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Heartbreak Hotel

By Jeff Koch on April 1, 2013.

Memphis Grizzlies 92, San Antonio Spurs 90
(55-19, 23-14 away)

The NBA is weird.

And cruel.

One night after falling to the starless Heat in San Antonio, the Spurs nearly beat a full strength Memphis–sans Duncan, Leonard, and Ginobili–in Memphis. It would have been a nice salve to help ease the disappointment of the Miami loss. Instead, it’s just compounded anger and worry. And heartache.

Copyright 2013 NBAE (Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)

As much as Sunday’s loss was a game we should have won, once Leonard and Duncan stayed home, this game is a game we “should have” lost. And it started out as such, with the Spurs clanking their first 8 or so shots, and looking like a tired team knowing 2 of its 3 best players were at home. But then a funny thing happened: the Grizzlies offense stayed in neutral, and the Spurs took–and held–the lead behind an all-around solid team effort, particularly from the bench.

Honestly, I was pleased with the game. I thought everybody played pretty well and to their abilities. Parker came alive in the second half, and played strong against a fierce defense keyed in on him specifically. We can argue, “if only we had hit a few more shots”, or “we got hosed on a couple of calls”; these things are probably true, but most of this NBA karma tends to even out over the course of a game. Really, as it has been the last few months, this was a failure of execution down the stretch.

And this is where any real concern or worry lies. As much as we hold the reputation for being the team that ‘executes’, we execute like shit at the end of games. Each of these last few games has come down to one or two possessions, but in each of the games, we held a lead in the last 2 minutes, and could have won every won of them with a little bit smarter and better executed play. Instead, we fall apart in the last two minutes, failing to even get shots on possessions, giving up wide-open 3-pointers (while down 3 with under a minute to play), making bone-headed mistakes. We are being out-played, out-smarted, and out-executed in close games, and it is not a fluke.

We had control of this game–a game we probably had no right controlling in the first place–and we gave it away. So be happy that our team can hang with any team out there, regardless of personnel; but be very worried that we can no longer finish tight games with any semblance of grace or confidence.

But the NBA is also fickle, and you’re only as good as your last few games. Win a couple of our next few? This will all be forgotten.

Let’s hope we do, and that it is.

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