Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Game 5: Spurs 116, Grizzlies 103: Home Cooking

Posted By on Wed, Apr 26, 2017 at 8:02 AM

  • Larry Kuzniewski

The home team hasn’t lost a game in this series yet. On Tuesday night the role players for the Spurs who didn’t play well in Memphis finally snapped out of it, and the Grizzlies got nothing from players not names Mike Conley or Marc Gasol (and even the latter had another tough outing).

Simply put, given how poorly the Grizzlies guarded the perimeter, and how well the Spurs shot even when they defended flawlessly, the Griz should’ve gone down 20 in the third quarter and stayed that way. That they didn’t is a signal of just how close this series really is, and just how much success or failure for either team will depend on whose role players are able to show up in a road game. So far, it hasn’t happened either way.

As discussed after games 3 and 4, this has been Mike Conley’s series, and that continued in Game 5 even though the results didn’t go Memphis’ way. Conley was 10/17 for 26 points, including 2/4 from 3-point range, and he made things happen with his passing and rebounding, just as he has all series (and all season) long. The problem for the Griz in Game 5 was that nobody else did much of anything, while Spurs reserves who had been having a quietly bad series all sprung back to life. Zach Randolph didn’t get much going. Gasol was pestered by double teams and not moving quickly enough to get his best shot. Andrew Harrison and Wayne Selden shot well but mostly played like rookies in a road playoff game (imagine that). Vince Carter still didn’t contribute much. Ultimately, the things said after Game 2 still stand in some ways: the Grizzlies don’t have the roster to beat anybody in the playoffs if they don’t get bench production.

Manu Ginobili sprung to life in Game 5 after struggling all series. - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Manu Ginobili sprung to life in Game 5 after struggling all series.

Coming back home for Game 6, that will be the primary determining factor in whether the Griz can force a Game 7. Can the reserves step up? Will the Spurs—like Manu Ginobili, who had 10 points after having not made a shot the entire series yet, or like Patty Mills, who hit some devastating threes and got to the rim at the worst possible times, or like Davis Bertans, who hit some big shots from long-range that he hadn’t been able to make yet.

Listen: this is a game that is very easy to over-analyze. “What if Troy Daniels had played more?” (Patty Mills would’ve had 30 instead of 20, probably.) “What if Zach Randolph had played more?” (He probably would’ve been 5/14 instead of 4/10.) I’m a big fan of Occam’s Razor in basketball analysis: the Spurs shot better and their role players finally showed up. Usually the dumbest explanation is the correct one.

Games 3 and 4 allowed Grizzlies fans (and to a large extent the Grizzlies Internet Commentariat) to forget and/or ignore some of the larger issues that loomed behind the first two games—issues that made the Grizzlies the underdogs in the series in the first place. Andrew Harrison is not a battle-tested backup point guard (and last year’s Chalmers injury still haunts this team). The wing rotation is ostensibly missing its two best players in Chandler Parsons and Tony Allen. Marc Gasol is not consistent. JaMychal Green is an excellent player but not quite big enough to defend well against this San Antonio team. The Spurs defend Zach Randolph well by the way they send the double team. None of those factors have gone away; at home, the Griz got an unexpected boost from their role players and showed the Spurs to be more vulnerable than they seemed. That’s still true. Game 5 was close for much longer than it was a fait accompli. Game 6 is still very winnable for the Grizzlies, and maybe even Game 7 should they force one. But Game 5 showed why that was unlikely in the first place, and why Grizzlies fans should treat every minute of Game 6 like the miracle that it is, because it wasn’t “supposed” to happen.

Tweet of the Night

Last night was a rough one out here on the Griz Twitter streets, but it wasn’t without its moments:

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Beyond the Arc Podcast #78: Take That For Grizzlies/Spurs Data

Posted By on Tue, Apr 25, 2017 at 7:31 AM


This week on the show, Kevin and Phil talk about:

  • David Fizdale's epic "Take That for Data" rant and whether it was an effective motivational tool
  • The unevenness of playoff officiating, and should the Grizzlies foul harder?
  • A rundown of what worked for the Griz in games 3 & 4
  • The Grizzlies don't miss Tony Allen as much as we thought they would
  • Can the Grizzlies' young guys play well on the road? Troy Daniels' big Game 4 minutes, Wayne Selden, etc.
  • A small L2M report rant and Phil goes "NYC sports radio" on Adam Silver

The Beyond the Arc podcast is available on iTunes, so you can subscribe there! It'd be great if you could rate and review the show while you're there. You can also find and listen to the show on Stitcher and on PlayerFM.

