Memphis Grizzlies: Closing Out ‘Clutch’ Situations Is Alarming
This Sunday afternoon against the Philadelphia 76ers, the Memphis Grizzlies participated in their 12th consecutive ‘clutch’ situation this season, which the NBA defines as those in a game within five points within the final two minutes of regulation.
For any team, twelve consecutive games coming down to the final possession would be nerve-wracking, but it’s especially so for the Grizzlies because of how heavily they usually have to lean on their defense. For as well as they’ve played this year, the Grizzlies have a relative lack of weapons, and opposing teams have usually keyed in on the pillars of Memphis’ offense - Mike Conley and Marc Gasol - who shoulder the load in those in the final five minutes.
I recently suggested sliding 19-year-old rookie Jaren Jackson Jr. into that lineup [editor’s note, hyperlink] down the stretch and Memphis did so in Brooklyn on the Friday night prior. Memphis trailed by seven with less than 30 seconds left before the 4th overall pick went Reggie Miller on the host Nets. He hit a three and was fouled to get the four-point play, and then after Brooklyn turned the ball over along the baseline, Jackson drilled a cold-blooded three to tie the game and send it into overtime.
Inasmuch as Memphis stole a win in Brooklyn, Conley did the heavy lifting in the two overtimes, and while it seemed that Jackson was the target in a game where he set a new career high in points with 36, it also seemed that Jackson had no plays designed for him.
The situation manifested itself again two days later against the new-look Philadelphia 76ers, when the Grizzlies trailed the majority of the game, but still found itself within five points as the game made its way under the two-minute mark of the fourth quarter. It felt like Memphis could’ve made it over that hump with a better wing or scoring threat that wouldn’t hurt the team on defense, but MarShon Brooks turned it over, Garrett Temple missed a shot, and forcing the ball to Conley and Gasol resulted in some deep misses from the former and turnovers and missed free throws from the latter.
Memphis certainly hopes that with the signing of Joakim Noah, it can now relieve some of Gasol’s minutes, and perhaps turn some of its rotational guys into someone that can produce off the wings instantly. Elite teams have a first, second, third, and a fourth option on the court in crunch time, and Memphis needs more players who will bring consistency in ‘clutch’ situations.
The Grizzlies have several options to feature in trades, but the biggest name is JaMychal Green, whose contract expires after this season. Green hinted during his media availability that this would be his last season in Memphis as he’s looking for a big payday that Memphis is unlikely to want to provide. Green has shown his consistent growth from the initial ten-day contract that put him on the Grizzlies’ roster, and has real value throughout the league.
Memphis is coming off of a trade deadline featuring Tyreke Evans that was more eventful than needed; did Memphis learn from it? Many felt that their inability to extract value from the departing Evans was a misplay by a team headed to the top of the lottery. The situation is very different, as this edition of the Grizzlies is in the heart of the West playoff hunt at the quarter mark of the season, but Memphis is clearly looking for a solid return on an expiring contract.
Memphis needs more depth, because the weapons the Grizzlies currently have on the roster are not getting the job done. The return to Grit’N’Grind means that there are a lot of close games ahead, and for as well as the Grizzlies have played thus far, they risk getting exposed down the stretch of many more games the rest of the season.