The Memphis Grizzlies took a terrible defeat in Game 1 of the first-round series against the Los Angeles Clippers. Their blown 21-point fourth-quarter lead matched an NBA playoff record. The loss was a deafening shot to open the playoffs.
Everything fell apart in the fourth quarter. Memphis coasted after putting its second unit in the game, and continued that outlook even after the Clippers started their rally and the Grizzlies starters came back in. They couldn't knock down shots when the going became tough. Above all, the typically tenacious Grizzlies defense was anything but that.
Lionel Hollins' crew will have some things to change in order to bounce back from this miserable loss. Following is a breakdown of what the Grizzlies need to do in Game 2.
The biggest thing is for Tony Allen to recover his defensive prowess. Zach Lowe of Sports Illustrated said it best when he declared Allen "improbably exposed" while guarding Chris Paul late in the game.
Allen is sometimes a risky defender and can be overextended when guarding skilled guards. Paul certainly did that to Allen, fooling him with his strong ball-handling and slick passing. In the fourth quarter alone, Paul had six of his 11 assists.
Allen committed a reprehensible foul with 24 seconds left that allowed the Paul to hit two free throws to give the Clippers the decisive one-point advantage.
Allen is one of the best perimeter defenders, and he'll have to show it in order for the Grizzlies to go deep in the playoffs. He needs to be more disciplined than he was on Sunday. He'll also have to take more calculated risks than he sometimes does, choosing steal opportunities wisely.
The Grizzlies are notorious for letting big leads slip away, although they typically hang on to win when it happens. One unhappy example is their loss to the Dallas Mavericks on April 4. The Grizzlies scuttled a chance to sweep their back-to-back-to-back set by letting the Mavericks win with a 21-4 fourth-quarter run.
Los Angeles was anything but "Lob City" in the fourth quarter. The Clippers scored 35 points in the final frame and shot 5-of-6 from three-point range after hitting only 1-of-12 in the first three quarters.
The Grizzlies will have to show more tenacity as a team late in the game, maintaining their characteristic tough defense late in games.
The Grizzlies can't afford to shoot like they did in the fourth quarter against the Clippers. They hit one of their last 10 shots in the last 8:45 of play.
Tony Allen missed a tip-in in the final minute, and then Rudy Gay was off on the last attempt at the last second. Mike Conley missed two shots in the last five minutes.
Perhaps the key on the last shot was to go with a more creative look for Gay, but it would have been difficult to correct the missing shooting energy to create anything outside of the paint.
There's no silver bullet to correcting a team's massive shooting lapse. One possibility is to avoid sitting many of the starters as long as Lionel Hollins did in the second half. Another is keeping the tempo controllable and taking the looks they'd been taking most of the game.
Most of the game, the Grizzlies were relaxed, hitting shots from outside. Mike Conley was hot from three-point range, hitting five three-point shots. O.J. Mayo hit four shots from beyond the arc.
Rudy Gay and Marc Gasol selected good shots on the inside.
Then, in the late stages of the game, Lionel Hollins switched things up. The Grizzlies started attacking the basket hard, perhaps too hard. Some shots weren't exactly wise. They didn't take any three-point shots in the fourth quarter after going 11-of-16 in the first three quarters.
If the game plan worked for most of the game, why change it when the game's on the line?
Hollins will have to keep things steady to keep a tenuous offense on track.