With time running out to save the roster as they have known it, the Memphis Grizzlies are lamenting the victory that could have been while picking up the pieces of the collapse that was.
They will try to get back on track when the face the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday in Minneapolis.
Maybe the frustrating defeat Monday against the Nuggets was a sign of progress for Memphis. After a recent eight-game losing streak, the Grizzlies looked as if they were going to make it consecutive victories by posting a home win over Denver before a late meltdown ruined the revival.
The Grizzlies not only blew a 25-point, third-quarter lead against the Nuggets, but they were also up by 19 in the fourth quarter. Memphis never trailed in the game until the final 43 seconds, ultimately falling 95-92. They were in the game, though, something that has not always happened this month.
Veterans Marc Gasol and Mike Conley, who have been the subjects of recent trade talk, did what they could, putting up 28 and 23 points respectively, but it was not enough to slow the concept that they could be playing elsewhere by the Feb. 7 trade deadline.
“We discussed what we thought happened, but we have no choice but to move on,” Grizzlies head coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. “That’s the nature of this business. We’ll fly to Minnesota, we’ll strap ’em on, and we’ll compete Wednesday night. Every single game is a new day no matter what happened the night before or the last five nights. That’s the way we have to view it.”
The Wednesday game starts a run for the Grizzlies in which four of the five teams they face before the trade deadline have losing records. Memphis and Minnesota will face off twice in that time.
Minnesota already is in the midst of a retooling process, having first traded Jimmy Butler in November before the club fired head coach Tom Thibodeau earlier this month.
Young mainstays Karl Anthony-Towns and Andrew Wiggins have been impressive at times, but not consistent enough to get Minnesota on an extended run of success. Since the Wolves agreed to trade Butler on Nov. 10, they are 20-17. Since Thibodeau was dispatched, they are 5-5.
The Wolves did put together a three-game winning streak last week, but they lost consecutive games to the Jazz over the weekend. Defense became the issue in Sunday a 125-111 as Utah shot 71 percent (27 of 38) in the second half.
Defending the perimeter proved to be a dicey proposition with so many guards missing in action. Derrick Rose (ankle), Jeff Teague (foot) and Tyus Jones (ankle) all missed the game, as did forward Robert Covington (knee).
Jones and Covington won’t play Wednesday while Rose and Teague are viewed as questionable.
“We practice together and it’s just principles,” Wiggins said about the Wolves mixing and matching so many lineups in recent days. “You know what you have to do. It’s just defensive reads. We’ve all got to do better.”
The Wolves also have a favorable schedule ahead with four of their next five games against teams with losing records. Then they will head into the All-Star break with home games against two playoff contenders, the Los Angeles Clippers and Houston Rockets.
The Timberwolves will face a Grizzlies team that will be without three players: forward Omri Casspi (knee), guard Garrett Temple (shoulder) and guard Dillon Brooks (toe). Forward JaMychal Green (knee) is questionable.
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