). Ed Davis didn’t get a chance to give them anything since Lionel yanked him after only 3 minutes. These guys simply have got to do a better job on both ends of the floor if the Grizzlies want this series to continue or if these jerks even want a job here next season.
-Lionel Hollins has to put this team in a better position to win. His substitution patterns make me want to punt a baby from the upper deck. It’s obvious to anyone with eyes that Marc Gasol and Mike Conley cannot be on the bench at the same time. It’s obvious to anyone with a pulse that the Jason Williams Gilbert Arenas Keyon Dooling experiment hasn’t worked. He has got to get over his fear of playing young guys, even if it’s only for spot minutes. Conley isn’t going to be able to play 44 minutes every night.
-Make the Clippers earn every basket. This team’s mantra is “grit and grind”. FedEx Forum is nicknamed “The Grindhouse”. Well make this game a grind. Perimeter players need to get back on defense to prevent easy transition buckets. Limit second-chance points. When the Clippers shoot, put a body on every red jersey and push them away from the ball. Stop the ticky-tack fouls especially off the ball and away from the basket. We’re two games in to this series and it’s obviously being called tighter than normal. Make an adjustment. Free throws are free points, especially to LA. I’m not saying don’t foul but be smart with them. For instance, don’t let Matt Barnes or Eric Bledsoe have multiple uncontested dunks in the 4th quarter. Make them earn those points. Hammer them and send them to the foul line.
Speaking of the foul line……..
-Make your damn free throws. The math is simple. Monday’s final score was 93-91. The Grizzlies missed 11 from the line. 11 free points thrown away in a one possession game. Excuse me while I bang my head against my desk…
OK I’m back.
My co-blogger wrote Monday that Game 2 wasn’t a must-win game, it was a “must-compete” game. He was 100% correct. The Grizzlies needed to play tough and they did just that. But tonight is an absolute must-win game. A 2-1 deficit is nothing. And even if they blow Saturday’s game, several teams have won a series down 3-1. But none have come back to win a series from down 3-0. None.
Tonight is the series. Win, you’re still alive in a winnable series. Lose? Dead man walking.