It’s the same story over and over again. The Memphis Grizzlies have nearly every element you want in a basketball team. Defense, ball movement, high IQ players, good coaches, and savvy veterans.
What they do not have is the one thing that a title team needs in the modern NBA.
To be a real threat, a team needs a player that they can all go to and say “Here’s the ball. We will step out of your way, go get buckets and take us to victory.”
You need someone who can take the rock and bring you to the next level. A superstar. A killer, an assassin, a closer.
We saw it in two of their last three games. On Friday against the Clippers, they blew a 95-87 lead with less than two minutes to go. There was nobody to stop the bleeding.
Against the Raptors on Tuesday night, they fell apart in the second half for various reasons, but that is a different conversation for a different day. They had their chance to take it late in the fourth quarter but they could not get the job done.
The things about this team that make the Grit N Grind embodiment such a lovable trademark are the same things that can also be frustrating.
Sometimes, Grit N Grind is not the answer. There needs to be a time when points do not become such a struggle, a time where all fundamental basketball can be temporarily thrown out the window so a superstar killer can work his magic and seize the game. A player that will control the game, take all momentum, and suck the life out of the opposing team’s hearts.
The Grizzlies have some brilliant players and valuable role players. We all love their ego-less, fundamentally sound style of basketball. They do not have a killer.
It was their lone weakness through their glory years of making deep playoff runs in the early 2010s. The Warriors, Thunder, Spurs, and Clippers all had their guys who can take the game into their own hands. The Grizzlies did not.
It is hard to even complain about this glaring hole on the team. They were not supposed to be here. They were not supposed to be 12-8. They were not supposed to look like a potentially scary playoff basketball team. We should all be grateful they are even in this position to begin and not act like this team should be a serious contender.
Plus, those types of superstars do not grow on trees. The Grizzlies cannot go shopping tomorrow morning and find one in the snap of the finger. It does not work like that. Guys like Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Kyrie Irving… they are future hall of famers for a reason. The Grizzlies are a well-run team and nobody epitomizes the underdog concept more than they do.
But they do not have a closer. Right now, the closer might be the difference between 12-8 and 16-4.
In past years, the closer also might have been the difference between a Western Conference Finals sweep and… a championship.
Feature Image [Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports]