After Wednesday night’s triumph over the defending champion Heat, the Grizzlies look to continue their pursuit of a ticket to the Western Conference playoff dance against the Philadelphia 76ers at the Grindhouse tonight. With just four games remaining, this marks the final Friday Morning Five of the regular season, so the 3 Shades of Blue crew discusses the Grizzlies’ quick turnaround, preferred lineups, and whether we’ll be talking about the good guys’ first round opponent or the 14th pick in the draft this time next week.
1. My heart’s still racing from the Miami game. Is it just about effort, or was there more to the Grizzlies’ turnaround from the ugly stretch leading up to Wednesday?
Chip Crain: It was a great win but the team needs to keep things in order. They played the Heat who were missing three valuable players in Dwayne Wade, Chris Anderson and Udonis Haslem. It was also a team that played a tough game the night before in Miami and were fatigued in the second half. Having said that the team played inspired ball, especially in the second half, and pulled out an important win against a very talented team.
Josh Coleman: As Mike Conley noted after the game, it seems as though the team needed a high level of competition in a home setting to finally bring their competitive focus back in line. While effort was certainly key last night, focus and teamwork were even more vital to their ability to knock off the two-time champs.
Carl Chaplin: Effort is always a major part of the game. Skill stays about the same from game to game. Except for the occasional “he’s hot” games for a player, stats tell that players contribute about the same from game to game. The other big contributor is incentive. How much do players want to win a game determines how much energy and focus they give to a game. The Miami game had great incentive, just as the last 4 games of the season should have for every player.
Matthew Noe: Hard not to look at TA’s performance on D as a major reason that worked out to a win…also, ZBo going full-on nutso in that first quarter helped keep the game from getting away early. Also…oh, look…the Grizzlies’ big three did well and the team won. Weird, huh?
Steve Danziger: The defense was fantastic in the second half, and a little bit of LeBron reminding us that he is in fact human by fading towards the end on the heels of a tightly contested game the night before certainly helped. All that being said, I really think that you can’t undervalue the hot offensive start early on, providing the Grizz the confidence to hang around in spite of the Heat shooting an otherworldly clip on backbreaking three-pointers.
2. Is Tony Allen’s reported disappointment with his minutes cause for concern?
Chip: Not nearly as much as the disappointment in his level of play leading up to the Miami game. Allen still clanked a three point attempt off the side of the backboard, missed a few layups and made some silly mistakes but when Allen is as disruptive to the opponents offense as he was last night those mistakes on offense can easily be overlooked. Last night we saw the Tony Allen who creates turnovers (granted on both sides of the court), gets into players heads and makes them try to do things they are uncomfortable doing. When he defended LeBron James it changed the Heat’s offense. James began to post up instead of operating on the wings which stagnated the Heat’s ball movement. It wasn’t so much that Allen shut down LeBron as he forced him into a role that made the team less effective. When Allen is doing that he gets his minutes. When he is overplaying on the perimeter, not creating steals and giving up open looks while cheating off on defense he doesn’t deserve the minutes. Allen understands that as well as anyone.
Josh: It’s only a concern if TA makes it a bigger issue. For the most part, the coaching staff has proven that they will reward guys who are playing well, as long as the matchups don’t make that unbalanced. If the Grindfather continues playing within himself and not trying to do too much, I think he’ll see playing time that meets with his satisfaction.
Carl: Yes, on one hand. If his disappointment leads to poor play and complaining to hurt team moral, then it will be like a poison. But most likely NO. Tony is a team player and as a veteran, I think, will rise above the pettiness that could hurt the team. Also, No, because he will play with more fire and energy when he’s on the court.
Matthew: Not now. Not after last evening. He’ll be first off the bench for the rest of the season, barring foul trouble etc. Joerger was certainly thrilled to have his TA back, as were his teammates. Was it the heart-to-heart with ZBo?
Steve: I actually think that it’s a big issue in the long term, considering that those knees aren’t going to get any younger and he’s got three more years on his deal. However if we’re speaking in terms of this season, and maybe even next, I don’t see any immediate cause for concern. That reported conversation he had with Zach Randolph must have resonated well with him, as he absolutely played his tail off against Miami.
