The Memphis Grizzlies’ bubble struggles continued Sunday as the Grizz fell to the San Antonio Spurs by the count of 108-106 in an afternoon matchup. Although it was another close contest, the gut-wrenching defeat puts Memphis at 0-2 in Orlando.
Another consequence of the loss means that the Grizzlies’ 3.5-game lead for the eighth seed has been cut to just two games with the Spurs hot on their tail after starting 2-0 at Walt Disney World’s complex.
The Grizzlies are at their best when the offense is flowing through Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. Unfortunately for the two budding stars, teammate Dillon Brooks failed to give them that opportunity in the first half.
Offensively, Brooks took a game-high of 13 shots in the first half, connecting on only four of those attempts while hitting just one of his five three-point attempts yielding 10 points. Morant and Jackson Jr. combined for 5-of-10 shooting combining for a much more efficient 17 points in the opening half of hoops.
My analysis of Dillon Brooks from January still applies https://t.co/BaWUSYsf4q
— Peter Edmiston (@peteredmiston) August 2, 2020
Even after a lackluster first half for the Grizzlies, the Spurs held just a 59-54 lead as the teams filed into their locker rooms.
San Antonio went on an 8-2 run to close out the third quarter holding a 85-76 lead going into what would shape up to be a ludicrous final 12 minutes.
With time ticking down to just over three minutes left in the contest, Spurs point guard Dejounte Murray drilled a three to put Greg Popovich’s team up 102-94. The Grizzlies were in desperate need of a bucket so, they turned to Morant who dropped in a quick four points to trim the deficit to 102-98 with 2:11 left in the ball game.
After multiple possessions failed to produce for each team, Jackson Jr. found himself uncontested from three-point territory and converted on a deep triple to pull the Grizzlies within one with 1:20 left on the clock.
Without LaMarcus Aldridge available for San Antonio, the Spurs turned to Demar Derozan in crunch time. And he delivered. Derozan countered Jackson Jr.’s three with back-to-back buckets of his own extending the black and silver’s lead to 106-101 with 22 ticks remaining. Morant answered with a quick layup to make it a one-possession game.
Derozan had an opportunity to close the Grizzlies out at the free-throw line, but the 84 percent foul shooter uncharacteristically missed both to leave the door open for Memphis. Coming out of a timeout, Grayson Allen found Jackson Jr. in the corner, where the former Michigan State Spartan connected on another three to knot things up at 106-106 with ten seconds to go.
The Spurs marched right down the court where Derozan’s pump fake enticed Brooks to leave his feet as Derozan leaned into the contact, drawing a foul with one second remaining. This time Derozan would sink both to win the game by the final score of 108-106.
“Our discipline, our effort has to be better for 48 minutes,” said Grizzlies head coach Taylor Jenkins following the loss.
Morant would finish with a game-high 25 points to go along with nine rebounds and nine assists. Jackson Jr. dropped 21 points and Jonas Valanciunas turned in a double-double with 13 points and 11 boards.
— Fastbreak Breakfast (@fastbreakbreak) August 2, 2020
This second heart breaking loss leaves the Grizzlies with nearly half of the breathing room than they had arrived with. Jenkins will need to take a hard look at the team and find out if minutes might need to be adjusted.
Brooks finished with 16 points on 7-of-20 from the floor, including an anemic 1-for-7 from behind the arc. Brooks also played 35 minutes – the only other Grizzly who played more was Morant, who was on the floor for 36 minutes.
With Tyus Jones sidelined, the guard position is already paper-thin for Memphis, but one candidate for more minutes appears to be Grayson Allen. The former Duke Blue Devil tallied 15 points off the bench on Sunday and found himself on the court down the stretch with the game hanging in the balance.
“I thought it was huge for us,” said Jenkins on the recently acquired Allen. “He made the most of his minutes tonight. He was a big boost for us.”
Going forward, the Grizzlies probably need to start Grayson Allen at the 2 and have Dillon off the bench. The spacing w/ Melton, Kyle, and JV would be brutal, and Dillon is taking shots from Ja/JJJ/JV. Allen's also performed well in the bubble
— Parker Fleming (@PAKA_FLOCKA) August 2, 2020
With the 8-seed up for grabs, the Grizzlies don’t have much time for experimenting. But it is hard to look at this team in their past two games and not wonder why Brooks is out there so much more than Allen, or Josh Jackson.
With nothing guaranteed from this point forward, Jenkins has to find a way to get his best players going early and often. Dialing back minutes for Brooks just might be the solution.
Feature image courtesy of Ashley Landis of USA Today Sports