You can call our Google Voice number and leave us a voicemail, and we might talk about your question on the next show: 234-738-3394

You can download the show here or listen below:

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Game 4: Grizzlies 110, Spurs 108: One For The Ages

Posted By on Sun, Apr 23, 2017 at 9:40 AM

Mike Conley asserted his dominance last night. - LARRY KUZNIEWKI
  • Larry Kuzniewki
  • Mike Conley asserted his dominance last night.

I had no idea what to expect last night before the game. No outcome would have surprised me, from a Spurs blowout win to a 20-point Grizzlies beatdown like the one they tried to pull off in Game 3. There wasn’t a vibe in the building other than that, having finally lost a game, the Spurs weren’t going to be playing around anymore in Game 4. The Grizzlies, on the other hand, needed to have a strong showing and get a win to avoid taking the series back to San Antonio trailing 3-1. Both teams were desperate to win it.

What happened was one of the most exciting playoff games I’ve ever witnessed, and probably one of the most stressful for the Griz faithful in attendance: a down-to-the-wire win in which Kawhi Leonard put on one of the most masterful performances anyone has ever seen and still lost on a last-second Marc Gasol shot after Mike Conley had controlled 52:59 of the game’s 53 minutes. Last night’s game will forever be remembered as a heart-stopper in which the home team came through.

The Mike Conley Game

Conley played the MVP-level basketball he was playing to start the season, back before he got hurt and played NBA basketball with a broken back for several weeks. He was absolutely unstoppable on the offensive end, no matter which Spur was guarding him. Even when covered by the fearsome Leonard, Conley managed to use his speed to get into the lane and find ways to create scoring. Conley’s stat line was a near triple-double: 35 points (56% shooting, including 50% from three), 9 rebounds (all defensive) and 8 assists.

Conley was everywhere, carrying the team on his back through rough stretches, scoring, defending well—Game 4 was Mike Conley’s game, the one in which the aggressiveness that David Fizdale has been cultivating in him all year finally paid off in a big way on the biggest stage. For all of the talk about how this is Marc Gasol’s team, and how Gasol was made the team’s sole captain in training camp, it’s been Conley who has grown the most under Fizdale, finally embracing his ability to be the team’s top scoring option in addition to running the offense. That paid dividends last night, because the Spurs still don’t have a guard who can defend him well, and if they put Leonard on him all the time the Grizzlies have just enough shooting to make that a bad idea.

Conley’s blossoming this year has been amazing to watch, and might be an even bigger accomplishment for Fizdale than convincing Zach Randolph to come off the bench. We always suspected the talent was there, and saw it in little flashes here and there (especially in the playoffs) but I think it’s fair to say, after Game 4 in particularly, that this is Mike Conley’s world and we’re all living in it.

  • Larry Kuxniewski

The Chess Match

The question everybody had going into Game 4 was “What will the Spurs do to adjust?”, and right away there was immediate intrigue: Dewayne Dedmon was a late scratch with an illness, and Gregg Popovich announced in pregame availability that David Lee was starting in his place. Lee was thoroughly roasted by Z-Bo in Game 3, so it was a curious substitution (Pau Gasol seemed the more obvious fit to me) but it seemed to signal that the Spurs’ strategy would be to double-team Randolph whenever he caught the ball in the post. That’s what they started out doing, and it majorly hampered Randolph’s production early (he was scoreless in the first quarter and only had 4 at halftime).

For the Grizzlies, there weren’t that many adjustments left to make after moving Randolph and Ennis to the starting lineup for Game 3. The minutes shifted around, and there was certainly a renewed intensity on defense once they started to figure out the Spurs’ extremely high pick and rolls, but for the most part, the lineup questions were about “what will the Spurs do to counter” rather than what the Grizzlies were going to change. Fizdale said as much in the postgame, saying he wanted to make sure they Griz were maximizing the potential of their gameplan before making changes out of impatience.

I’m not sure what the Spurs’ next move is, lineup-wise. Davis Bertans played some very good minutes for them in Game 4, so I would expect to see more of him in the upcoming games, but beyond that, Popovich seems pretty committed to the gameplan the Spurs brought into the series. As long as it involves a spot in the rotation for Manu Ginobili and big minutes and production from Tony Parker, I think the Grizzlies are happy with it.

