Found January 26, 2012 on Race Review Online:

 

altThe Memphis Grizzlies completed a stretch of four games in five nights with a loss to the Portland Trailblazers, which ended their seven game winning streak.    

Before the Blazers game the Grizz played a thriller in Golden State.  They came back from an 18 point fourth quarter deficit to win in the last minute 91-90.  It wasn't looking too good for the Grizz, that game was the start of a four game road trip, and it would not have been a good way to start the West Coast swing by losing to the Warriors.   The Warriors came out hot, hitting 18 of 27 first half shots, four of seven from three, but the fourth quarter was when they finally started to miss and Memphis turned up the defense, and took advantage.  The Grizz forced eight turnovers, got 15 fastbreak points, and scored 39 points in that miraculous fourth quarter comeback. Unfortunately for the Grizzlies, they couldn't duplicate that performance from the previous nights game, and lost to the Blazers.   Before the loss at Portland, Memphis had been the hottest team in the league, but they fell victim to what we I call a "lockout loss."  A "lockout loss" can be explained as a team playing poorly, or out of character due to the craziness of the condensed schedule.  And that is what happened to the Grizz on Tuesday night.  They came out flat on the offensive end shooting way too many jumpers, most of which fell short, and they only went to the free throw line twice in the first half.  The starters combined to shoot 15-51 and were outplayed by the Blazers starters.  Memphis's bench was the only bright spot, everyone who played off of the bench had a positive or even plus/minus for the game.  Basically the starters were running on fumes, and you can't blame them when they have to deal with such a wicked schedule. This season has been shortened by about six weeks, which is 72% of the season, but the teams are playing 66 of the 82 games, which is 80% of the regular schedule.  So there a lot of teams that will lose due to the strains of the schedule.  The bad news for the Grizzlies is that they have had to deal with the loss of Zach Randolph, make due without Mike Conley for three games due to injury, and had to wait out Hamed Haddadi's visa issue, as well as work carefully around the condensed schedule. If you don't include the 28 seconds of game time that Conley played before getting hurt versus Oklahoma City, then him, Rudy Gay, and Marc Gasol are all in the top 22 in the league in minutes played.  Only the Bulls, Lakers, Heat, Rockets, and Warriors have even two players in the top 25, and no one has three in the top 25 except for the Grizzlies.  I think it's safe to say they need some rest. The Grizzlies are not the first team, and they will not be the last team, to lose a game due to tired legs this season, but it does help that their first "lockout loss" came against a good opponent.  You don't want to have to sacrifice losses to lesser teams due to dead legs.   It should not come as a surprise to anyone that the Owner/Genius Mark Cuban has found a way to minimize possible "lockout losses".  Dallas is sitting Dirk Nowitzki for four games because of "conditioning" issues, in the four games that Dirk will be sidelined the Mavs play at New Orleans, then home for Phoenix, Minnesota, and Utah.  That's not exactly a "Murder's Row" of teams.  And don't be surprised to see Dallas do this again later in the season when they play at Phoenix, at Sacramento,  at Golden State, home for Washington and Charlotte, that's five games in eight nights versus lesser teams.  The question is, when will we see other teams employ this "conditioning" method? Coming into this season you expected to see some of the older teams (Lakers, Spurs, Boston, etc.) rest key players for a few games here and there to save their energy, but now that the season has started no one, besides Dallas, has actually rested players.  Even though this season is tough, it is still shortened so there is less room for error, and you don't have as much time to make up losses. The Thunder, Heat, and Bulls were most experts choice to win the championship mainly because they are all young, talented and have depth.  Teams like these weren't expected to be bothered by the wacky season.  The perception was you needed depth and young talent to make it through the rigors of a tough schedule, but the Heat have lost Wade because of injury, the Bulls have lost Rose because of injury, and the Thunder lost Eric Maynor for the season due to an ACL tear.  So if the young teams can't stay healthy, and the old teams are, well, old, who really has the best chance of making it through to the end?   We all knew this NBA season was going to be crazy, and it doesn't appear as if the championship will be won on talent alone.  This seasons eventual champ will be the team that manages the schedule the best, has the least amount of injuries come playoffs,  and has the best strategy for avoiding the "lockout loss".  Please follow me on Twitter @rmarbury
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