Have you ever seen the classic film Coming To America?
Well, there's a scene in which Prince Akeem is looking to rent an apartment, and there is a crime scene outline of a dog on the floor. The landlord, played by actor Frankie Faison, deadpans at the camera and opines, "Damn shame what they did to that dog."
Well, after losing nine of their last ten games, the very same can be said of the Memphis Grizzlies as they lick their wounds and limp into the postseason. It is pretty clear that injuries had something to do with this noticeable drop off. Marc Gasol is still out with a foot injury, point guard Mike Conley, Jr. has missed significant time and forward Brandan Wright has been on the shelf as well.
(Photo Credit: Hark.com)
The Grizzlies have only won six of their last 21 games, but it's not like the cupboard has been completely bare. After all, they have maintained a playoff footing even though Gasol went down back in February. Conley has been out since March 6th with an Achilles injury, which is right around the time all the losing started.
On the surface, it appears as if the Grizzlies simply do not have enough firepower to compete as of late, but to me it looks as if their once stout defensive efforts have gone limp over the past month. Once upon a time it would have been considered basketball heresy for a Memphis team to give up more than 100 points in a game.
But they're giving up at least that many in each of their losses. Around this time a month ago, they were 10 games above .500 and competing for a high playoff seed. Right now, they're only three games above the line of demarcation.
With the absence of Gasol and Wright, the Grizzlies are without their very best shot blockers while Conley's injury leaves them without their best on-ball defender and distributor. Big Zach "Z-Bo" Randolph has maintained his granite-like toughness and consistency while his team crumbles around him, averaging 15 points and nearly eight rebounds per game.
But your boy Z-Bo has never been known as a good man-to-man defender.
(Photo Credit: Epoch Times)
Additionally, with the departure of Jeff Green, other players who may be unaccustomed to logging big minutes or putting up big numbers consistently are being asked to step up. For example, Matt Barnes had 24 points and 15 rebounds in a recent loss to the Golden State Warriors, but you simply can't rely on him to give you that consistently.
He only had seven points in 26 minutes recently against the Los Angeles Clippers. Similarly, coach Dave Joerger has had to rely on Lance Stephenson more than he may have wanted to since his veterans went down.
As it stands, Stephenson is averaging a career high in points at 13.9 per game. However, for all their blustery bravado, Stephenson and Barnes are not lock-down defenders.
Soon the No. 7 seed Memphis Grizzlies will face the No. 2 seed San Antonio Spurs in the First Round of the Western Conference Playoffs. Once upon a time, the Grizzlies were considered the bane of the Spurs. But with the loss of competent scorers and willing defenders, Memphis is looking like a little more than a footnote to this year's playoff picture.