What appeared inconsequential at the time loomed larger and larger Sunday evening, and rendered the Grizzlies unable to cope.
Griz point guard Mike Conley didn't look badly injured when he turned his left ankle during the opening minutes of a 91-83 loss to the New Orleans Hornets in FedExForum.
But Conley had to leave after just four minutes. He didn't return because of a left ankle sprain and ended up wearing a walking boot. His absence left the Grizzlies' offense fractured and in a virtual cast by the fourth quarter.
The Griz had used pick-and-rolls effectively and efficiently to rack up 100-plus points and victories in their previous two outings. However, Memphis became limited and predictable while New Orleans exploited Conley's absence by crowding the paint.
The result was that the Griz labored to score over the final 12 minutes. Memphis (28-15) made just five of 21 shots in the final quarter, and New Orleans (15-29) pulled away for its eighth win in the past 12 games.
"They played their game," Griz center Marc Gasol said. "We played a game. They played better than us. They executed better. Every time they looked for something, they found it."
Memphis scored just 15 points in the fourth and trailed 89-78 after New Orleans' 12-2 run that began when five minutes remained. The Grizzlies' poor execution on offense was compounded by their inability to defend the Hornets' sharpshooting forwards off the bench.
Ryan Anderson led the Hornets with 22 points and Jason Smith picked and popped his way to 16 points. They took turns delivering daggers. Anderson made 7 of 13 shots, all from beyond the 3-point arc. His step-back 3-pointer that beat the shot clock was part of that decisive run.
New Orleans Hornets end Memphis Grizzlies' two-game winning streak, 91-83
Memphis Commercial Appeal | Jan 28