Marc Gasol dominates Pistons after coach calls out Grizz leadership

Marc Gasol matched a career high with 38 points on Wednesday. (Associated Press)
Marc Gasol matched a career high with 38 points on Wednesday. (Associated Press)

The Memphis Grizzlies have performed above all reasonable expectations this season, coming into Wednesday’s game at the Detroit Pistons with a 18-12 record and solid playoff positioning in the West despite losing several key players to multi-week injuries. Nevertheless, a run of three straight losses (and four in five games) brought new concerns. After blowing a 17-point lead and losing in overtime to the Boston Celtics on Tuesday, head coach David Fizdale called out his team for a disturbing lack of leadership and a “tomb”-like atmosphere in huddles. It was a somewhat odd criticism for a squad known for staying tough and playing hard through adversity, but Fizdale’s words were strong enough to land.

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Marc Gasol must have heard them very well. The Grizzlies’ star center and captain dominated the Pistons, matching a career high with 38 points on a hyper-efficient 14-of-17 shooting from the field. His fantastic performance led Memphis to a comfortable 98-86 win. There are worse ways to start a run of nine out of 12 games on the road.

Gasol didn’t get the points easily, either, making a number of tough jumpers and punishing Andre Drummond with turnarounds and fadeaways from the left block:

The Grizzlies needed all of Gasol’s production, too. Only forward JaMychal Green joined him in double figures as the team’s non-Spaniards shot just 28 percent (21-of-75) from the field. Chandler Parsons returned to the court after missing more than a month with a knee injury, but he managed just three points in 15 minutes.

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It’s hard to prove that Gasol was only motivated by Fizdale’s challenge — he’s pretty good anyway — but the timing sure looks right. For what it’s worth, Gasol had his own strong reaction to Fizdale on Tuesday. From Tim MacMahon for

“Right now, I’m really down on our leadership,” Fizdale said without prompting after the Grizzlies blew a 17-point lead in their 112-109 overtime loss to the Boston Celtics. “Our huddles are like tombs right now. Nobody wants to step up and lead this group now during this tough time. I’m going to keep demanding it and see who’s going to rise to the challenge.” […]

Asked for his reaction to Fizdale’s harsh criticism of Memphis’ leaders, Grizzlies captain Marc Gasol didn’t have much to say.

“None,” Gasol said. He paused and repeated himself, exaggerating as he enunciated for effect.

Asked if Fizdale’s opinion was inaccurate, Gasol said: “You’re asking for my reaction; I said none. He thinks that, we’ve got to be better, and that’s it. No reaction.”

The Pistons had a couple of their own strongly worded press conference to react to on Wednesday, although they were not quite as successful. Nevertheless, Stan Van Gundy saw improvement from his side after “lambasting players’ performances and effort levels following their previous two losses:

Van Gundy’s not wrong — the Pistons played much better than in recent games and severely limited every Grizzly other than Gasol. However, they still shot only 36.1 percent from the field to lose by double figures for the fourth time in a row. Unfortunately for the Pistons, it doesn’t get any easier on Friday when they host the Golden State Warriors.

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Eric Freeman is a writer for Ball Don’t Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!

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