Well, I promised that I’d be back with a bit more in-depth look at what the Grizzlies need to do to get themselves into full playoff form and readiness.
DON’T LOSE TO THE HORNETS, right? Yes, that is it.
That’s not all, but what happened in the Hornets game makes a good first entry on the list of the things that the Grizzlies must improve before the postseason arrives…
-No, not “get a lot more sleep ‘cuz you seem tired”. It’s about balance on offense. The Grizzlies won the Jazz game with the assistance of one very non-random thing (that “extra gear” on defense that the Grizz seem to be able to call out during the fourth quarter) and one less-sure thing-OOOJ MAYOOOO FOR THREEEEEEEE. Did the Grizzlies play well enough to win? Well, the facts tell us so. Sort of the opposite of “we’re better than our record” utterances. However, the balance wasn’t really there in the Hornets game, OJ has a bad game, ZBo gets two whole FG attempts (and it wasn’t minutes-he was game-high rebounder), and we all know the result. Having Arenas gives the Grizzlies another real shooting option, and a two-man strong-side game with Arenas and Zbo, Arenas and Gasol, or Arenas and Rudy is an option the Grizzlies must work to develop over the next week so that the Gasol/Conley pick and roll, the ZBo post up (with the passer cutting to ISO ZBo on his defender), and the patented Rudy Gay ISO don’t wear so thin that defenses have only to look for those three options as openers for the Grizzlies offense.
-One thing that was balanced (partly due to the inevitability of the result over the final few minutes) during the NOH game that must continue to be balanced…minutes. Only Rudy Gay played over 30 minutes (Gasol probably would have gone over if not for his injury, about which we’re all still holding our breath despite finding out that it is a bone bruise and not something worse), and as the regular season winds down, the staff must watch minutes closely, especially for Conley and Gasol. It’s a fairly commonly-held belief that Allen’s minutes have been kept down to reduce fatigue on his knees, and Gasol and Conley have both lost time to nagging-type injuries. Not saying the Griz should not worry about playoff positioning at all, since anyone with a brain knows the Grizzlies should want no part of the Spurs in the first round-but at some point, player preservation becomes more important with homecourt slowly slipping away. A positive is that Arenas will be able to provide playoff experience come that time, and from what the rest of the team have said, they’re more than willing to listen to his leadership in tight situations. Having what is surely the best (and more specifically, most energetic) bench the Grizzlies have had in quite a while should make this a bit easier for Hollins and staff.
-Pick and roll defense. When facing teams with a great rolling big man (Timmy D., Pau, Griffin sorta, etc.), the Grizzlies get in trouble, because that big man is usually coupled with a 3pt threat standing on the opposite wing (Ginger, Barnes, Mo Williams). What this tells us is that if Conley/TA/Gay don’t disrupt the play and either get a steal or an out-of-bounds deflection to force the other team to play a possession with a short shot clock, the Grizzlies defense is fairly porous. This is where the Grizzlies miss DA the most-his ability to show and recover was easily the best on the squad last season. Dante Cunningham has the length and smarts to play p-n-r defense well, but his lack of bulk hurts him when the play advances inside. An at-least-partial restriction of Gasol’s mobility will hurt even further in this department. Something to watch as the playoffs approach.
-The recent hot 3pt streak. If this turns out to be a flash in the pan, the Grizzlies are in trouble in the playoffs. If the 3pt positivity being apparently spread by Arenas can continue, the weapons available to the team will stay at a playoff-viable level. With both of the paint-pounders now (likely, anyway,if Gasol’s bone bruise nags at him at all) not at 100% mobility-wise, it could be a short run in early May.
-Rudy Gay. These 20-10 games are awesome, especially ones like the victory over Utah, since he was able and willing to share the spotlight with OJ in the fourth quarter….but as we have asked ourselves about 952,000 times, will he continue to assert himself on offense? One must think that Rudy would be extraordinarily hungry to get to the playoffs after being forced to watch from the sidelines last April and May.
It’s going to be a fun ride regardless, but to still be playing in June must be the Grizzlies’ goal-“just take it one game at a time” becomes somewhat of a too-short view when the window is as open as it is.