Ginobili’s presence in the game is what allowed the Griz to get more run for Troy Daniels than they have in previous games, because Daniels is still not really good enough on defense to play in these situations unless he’s hidden on someone he literally doesn’t have to guard. Ginobili went 0-5 from the floor, and it felt like all of those were open 3’s that Daniels was letting him take. On the other end, Daniels was able to hit a couple of big 3-pointers and shift the momentum of the game in a non-negligible way (including one listed as 26’ on the play-by-play that felt like it was shot from somewhere in Foote Homes a couple blocks away). Look for Fizdale to press that advantage to the fullest extent possible, because Daniels can be a devastating weapon when he starts to get going.

Up Next

Andrew Harrison made some big plays last night. - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Andrew Harrison made some big plays last night.

Game 5 on Tuesday in San Antonio will be interesting. It’s not a series until a home team loses, etc. But if the Grizzlies, who have been mostly outplaying the Spurs since the second half of Game 2, can now go back down to San Antonio with the confidence they’ve built in these two games—especially the rookies like Harrison and Selden and Ennis, who looked overwhelmed in the first two games but found their sea legs at home—I see no reason to think the Grizzlies can’t continue winning.

On the other hand, if the Spurs figure things out in a meaningful way, the Grizzlies could be in trouble, because as I said they don’t have any more tricks up their sleeves. To stretch the metaphor, I think all of the Grizzlies’ cards are on the table, and what they’ve got it what they’ve got. The problem for the Spurs is that none of the “answers” to what the Grizzlies have got are clean enough; they all create matchup issues at other positions. It’s also unlikely that Marc Gasol will have another game as poor as he did in Game 4 (right up to the point that he hit the hard shot that won the game). In all, I don’t really know what to predict here. I thought the Grizzlies would have a lot more trouble coping with Tony Allen’s absence than they are, and a lot of that credit goes to James Ennis and Wayne Selden for doing just enough to keep Kawhi Leonard from being able to win games by himself.

These next two games will probably induce just as much anxiety as Game 4. Bring on the Tums.

Tweet of the Night

After Kawhi Leonard’s breathtaking performance last night, this one seemed apropos:

Friday, April 21, 2017

Game 3: Grizzlies 105, Spurs 94: Grindhouse Forever

Posted By on Fri, Apr 21, 2017 at 8:13 AM

Zach Randolph turned back the clock against the Spurs in Game 3. - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Zach Randolph turned back the clock against the Spurs in Game 3.

For the first time in a long time, the Grindhouse was itself last night. The Grizzlies had no other option, and they delivered the goods. Last night they gave everything they had, continued to play they way they did in the second half of game 2, and beat the Spurs 104-94 in a contest that wasn’t actually as close as the final score suggests, on the backs of big nights from Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol, and Mike Conley. What year is it again?


Z-Bo Gonna Z-Bo

The Spurs haven’t let Randolph score at will like that since 2011, when he bullied them into losing to the Griz in six games. Ever since then, the Spurs (and their coach, Gregg Popovich) have always game-planned for Randolph, keeping him from getting to his spot, doubling him from the baseline to take away his options, packing all five of their guys into the paint when necessary. Thursday night, none of that mattered much, because Randolph, moved back into the starting lineup just for the occasion, just went straight through them anyway.

What happened last night is probably the Spurs’ nightmare, because it’s the thing they’ve been avoiding against the Grizzlies for six whole years, and the thing for which this year’s San Antonio team is really pretty ill-prepared: turns out it’s a lot easier to guard Zach Randolph, even the 35-year-old version, when Tim Duncan is on the team.

David Lee bore the brunt of the assault, but LaMarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol got in on the action, too. Randolph was determined to put the team on his back to the fullest extent possible, and he ended up doing it to the tune of 21 points and 8 rebounds in under 30 minutes. It was a vintage Z-Bo playoff game, with the crowd hanging on every jabstep, holding its breath as each high arcing shot hung there deciding whether to go in. After a whole season of coming off the bench, for one night, or maybe for the rest of the series, Z-Bo was in all of his splendor just like no time has passed, like four or five seasons just didn’t even happen.

Even if not a single thing more goes right for the Grizzlies for the rest of whatever time they have left in the postseason, last night can’t be taken away, not from Zach, not from we who watched it.

Gasol and Conley both had 20-point games. - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Gasol and Conley both had 20-point games.

Two-Man Game

In other extremely detailed basketball #analysis, it turns out that when your two best players play very well, it becomes much easier to win a playoff game against a good opponent. This shocking new development comes from Mike Conley and Marc Gasol, who scored 24 and 21 points respectively last night. (And for those keeping track at home, that means that three of the Grizzlies’ starting five last night scored more than 20 points.)

