After a rough 5-game stretch out west, the Grizzlies return to the FedEx Forum for some much needed home cookin’ on Friday. In this edition of the Friday Morning Five, the 3 Shades of Blue team took a look at the team’s homesick blues, how to remedy them, and the ensuing path to the playoffs.
1. Talk about an uninspiring road trip. What went wrong, and what worries you most?
Chip Crain: I think the team lost some of its confidence after losing to Golden State and Portland. The Warriors game was most surprising since the team had a 7 point lead late and were outscored 14-0 down the stretch. As I wrote earlier that has been when the Grizzlies have been dominant. A 2-3 road trip isn’t that bad really considering the travel this late in the season but when you are trying to move up in the standings it hurts more. The most worrisome part of the trip was the lack of defensive cohesion.
Matthew Noe: Fatigue, and there’s no worrying about it-either the team get to rest and get the tank back to full and start hitting the boards with more verve, or they don’t. Not a lot of complicated mechanical issues-the open shots are there, the defensive scheme is the same-it’s just not working right now.
Carl Chaplin: What happened to the defense? What happened to the grit-n-grind perspective on games? In the Utah, Portland, Denver and Minnesota games it was like the 1st team wasn’t playing with intensity. What went wrong was that our star players weren’t competing. It worries me that in such important games the starters didn’t seem to totally commit to the game. If that happens again this season, then the Grizzlies could very likely kiss the playoffs goodbye.
Zach Thomas: I’ve chronicled this on Twitter ad nauseum, but I do believe there is an issue with the Grizzlies travel schedule and walk through schedule that messes with the guys. If you haven’t seen my tweets in games with 1 days rest and Gasol on the court, the Grizzlies have a 101.1 ORtg and 106.2 DRtg, which would be their worst of any 12 games stretch with Gasol, in which they are 4-8. I am not surprised all that much with the 2-3 record because the road trip should have been 1-4 according to the stats, however we pulled out the first game (on 1 days rest) in Utah because it was the first one of the trip, and Utah is tanking hard. I would suggest that from here on, the Grizzlies staff changes up its travel/walk through routines to inject some help for the court, because they’ve looked pretty bad in those games. What do they have to lose? They’ve lost those games anyway. As for what worries me most, it’s the lineup decisions. At least try to play the bench more. I think playing the bench would help some of the lack of energy issue, when your starters are averaging over 30mpg. But for the most part, even the bench has looked bad in those games, so it’s not much of a starters issue as much as it is a team issue, the bench looks energetic and plays better because the starters are drained and playing terrible, but according to stats, they’ve played poorly as well (comparable to wins).
Phillip Dean: For starters the rotation went bad. Dumpster fire bad. The starters were completely worn out from this trip and just when the bench was getting a groove and cutting the momentum in the Blazers and T-Wolves losses, Joerger decides to throw the starters who were getting destroyed the entire night. Koufos played a great game against the Nuggets and Joerger decides to put Marc back in who played terrible. Transition D continued to be a disaster and that will hurt you badly if they go into the playoffs and face a team like the Spurs or Thunder. It’s very easy that this team could have gone 0-5 on this roadtrip.
2. What adjustments do the Grizzlies need to make in order to turn things back around?
Chip: Play tough defense and make some shots. It really is that simple. The Grizlies gave up 100 points in all three losses and frankly this team doesn’t shoot well enough to overcome poor defensive efforts like that. Then again if the team was making shots perhaps opponents wouldn’t be able to run so easily and get baskets before the defense has set up. The team lives and breathes by their defense however and until that is shorn up the Grizzlies will struggle.
Matthew: Rebounding is a “99% perspiration” thing, and that is what will make it all work. The energy issue manifests itself all over the court (how screens are set on offense and how they’re handled on D, etc.), and the hope is that the team, especially the starters, can reinvigorate themselves after a night or two at home.
Carl: Adjustments? It’s kind of late in the season to make many adjustments. The starting five for the most part play well together and the reserves, especially K Koufos, T. Allen, M, Miller and N. Calathes have been very good off the bench, bringing energy and decent scoring with good defense. When J. Johnson, Ed Davis and J. Leuer have occasionally appeared, they have played good ball. So, the only adjustment is for the starters to get back to playing the way they can and should. If that takes the coaches get on to them, let it happen. This is where we see if the veterans are going to lead.
Zach: At this point, Joerger needs to play the deep bench more and trust analytics to select lineups. Then if a player is having a bad game, insert another player into the lineup that wouldn’t negatively effect the spacing, i.e. Allen/Prince, and play better than his counterpart. Over all though, I really don’t think it will matter that much, these guys are professionals. It’s our job to over analyze, but I think it’s exactly that. They have 4 games of 7 at home remaining. I know it sounds optimistic (I do trust the numbers too much) but they will make the playoffs. My concern would be with seeding at this point, avoid the 8.
