The Memphis Grizzlies have been the NBA’s hottest team, as they held an 11-game winning streak coming into Friday and were first in defensive rating.
With the second-best record in the Western Conference, many thought they had established themselves as a legitimate championship contender.
On Friday, they went into Crypto.com Arena to take on the Los Angeles Lakers, a team that had lost four of its last five games and was without Anthony Davis, its leading scorer, and Lonnie Walker IV, its third-leading scorer.
An easy win, right?
After taking a 13-point lead late in the third quarter, the Grizzlies saw their lead cut down repeatedly down the stretch, and after failing to make their free throws, they saw themselves holding a shaky 120-119 lead with 13.2 seconds left.
DENNIS SCHRODER GREATEST PLAYER OF ALL TIME!!!!!!!!! pic.twitter.com/vmubC1CBwA
— LakeShowYo (@LakeShowYo) January 21, 2023
The Grizzlies’ 122-120 loss was an embarrassing way for them to end their long winning streak, and it exposed a couple of concerns.
They’re the NBA’s worst free-throw shooting team at just 71.1 percent, and to illustrate how bad they are at this vital facet of the game, the next-worst team, the San Antonio Spurs, shoot 74.1 percent from the charity stripe.
Missing free throws, especially under pressure, is the type of weakness a young team like Memphis tends to have, and it’s something that must be rectified.
It is such a weakness that at one point in the fourth quarter, the Lakers intentionally fouled its players off the ball at the start of back-to-back possessions in order to make them shoot free throws.
Steven Adams, their starting center, is hitting just 35.2 percent from the free-throw line, which is down from 54.3 percent last season, and Ja Morant, who shoots 8.2 free throws a game, converts on only 74.8 percent of them, which is mediocre, especially for a superstar like him.
For the Grizzlies to be considered true championship material, they will have to do a little more growing up, and perhaps a little more roster tweaking.