The Memphis Grizzlies are in a tough spot. They are a perennial playoff team on the descent, not good enough to do much more than scrap for tough wins every night and compete for a bottom-rung playoff spot. Things got a little worse last night, with star point guard Mike Conley on the bench with an achilles injury and Mario Chalmers sliding into the starting point guard role. If there’s one way to set yourself up to lose a very winnable game to the Magic in excruciating fashion, it’s putting Chalmers into the lineup.
With under a minute to play, Aaron Gordon hit a three from the corner to put the Magic up 100-99. That’s when Chalmers went to work, and the next three Grizzlies possessions went like this: Chalmers drives and throws a pass to the corner out of bounds; Chalmers steals the ball from Terrence Ross and flubs the breakaway layup while trying to draw a foul; Chalmers misses a three with 17 seconds left to play.
Just as remarkable as Chalmers’s late-game meltdown was is how willing head coach David Fizdale was to air his player out during a postgame press conference.
After laying into the whole team for not communicating and having terrible huddles, Fizdale zeroed in on Chalmers:
Mario made a ridiculous play. I don’t really need to go too deep into that, and he heard it from and he understands that. In the heat of the moment, he couldn’t own it. And that’s exactly what I meant. 25,000 people were in here and saw that was the most ridiculous play of the whole game. But because his brain was gone, he couldn’t just own that it was a bonehead play. That was all night, though.
For his part, Chalmers later owned up to his mistakes in ways he apparently couldn’t during the game. “He’s 100 percent right. I take ownership for the last, what, two plays. The turnover, the missed layup, the missed three. That’s on me ... I feel like I lost the game for us,” he told reporters.
There’s something oddly comforting about finding out that, all these years later, Mario Chalmers is still capable of driving everyone around him absolutely nuts.