The Miami Heat weren't the only team in the NBA to hand out gobs of money last summer. The Memphis Grizzlies, for instance, forked $80 million over to Rudy Gay with hopes that he could become one of the best small forwards in the game. Like, say, LeBron James.
Saturday night, Gay earned his paycheck, besting James in a last-minute shootout to give the Grizzlies a 97-95 win over the now 8-5 Heat.
Memphis' expensive forward nailed a fade-away from the right baseline over the Heat's two-time MVP as time expired to give the Grizzlies a regulation win. The victory ended a tough five-game skid for Memphis, a team expected to challenge for a Western Conference playoff spot.
The Heat, of course, were expected to contend for much more. And while the season's still young, Miami's inability to dominate on the road, where the team is now 2-3, and against less talented opponents continues to gnaw at the team's once ominous mien of dominance.
Miami lacked Dwyane Wade; x-rays on the star guard's wrist, injured in a fall against the Bobcats Friday, came up negative, but coach Erik Spoelstra kept Wade sidelined nonetheless. The Heat also lost Udonis Haslem, who sprained his foot on a fall that looked a whole lot worse. The team announced that the vital forward with be evaluated Sunday. Miami fans ought to hold their breath.
Chris Bosh, maligned he may be, gave the Heat a breath of life with an improbable banked three-pointer as time wound down with the Grizzlies leading by five. On Memphis' next possession, Eddie House knocked the ball away from Gay, allowing James to tie the game at 95. The Grizzlies had 5.5 seconds, and Gay made up for his misplay.
The standard defensive alignment, given the circumstances of the game (O.J. Mayo was awful throughout), would be to make Gay, a mediocre and uncreative passer, give up the ball. Zydrunas Ilgauskas actually did appear to try to help James pressure Gay. But Big Z, as you may know, isn't exactly swift. Gay made a wide turn around the Lithuanian, and neither he nor LeBron ever really caught up.
James had a game-high 29 points and 11 assists, and under his stewardship the Heat had just six turnovers all game. But Memphis slaughtered Miami on the glass, with the Grizzlies capturing 14 offensive rebounds in 40 opportunities, a 35 percent share that represents a veritable windfall of second chances. Those rebounds helped Memphis overcome a dreadful night from behind the arc, where Mike Conley made the team's only three-pointer in 11 attempts.
Miami is now 2-3 against the Western Conference. The Pacers visit American Airlines Arena on Monday. The Grizzlies, now 5-9, play host to the Pistons on Tuesday.