3. If you could have any 5 guys on the court for the Grizzlies right now, independent of matchups, they would be:
Chip: Conley, Gasol, Randolph and Lee are locks. Allen and James Johnson bring defensive intensity but also errors. Prince plays smarter but with a price. That price is a lack of individual excellence. Prince can disappear too often on the offensive end. The team can’t afford that ghost position against quality teams like the Grizzlies will face in the playoffs. I suppose given the limits of the question I would want Allen with the core four but that is assuming he is playing within himself and the team structure.
Josh: My five: Mike Conley, Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph, Courtney Lee, Mike Miller
Carl: The for sure 4 are Mike Conley, Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph, and Courtney Lee. The uncertain position is the SF. Either one of 3 could fill the SF spot: Tayshaun Prince, Tony Allen or James Johnson. I would prefer Tony on the floor, but as a sub with either Tayshaun or James starting and Tony coming off the bench.
Matthew: Conley, Gasol, Randolph, Lee, Allen. Both Lee and Allen can “guard up” at least two or three inches, giving the Grizzlies great ability to switch as needed on the perimeter. This lineup also gives the Grizzlies a good offense/defense inside/outside balance.
Steve: Mike Conley, Courtney Lee, Mike Miller, Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol. This lineup boasts a net rating of +6.1 per 100 possessions since the All-Star break and offers a number of shooting options to keep the paint open for Randolph and Gasol to get dirty. The defense would not be optimal, but #LetItFly!
4. So what’s the conversation this time next week? The first round matchup or combinations of ping pong balls?
Chip: I believe the team will be watching the lottery show with interest but it could be the Spurs or the Thunder as well. Both Dallas and Phoenix play San Antonio this week and each other prior to playing the Grizzlies to end the season. Assuming San Antonio doesn’t want to go on a losing streak to end the season with a loss to one of their potential opponents in the first round. A victory by the Spurs over either or both teams really helps the Grizzlies. However, Memphis just needs to take care of business to be in the playoffs. Not needing any other team’s help is a great feeling. However it is hard to beat Phoenix on the road and Dallas has had the Grizzlies number all season.
Josh: We’ll be talking about our playoff matchup, which I think will be with Oklahoma City in the #2 vs. #7 contest.
Carl: It’s simple. The Grizzlies have to win their remaining 4 games, which includes beating Phoenix and Dallas. Dallas has to lose two of their remaining 3 games, one being the Grizzlies (and the Spurs who they played last night), and Phoenix has to lose at least 1 game. So, the Grizzlies will end up in 7th place.
Matthew: Playoffs. The Grizzlies’ fuse is now lit, and every Grizzly (TA ‘cuz he made it back, JJ ‘cuz he got a start in the biggest game of the season, etc.) wants it worse than they have at any time this season. Well-timed well-played wins like the MIA game swing a season, and that one came just in the “Nick” of time (nice fourth quarter there rookie).
Steve: I really think that we’ll be lamenting how much we hate the Spurs, again. Do your thing, Grizzlies, and prove me right.
5. Four games remain: PHI, @LA, @PHX, DAL. Call ’em.
Chip: The Grizzlies will win their next two games (Philly and at LA) but I have a sick feeling they are going to get tripped up in Phoenix and lose at home to Dallas. My pre-season prediction on Greg Gaston’s SportsFiles show was 50 wins and if the Grizzlies win all four they will make me look brilliant again but they have booted too many games early in the season to reach that expectation in my opinion.
Josh: Sweep ’em. 4-0, carrying a five-game winning streak into the playoffs.
Carl: The Grizzlies win all 4. The Phoenix game will be the toughest, because it will be the 2nd of back-to-back road games. Hopefully the Lakers game will be easy and the starters can rest. Dallas will be a home game and they will win, maybe to obtain a playoff spot.
Matthew: 3-1. It’s gonna happen. The ‘L’ against Los Angeles.
Steve: 3-1, with the lone letdown coming at the hands of the Mavs, who won’t want to give up the seven seed and face the Spurs.
Have any questions for the 3 Shades of Blue staff to chew on? Send them our way via the comment section, calling into 3SOB Radio on Sports56 every Saturday morning, smoke signals, or reaching out to us on Twitter!