Saturday, November 9, 2013

Grizzlies vs. Warriors Preview: Time to Grind

Posted By on Sat, Nov 9, 2013 at 10:20 AM

Mike Conley and the Grizzlies have a lot to prove tonight against Golden State.
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Mike Conley and the Grizzlies have a lot to prove tonight against Golden State.

I think you’re probably as tired of reading “What’s Wrong With The Grizzlies?” pieces as I am of writing them, and we’re only five games into the season. So I’m not going to write another one of those, because I’ve done it twice now.

The more irrational members of the Grizzlies' fanbase are in full-on panic mode, and though I don't really subscribe to that ethic, it's easy to understand what's motivating some of the panic. This is a team that started 12-2 last year (even though they went on to play exactly .500 through December and January after the hot start), that blew up opposing teams with defense and effort and barely scoring enough points to beat the other guys, and that made the Western Conference Finals thanks to a combination of intensity and toughness and Kendrick Perkins' all-around awfulness.

The Grizzlies, at their current level of play, are 2-3 right now. The Warriors come into town 4-2, fresh off a loss last night in San Antonio. The wins have come over the Lakers, the Kings, the 76ers, and the Timberwolves, and the losses have come on the road against the Clippers and the aforementioned Spurs. Historically (as in, over the last two or three seasons), the Grizzlies have had the Warriors' number, but these circumstances would appear to be a little different.

If the Grizzlies can come out tonight and play the style of defense for which they've become known around the league—anchored by Marc Gasol's brilliance and Tony Allen executing his role as the Lord of Basketball Chaos—they should be able to at least slow down the scoring attack of Steph Curry and Klay Thompson.

Golden State's addition of Andre Igoudala (who I wanted to trade Rudy Gay for for a long time) gives them help on the defensive end that can occasionally get hot from three himself. Andrew Bogut is healthy for the first time I can remember, and is playing very well. Somehow, the ghost of Jermaine O'Neal is also on this team, presumably because the Warriors offered more money than the Crypt Keeper. They're a good team, a team that historically has struggled on defense whose defensive rating—93.6 points allowed per 100 possessions—is good for 2nd in the league at the moment.

It's going to go one of two ways:

Scenario One: The Grizzlies, embarrassed by being booed off the court Wednesday and bolstered by two days of good practice and home cooking and finally snapped out of whatever torpor they've been in since the Raptors preseason game, come out and play their brand of defense and stop taking stupid 20-foot jumpers on offense. Mike Miller does not play 25 minutes and thus does not negatively impact the defense by being played too much. Z-Bo is so happy about Zach Jr., who was born during Wednesday's Pelicans game, that be clobbers David Lee so badly that Lee immediately retires from basketball, scoring 40 points in the process.

Scenario Two: The Grizzlies come out and play crappy defense again. Marc Gasol wanders around the lane, not defending well and not facilitating on offense in a smart way. Mike Miller plays 30 minutes and Andre Igoudala schools him on both ends of the floor. The poor offensive play allows Steph Curry and Klay Thompson to get out in transition early and often, and the Grizzlies get run out of their own building, losing by 40 points.

Those are exaggerated, of course—Lee might wait a week before retiring—but you catch my drift. If we see "the old Grizzlies" tonight, the Griz are going to make a big step towards getting back on track sooner rather than later, and the fans who think the whole thing is doomed will probably start to calm down. If we see the team that we've seen in the last five games, and, importantly, if some of those lineups stay the same, playing every guy on the roster except the racing-to-the-hospital Z-Bo ten minutes or more, the Warriors are going to win, and then the Grizzlies go into a road game in Indiana Monday 2-4, probably return home to play Rudy Gay and the improved Raptors on Wednesday and either come back to 3-4 or fall to 2-5, and then...

...they head off on the dreaded November West Coast Road Trip of Death that always seems to put the Grizzlies in a hole to start every season. If the Grizzlies can't get it together tonight—and, hoenstly, one game is a pretty quick turnaround and I'm not sure it's reasonable to expect them to fix everything in two days' time—it's going to get worse before it gets better.

Strap in, folks. Tonight's a big one.

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