Sometimes you lose because the other team is bigger or more talented. Sometimes you lose because your opponent is raining threes, as if some spectral force were at work. And sometimes you lose simply because your opponent plays more energetically than you did; there are scores of games like this every year. Particularly in this sprint/marathon of a season, there will be games in which neither team shoots the ball particularly well or executes their offense with any particular aplomb. In those games, the team that most effectively wills its dead legs to move probably wins.
Tuesday night’s game was like that–and if you had any doubt of this just check out the two teams’ combined 9-40 three-point shooting. With Marc Gasol sitting in a chair, wearing an ankle boot to match his large man’s suit, and with Zach Randolph still convalescing (albeit on the court), the Grizzlies did not present the Wolves with their typical matchup nightmare. And the Wolves certainly had their vibrant moments–their Love-fueled 20-6 third-quarter run, for instance. But for crucial stretches of the game, the Grizzlies simply played with more energy and verve, particularly on defense and in transition. They ran the floor; they swarmed defensively. In other words, the Grizzlies were the better team.