Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Grizzlies Close Out Wizards 107-95

Posted By on Wed, Oct 31, 2018 at 9:20 AM

Since the Grizzlies don't play on Halloween, FedExForum celebrated the holiday Tuesday night with trick-or-treating for the kiddos pregame, and spooky sketches and in-game music. Fittingly, the first half of basketball was a nightmare for both teams. The Grizzlies finished the half shooting 39 percent from the floor on 42 shots. The Wizards shot 41 percent on 37 shots. At the half, the Grizzlies led 46-45. By comparison, the Warriors scored 48 points in just one quarter on Sunday.

The Grizzlies coaching staff and players have been throwing around the word "thrust" a lot recently, saying that they need to more strongly initiate their offense quicker, and with more power and direction. Basically, imposing pressure on the defense and making the defense bend and react.
click to enlarge LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
The Grizzlies did not show any "thrust" in the first half of Tuesday night's game. Instead of lifting off, the offense taxied aimlessly, like they were cruising the parking lot looking for an open space, in no hurry whatsoever.

Indeed, the Grizzlies have a problem unfolding their offense in a reasonable amount of time. In his piece for The Athletic, Peter Edmiston crunched the numbers and the Grizzlies are the slowest team in the league, getting their shots off later in the shot clock than anyone else. Memphis started the game shooting 1-8. Conley missed consecutive free throws (for the first time ever?). Temple started 1-4. Jaren Jackson entered foul trouble early (and remained in foul trouble for the rest of the game).

Thankfully, the Wizards had a frighteningly bad half as well.

The Grizzlies have struggled coming out of halftime for a while now, but that wasn't the case last night. Jackson committed his fourth foul before a minute had passed in the third quarter, and wasn't able to make an impact on the game in the second half. Other than that, the Grizzlies came out strong on both sides of the ball in the third quarter.

Suddenly, the offense had flow. Conley and Marc Gasol worked their magic two-man game. People moved and were found off the ball. Good looks and shots were generated. The Grizzlies opened the quarter on a 18-1 run, at one point extending the lead to 19.
click to enlarge LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
On defense, the Grizzlies' energy and length generated a number off turnovers. Unfortunately, Memphis wasn't able to capitalize on these turnovers, and converted just three of their 13 fast-break opportunities.

The Wizards rallied in the latter part of the third, cutting the Grizzlies lead to 6, and finished the quarter with 27 points to the Grizzlies' 32. Their run continued till midway through the fourth quarter, getting the Wizards to within four points.

For a bit, it looked like the Grizzlies were poised to cough up another big lead (like they did in Sacramento). Instead, Memphis closed out the win with a steady hand. Garrett Temple's defense on Bradley Beal was clutch down the stretch. Aside from Omri Casspi officially becoming a Grizzlies defender by fouling Beal on a 4-point-play, Temple held Beal scoreless in the final period, and hit a three of his own.

Shelvin Mack, whom the Grizzlies leaned on heavily throughout the game, allowed Conley to play off the ball down the stretch, greatly enhancing Conley's scoring opportunities without over-taxing his stamina, and enhancing Conley and Gasol's two-man game overall.
In back-to-back offensive sequences, Gasol received the ball wide open from midrange and from deep due to his two-man game with Conley as Mack brought the ball up the court and initiated the offense. After drilling the dagger triple, Gasol let loose this celebration.

The Grizzlies have wanted to get Conley off the ball, and to alleviate the primary ball-handling burden, for a while now, and Mack enabled just that in last night's game. He scored 14 points in 29 minutes, shot 2-3 from deep, and handed out eight assists.

Another surprise from last night's game? The Grizzlies shot 46 percent as a team from deep, and made 13 threes. And the space that shooting provided Conley and Gasol was impressive to say the least. Also, Anderson quietly, finally, had a nice game. He finished with five points, 11 rebounds, three assists, and four steals. I expect his scoring to bump up a bit when he finds his groove with the team.

Special shout out to Ivan Rabb, by the way. Due to Triple-J's foul trouble, Rabb played nearly 12 minutes tonight and made the most of them. He played with composure, facilitated the offense, and outworked Otto Porter's defense in the post.
click to enlarge LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
The Grizzlies return to action on Friday, when the Jazz get a chance to even the score at home in Utah.

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