Memphis Grizzlies Will Be Kicking Themselves All Summer After Dropping Series

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Well, there goes my dark-horse pick (and several others’ at that) to represent the Western Conference in the NBA Finals.

After coming back from a 3-1 deficit to tie the series and force a game seven at home, the Memphis Grizzlies ultimately fell to the Los Angeles Clippers, dropping the series-deciding contest 82-72 on Sunday afternoon.

Coming into today’s game, the home team had won 80 percent of game sevens over the course of NBA history. The Grizzlies are now in that minority of teams that were not able to emerge victorious on their home floor.

At first glance, that comes as a surprise, given the ample amount of talent on this Memphis team, but then again, this is the same squad that squandered a 27-point lead to lose Game 1 of this series. It also nearly blew a 24-point lead in Game 5.

So, what happened to the Grizzlies?

First and foremost, let me start by giving credit where credit is due. The Clippers got the job done; plain and simple. I truly believe that if you beat your opponent four out of seven times, you are the better team, unless there are injuries inhibiting your competition.

And actually, there were injuries, but not on Memphis. Los Angeles was the team dealing with banged up players, it’s two best players, as a matter of fact.

Blake Griffin was playing with a balky knee, so balky that he had to sit out the majority of the fourth quarter. Chris Paul was on the floor with a groin injury that has been bothering him for the better part of the series. It clearly limited his effectiveness in Game 6, but in Game 7, he gutted it out and recorded 19 points and nine rebounds. It wasn’t Paul’s best performance, but it was enough.

The Grizzlies? They just could not put the ball in the basket, shooting a paltry 32.5% from the field. They misfired on all 13 of their three-point attempts and also missed nine free throws.

That is obviously not a recipe for success.

You want to know how poor Memphis’ offense was in this Game 7? It only scored 13 points in the first quarter. It’s not like the Clippers did much better, scoring 16, but it was still three points better than the anemic Grizzlies.

I’m sorry, but this Memphis team is far too talented to lay this kind of egg in a Game 7. It is also far too talented to blow a 27-point lead. Again, you have to give credit to L.A. for being able to rally back from that big of a deficit, but it takes much more than just the other team playing well to give up an advantage of nearly 30 points.

It takes a complete choke job on the part of the team with the lead, and that is what happened to the Grizzlies in Game 1.

Had Lionel Hollins’ group been able to hold off the Clips’ furious rally back on Apr. 30, it would not have even had to play a Game 7 on Sunday. Instead, it would have been preparing on how to upset the San Antonio Spurs for the second consecutive year. Alas, that didn’t happen, and now Memphis is going to spend all summer wondering what could have been.

It’s funny how much things can change in a year.

After becoming a legend in Memphis overnight in 2011, Zach Randolph was anything but a prime-time performer in the 2012 postseason, shooting 3-of-12 from the floor and recording only nine points in Game 7. Last year, Randolph would have put this team on his back and carried them to the next round of the playoffs, but this isn’t last year.

And perhaps the Grizzlies could have overcome Randolph’s spotty shooting if Mike Conley didn’t also have an off-afternoon, shooting just 2-of-13. Or if O.J. Mayo didn’t go 1-for-11.

It’s not all bad for Memphis, though.

This is still a very young team and has plenty of time to win a championship. However, given how well it matches up with San Antonio and some of the other top teams in the league, it blew a golden opportunity this season, and opportunities such as this do not come by very often.

Maybe next time, the Grizzlies will decide to show up for Game 7. Or not blow a 27-point lead so they don’t have a Game 7.

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