You’ve got to give credit where credit is due. After spraining his ankle against the Miami Heat on March 21, Marc Gasol came back the next night and played a game-high 38:54 in a big win over the Indiana Pacers. He didn’t warm up, but he produced and set the tone for the rest of the Memphis Grizzlies.
There’s simply no time to rest for the Grizzlies. If it were earlier in the regular season, you can bet that Gasol would have given his ankle some time to rest. With just 13 games left and a slim half-game lead over the Phoenix Suns, Gasol and the team decided it was best for him to be on the floor.
As the team’s defensive anchor, all the Grizzlies did was hold the Indiana Pacers to an atrocious 71 points on 36.5 percent shooting (27-for-74). Gasol makes such a big difference, as the team is 31-15 with him in the lineup and just 10-13 when he sits.
Gasol was obviously hobbled and wasn’t able to score much against the Pacers, but his 10 points, nine rebounds, two blocks and his ability to defend the rim was of paramount importance.
The Grizzlies are in a very precarious situation, as there are three teams (Dallas, Memphis, Phoenix) battling for two spots. Currently, the Grizzlies (41-28) hold the No. 7 seed with the Mavericks (42-29) in a virtual tie with them, with the Suns (41-29) a half-game back.
Memphis has a tough road ahead of them, as eight of their final 13 games are away from home. They have road games left at Golden State, at Portland, at San Antonio and at Phoenix. Their toughest home games are against Miami and Dallas.
The schedule makers knew what they were doing, as the Grizzlies last two games are against the two teams they’re fighting against for those precious playoff spots. After travelling to Phoenix on Monday, April 14 (on the back half of a back-to-back), they’ll get to come home to end the season against Dallas on Wednesday, April 16.
Looking at the schedule, it makes sense why the Grizzlies would want Gasol to stay in the lineup. They don’t want to get into a position to win out with such a tough stretch coming.
Not to mention, the Grizzlies have played some terrific defense as of late and want to keep the momentum going. In their last five games (3-2 record), they’re allowing opponents just 84.8 points per game on 42.9 percent shooting. That kind of defense would lead the league if they were able to stay healthy and keep it up. Keeping the chemistry together is more important than trying to get some rest…which could lead to resting all the way through the playoffs.
Nobody can question Gasol’s heart or his toughness. He’s out there working within the system, not for his personal benefit, but for the team. Over those last five games, Gasol has averaged 12.6 points, 6.4 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 2.4 blocks. He’s only shooting 44 percent from the field, but his 86.4 percent from the foul line is legendary for a center.
Obviously the ideal situation would be for the Grizzlies to have some breathing room in order to get Gasol the rest he needs. We know that Zach Randolph, Mike Conley and crew would also love the ability to get some rest, but as they say — there’s no rest for the wicked (or for those fighting for a playoff spot).