Thursday, May 10, 2012

Memphis Grizzlies: Can They Win The Series?

Marc Gasol celebrates after scoring (via ESPN)
The Memphis Grizzlies proved they weren't backing down easily last night. They came out and performed great, especially in the first half and they won game five, 92-80. The Clippers fought back in the second half, but injuries to Blake Griffin (sprained left knee) and Chris Paul (right hip) slowed them down. Though the game was in the Grizzlies hands, it was still an intriguing, physical game. This begs the question, can the Memphis Grizzlies steal two games and win the series?

While it looks bleak, if the Memphis Grizzlies play how they played in the first half of game five, they can give themselves their best shot at winning the series. Of course game five was played in Memphis, which gave them an edge, but the balanced inside-out attack makes the Memphis Grizzlies superior. What did the Memphis Grizzlies do in the first half of game five that they haven't done consistently throughout this series? The Memphis Grizzlies went inside-out on offense, established Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, which, in turn, created opportunities for the perimeter players. Going inside-out on offense means the ball goes inside to a post player as the first plan of attack, THEN the ball might go outside for a jumper.

That's exactly how the Memphis Grizzlies were playing and it's the only way they can succeed. Mike Conley, Rudy Gay and O.J. Mayo are players who can occasionally hit outside shots. They benefit massively from the open looks created by the Clipper defense focusing on the Memphis Grizzlies bigs. The Memphis Grizzlies plan of attack is this simple: maintain an interior presence offensively and go from there.

In what ways do the Memphis Grizzlies get away from this strategy? Rudy Gay plays isolation ball, Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph are out of the game and the 2-3 zone from the Clippers confuses them. Rudy Gay truly must stay within the offense! Rudy Gay loves to try and get his, but the problem is he's inefficient (shot 6-14 in game five) and stagnates the Memphis Grizzlies offense. Rudy Gay's offensive responsibilities are to take outside shots when they're open, post up on occasion and keep the ball moving.

Put me in Lionel Hollins shoes and I'd probably never sit both Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph at the same time. Marreese Speights is solid, and so is Dante Cunningham, but they don't have the imposing qualities Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph have. When the Memphis Grizzlies go to a lineup that doesn't feature their starting bigs (which isn't for long, they're minutes are consistently in the upper to mid 30's), the Clippers eyes light up. Clipper slashers like Chris Paul and Caron Butler are less afraid to battle with the likes of Speights and Cunningham than they are Gasol and Randolph.

What does this mean for the Grizzlies? Gasol and Randolph need to play a bunch of minutes to maintain the paint. That will allow them to be at there best on both ends of the floor. When guys like Speights and Cunningham come in, they've got to keep the ship afloat. Nothing huge should be expected from either of them (they're both solid players though!), but the contributions they can give will be huge.

The Memphis Grizzlies can win this series. They just need to stick to what they know! Establish their inside game and feed from that. Attempt to shot the ball decently from the perimeter and get some bench scoring, that wouldn't hurt either. If the Memphis Grizzlies are to win this series, which they have the talent to do, they will make a clear and consistent message with how much inside play they run!