Puzzling. That is just one word that describes the Memphis Grizzlies’ performance in Monday night’s 109-99 defeat at the hands of the New Orleans Pelicans.
Puzzling because in all three of the Grizzlies’ outings in the bubble, they have not only looked incomplete, but the team has lost. After starting 0-2, it would have been reasonable to believe that the Grizz would come out with some kind of intensity, or fire in their bellies.
Especially with the Pelicans in the building. After all, it is the Pelicans that have stolen
every ounce of attention from the national media throughout the entirety of the NBA’s season.
Forget that the Grizzlies have led the Pelicans in the standings for the overwhelming majority of the year. Forget that Ja Morant has spent every second of the season living under Zion Williamson’s limelight DESPITE having the better rookie campaign.
Even if Memphis did not acknowledge the blatant disrespect they had constantly received
beginning the day of the 2019 NBA Draft – and even before that – there still remains a variety of different motivating factors for this young team.
The Grizzlies haven’t sniffed the playoffs since the 2016-2017 team featuring Mike Conley, Marc Gasol, and Tony Allen. This season is a potential turning point for the Memphis franchise. It is a chance to show the rest of the league that playing the Grizzlies is not just a pit stop in the Fed Ex Forum before inevitably leaving town with a win and to-go order from Rendezvous.
And they have shown that this year. The 2019-2020 Memphis Grizzlies have shown the fight and tenacity of the past that led them into 10 playoff appearances in 14 years.
But this Grizzlies team is now letting a postseason appearance slip right through their fingers.
The Grizzlies have trailed for 88 of the 96 minutes they've played in their last two games combined.
— Peter Edmiston (@peteredmiston) August 4, 2020
Memphis has only had two players that have put together consistently efficient efforts over the team’s last three performances: Jaren Jackson Jr. and Grayson Allen. Jackson Jr. turned in a 22- point outing on 7-of-17 from the floor, although just 2-for-8 from three. Jackson Jr. is averaging just over 25 PPG since arriving in the Walt Disney World complex.
Allen has been the pleasant surprise for the Grizzlies and was so again on Monday night. The young shooting guard was the team’s early spark knocking down a career-high of five three-pointers all coming in the first half.
— Grizzlies PR (@GrizzliesPR) August 3, 2020
Strong showings for both of these youngsters was just enough to keep the Grizzlies’ heads
above water for the majority of the game. However, right when Memphis would appear to be on the verge of swinging the momentum, Brandon Ingram (24 points), or Zion Williamson (23 points) would almost always counter with a bucket to keep the Grizz at an arm’s reach.
Allen followed up Jackson Jr.’s 22 points with 17 of his own. Dillon Brooks continued his
lackluster play, scoring 15 points on 5-of-13 shooting and eventually fouling out with 4:57 to play. Jonas Valanciunas produced another double-double with 13 points with 13 rebounds.
Ja Morant struggled connecting on his shots, dropping just 11 points on 5-of-21 and going 1-for-10 from three-point territory. The Grizzlies do not have the depth and secondary scoring required to make up for such an underwhelming performance from their star point guard.
As if starting out 0-3 isn’t bad enough, all three of the Grizzlies’ losses have come to three
teams that are chasing them down for the coveted eighth and final playoff seed in the Western Conference.
After entering Orlando with a 3.5-game lead for the 8-seed, their edge is quickly disintegrating. As it currently stands, San Antonio and Portland are two games behind Memphis with New Orleans now only 2.5 games out.
The Grizzlies’ schedule only heats up for the last five games in the bubble. They get the Utah Jazz on Wednesday afternoon followed by matchups against the Oklahoma City Thunder and the reigning champs, the Toronto Raptors.
Buckle up Grizz fans, this could be a bumpy ride.
Featured image courtesy of Ashley Landis of USA TODAY Sports