Phillip: Be better rebounding the ball and get better at the transition D. I’m at point now where I’m finally able to say that I’m fine with taking some of Tayshaun Prince’s minutes to James Johnson…not a lot but a little bit.
3. Seven games remain. What will the Grizzlies’ record be over the final stretch and will it be enough to get into the playoffs?
Chip: To reach my preseason prediction the Grizzlies need to go 6-1 in the last 7 games but that isn’t looking very promising right now. San Antonio looks to be a loss as they are playing unbelievable right now. Miami comes to town the next game and that is going to be an important game for both teams. The season ends with games at Phoenix and against Dallas. Memphis needs both of those games most likely to reach the playoffs. It is a tall order but if the team regains its legs and plays tough defensively there is no reason to think a 5-2 finish isn’t possible and that should be enough to reach the playoffs.
Matthew: If the Grizzlies don’t win four of the seven, they can all make tee time reservations at the favorite Bahamian golf course for the last week of April. However, I think they can and will win enough to squeak into the first round, likely against the Spurs. Oh joy.
Carl: I think they can beat everyone except the Spurs, based on the way they are playing. So, I think they will go 6-1, including beating the reigning champs, the Heat. I think Dallas will lose 3 possible 4 games: the Clippers (already over when this is posted), the Spurs, the Grizzlies and maybe the Suns. Phoenix will probably lose 3 or 4 games. Golden State only has one tough game left – at Portland on April 13. It is very unlikely they will lose 3 games and the Grizzlies win-out, so the best the Grizzlies can hope for is 7th place finish.
Zach: According to the analytics alone & the way they play at home versus on the road, 5-2 would be the predicted record, leaving them 49-33. I will say they drop a game unexpectedly and end up 48-34 and snag the 8 seed because of the tie breaker Dallas holds.
Phillip: 5-2. I see the two losses being to the Spurs and the Suns. Hopefully they can prove me wrong.
4. There’s been some discussion regarding whether this team would be best served missing the playoffs and netting the tail end pick of the lottery. Thoughts?
Chip: There are pros and cons to both sides. Clearly getting a top 14 pick would help the team immeasurably. Reaching the playoffs for the 4th consecutive year would be a franchise high and the team would start to look like a perennial playoff team. Personally I would prefer to make the playoffs even if it is as an 8th seed because once you reach the playoffs anything can happen. This team is capable of defeating any team if they are playing at their best. Clearly that hasn’t been the case on this road trip but things have a way of turning around fast in the NBA.
Matthew: Negative. No way. The psyche of the team and the city would be much better served getting in, even if only to be kicked around and out in the first round. Bottom-end lottery picks, even in a good draft, can’t replace the joy (and the $) of even a short playoff run.
Carl: No, No and NO. This team is good and can beat any team when they play their ball. So, come on playoffs. Let’s see what the Grizzlies can do. Also, the lottery is so unpredictable. The Grizzlies wouldn’t get much higher pick than they will anyway.
Zach: I don’t want to overhype something that isn’t a big deal (and one’s opinion on playoffs or 14th pick isn’t), but I think from an organizational standpoint, the Grizzlies making the playoffs brings in a tremendous amount of revenue for the organization and the city of Memphis. Picking up a role player at 14 may turn out fine, but it won’t generate more revenue for neither the city nor the organization, and I can’t see it selling more season tickets. Therefore, I would say that’s not a preferable option.
Phillip: No. Playoffs or bust at this point. This team has worked so hard to get back into playoff position after what happened to them in November and December. This is the deepest depth this team this franchise has ever had and for them to not be in the playoffs would be a travesty. Believe Memphis.
5. If you had to pick a player of the month for March, it would be _______.
Chip: Zach Randolph. The team would have gone 0-5 if not for Z-Bo playing the way he did at Utah and Denver. Z-Bo shot 51.3% for the month and averaged just under 10 rebounds a game. Conley is a close second once he regained his shooting touch.
Matthew: Umm..uh…maybe…Mike Miller? His shooting has been wonderful, he’s hitting his spots on offense to get those good shots, and his disposition is great as always. His lateral mobility on defense is rivaled only by the old Soviet T-80, uh, tank, but he’s doing what he was hired to do and doing it well.
Carl: Zach Randolph. See below for his stats:
Also, except for Aldridge of Portland, he played good defense on the other power forwards. His weakest game was the Minnesota game, but even then he played good defense and held Kevin Love to his season average.
Zach: Mike Miller. He drained threes, made hustle plays, and didn’t make me notice his usually poor defensive play. He had a 110 ORtg & 108 DRtg in March. His continued success will be critical to the Grizzlies come playoff time, regardless of the opponent.
Phillip: I would go with Mike Miller right now. His shooting for the month of March has been phenomenal. This is why the front office has brought him here for. I hope that he can stay healthy and get back into a rhythm. #LetItFly
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!