Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Will the Grizzlies Adjust To Clinch a Play-In Spot?

Posted By on Tue, Aug 11, 2020 at 2:02 PM

After going 1–4 in the NBA restart, the Grizzlies had a chance to clinch a play-in tournament for the eighth playoff spot in the Western Conference, but the defending NBA champion Toronto Raptors had other plans, defeating the Grizzlies 108–99. 

The Orlando bubble has not been kind to the Grizzlies, who have seen their 3.5 game lead dissipate. The Portland Trail Blazers, San Antonio Spurs, and Phoenix Suns are in hot pursuit to dethrone Memphis from the eighth spot. 

Memphis has two games remaining, and it’s do or die time. First-year guard Ja Morant is taking it one game at a time.

“I’m not worried about no play-in games right now,” Morant chirped after the loss. “My focus now is learning from my mistakes this game against the Raptors and trying to fix them.

“We seen a lot of positives tonight. We missed some wide-open shots, but I feel like we made the right reads attacking their defense  —  bottom line, there [were] a lot of positives from today’s game.”

There are so many things the Grizzlies need to fix in order for them to qualify for the play-in tournament, but one bright spot for the Grizzlies has been the emergence of backup guard Grayson Allen, who has been shooting the leather off the ball from the three-point line. In the five games played in Orlando, the Duke alum has averaged 16.6 points while shooting an impressive 52.6 percent from the three-point line. 

Keys to Avoiding an Early Trip Back to Memphis

The efficient Dillon Brooks has to show up

In Sunday’s loss, Dillon Brooks took a team-high 26 shot attempts and connected on 11 and went 3-of-10 from the three-point stripe. Brooks was efficient and effective in the Grizzlies only win in Orlando. He went 10-18 from the field while shooting 55.6 percent. In that game, Brooks took only four three-point shots and connected on two of them. 

In the four losses, Brooks hasn’t been as great, but has made key buckets that gave Memphis chances to win. In those losses, he shot 39.5 percent while going 7-of-19 from the field. Brooks has to be more consistent in order for the Grizzlies to advance to the play-in tournament. This isn’t a bash-a-Brooks commentary. He is not perfect and, at the same time, he’s not a horrible player. On Sunday, the starting shooting guard came alive in the 4th period, scoring 12 of his 25 points, so he can help the team if he's on target. 

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With Jaren Jackson Jr. out for the season, the Grizzlies don't really have a lot of options offensively. But Brooks has to make the right decisions, ones that won’t cost the team when it matters most. He is better when he drives to the basket and with mid-range jumpers. He has to do a better job of finding his open teammates instead of forcing the issue by a taking bad shot.

Play to their strengths...

The Grizzlies have to play hard for 48 minutes. It seems like there's often no spark at the beginning of games and the team starts to play hard when it’s too late. And Memphis has to get more from its starters, in particular, Jonas Valanciunas. Valanciunas needs to have a better game than he did against his offensive output against Toronto, his former team, which held him scoreless.

The 6' 11" center’s effective field goal percentage is 60.5 percent, which helped the Grizzlies become one of the best in the league in scoring in the paint. But Valanciunas has to score for that to matter. The Raptors were effective at double-teaming the big man and taking him out of the game. Coach Jenkins has to find a way to get him more touches inside. 

In their lone win in the bubble, the Grizzlies outscored the Thunder 56–36 in the paint. 

Ja Morant has to get going early...

The presumptive NBA Rookie of the Year has to turn it on before the fourth quarter. Morant is really missing Jackson Jr. in the starting lineup, and all the pressure is on Morant to lead the team to the play-in tournament and playoffs.

Morant's court vision is exceptional and he has the knack for running an effective offense. The only thing that is lacking is efficient shooters around him. Morant is at his best finishing at the rim; we've all seen the highlight dunks. But teams have found ways to limit him in the bubble games, holding him to 41.2 percent from the field, compared to his effective field goal percentage for the year of 51.2 percent. 

The 21-year-old is unselfish and tries to get his teammates going, but he has the ability to take over a game. Morant has to realize with the injuries the Grizzlies have suffered, the team can go only as far he takes them. He is more deadly when he is having fun and Memphis need him to smile, have fun, and be the killer we know he can be. 

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