Friday, January 8, 2010

Grizzlies-Jazz Pre-Game Three-Pointer

Posted By on Fri, Jan 8, 2010 at 11:54 AM

1. A Fragile Surge: The Grizzlies return home tonight 17-17. A few weeks ago, I wasn't sure if they'd ever hit the .500 mark. A week later, I thought they might get there during a mid-January stretch with games against Charlotte, Minnesota, and the Clippers. But the last month has been a story of gradually elevated expectations for the Grizzlies, who not only hit .500 on a recent four-game road swing, but actually got into the black with an inspired come-from-behind win at Portland earlier this week, before falling back to .500 with a bad loss the next night against the same Jazz team they'll face tonight.

I don't think there's anything flukish about this success: The Grizzlies starting line-up is absolutely playoff caliber and Lionel Hollins showed even down the stretch last season an ability to focus and lead players that we hadn't seen on a Grizzlies team in a while.

But I also think this recent surge is fragile: Despite the emergence of Sam Young as a reasonably consistent scoring option, the team is still getting little production from the bench. The success is being built off a heavy workload from a starting lineup that is starting to be hit with minor injuries: Zach Randolph's knee can now be added to Marc Gasol's elbow, Rudy Gay's ankle, and Mike Conley's shoulder on the list of aches and pains the starters are playing through. And playing through with big minutes: Gay, Randolph, and Mayo have all been playing more than 37 minutes a night, with Gasol not far behind. On the season, the Grizzlies starting five has logged nearly 75 more minutes together than any other unit in the NBA.

So, while the Grizzlies playoff potential right now is very real, fatigue, injury, and a lack of depth loom as serious problems going forward.

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