Conley and Gasol have each had their individual moments in the series so far, but last night was the first time they’ve been able to (1) put together long stretches of their best play and (2) both manage to play well in the same game at the same time. It did seem like Z-Bo’s early outburst—the majority of his production came in the first half—relieved some pressure on Conley and Gasol and allowed them to work their way into a rhythm instead of getting frustrated early while trying to carry the team. The results were inarguable, and seeing the tandem working so well together was a glimpse of one possible Grizzlies future built around their pick and roll savvy (this is the part where we pretend they haven’t already tried to sign a playmaker on the wing to do exactly that).

  • Larry Kuzniewski

Gasol’s body language has been all wrong this series, for what it’s worth. He’s been visibly frustrated with his (younger) teammates at times, and he’s been much closer to “unhinged 2015 Marc” than “December 2016 MVP Marc” for weeks now. Whatever that’s about—and look, I’m a parent, and having a three-week-old at home is probably at least part of it—last night was the first sign of that fog’s clearing, as by the end of the game Marc was coaching up James Ennis instead of shooting eye-daggers at him. But it’s worth monitoring, and his mental state, his artist’s temperament about how he plays the game of basketball, is (as ever) one of the keys to whether the Grizzlies can actually make this a series now or whether last night’s win, no matter how convincing, was more about winning one for pride.

The Next Adjustment

…there’s not one, really, not for the Grizzlies. At least, not one that makes as much sense as the Ennis-and-Randolph swap Fizdale put in place for game 3. But that might be fine. There’s a scenario here which I won’t allow myself to talk about too much because I don’t want to get my own hopes up: the 2013 series against the Clippers. The Grizzlies lost the first game by 21 points, played better in the second game but still not enough better to win, and then, once the series shifted back to Memphis, they… won four in a row, with Game 6 still the most “Memphis” sporting event that could ever possibly take place.

These Spurs are very good, and through the first six quarters of the series, they looked like they were operating on a totally different plane than the Grizzlies, but since halftime of Game 2, they’ve looked more mortal. Sure, they’ve still got the best player in the series in Kawhi Leonard. And the Grizzlies’ wing rotation and backup point guard mess are both still big reasons why the Spurs should win the series. But. But.

If Popovich keeps refusing to play Dwayne Dedmon, and Z-Bo can fit in with the starters more like he did in the second half of Game 3 than the awkward, “Hey guys, remember when we used to do this?” first half, and Andrew Harrison and Wayne Selden can somehow continue to play better than 2013 Keyon Dooling instead of worse than 2013 Keyon Dooling, I’m just saying, it’s not like there’s no precedent. A lot of things have to go the Grizzlies’ way in Game 4 for this to be more than wishful thinking, and because the Spurs are the Spurs, it’s entirely possible that the second half gave Popovich all the intel he needed to create The Ultimate Answer To The Z-Bo Problem Version 2.0. But these Spurs haven’t been playing as well as I expected them to. Manu Ginobili and David Lee are big weaknesses for them off the bench, etc. There are vulnerabilities there, but the question is whether the Spurs will continue to neglect to protect them. There’s not a lot of precedent for that.

Tweet of the Night

It’s Memphis, and it’s the playoffs, so Grizz’s nemesis Natch showed up last night for some wrasslin’. This looks like far and away the most dangerous chokeslam at a Grizzlies game since Zach Randolph did it to Blake Griffin and got called for a common foul. It also serves as a good encapsulation of what the Grizzlies did to the Spurs last night overall: winning by brute strength and a willing disregard for pain, the classic Griz formula.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Game 2 Recap: Spurs 96, Grizzlies 82

Posted By on Tue, Apr 18, 2017 at 7:33 AM

Zach Randolph started the second half and almost made a miraculous comeback happen. - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Zach Randolph started the second half and almost made a miraculous comeback happen.
We know by now that the Grizzlies are creatures of habit, and so in Game 2, they did what they’ve done for years now, time after time after time: they found themselves down 30, decided to start fighting at halftime, closed the gap to single digits, and then got so worn down that they couldn’t withstand the inevitable counterpunch. After their worst first half performance in months, two quarters so bad I was looking up animated GIFs of building implosions to use on Twitter: ...the Grizzlies came out in the second half with a different look. James Ennis III and Zach Randolph replaced Wayne Selden and JaMychal Green in the lineup, and from there, it was on. From down 26 points, the Griz closed the third frame trailing by only ten, and in the early part of the fourth quarter they’d cut the lead to 4. The problem, though was how much effort it had taken them to get to that point, and falling back on the bench to get some rest for Conley and Randolph only let the Spurs push the lead back out to double digits and keep it that way. I’m not sure it had to be this way.

In the first half, the Grizzlies got down and lost all sense of urgency. They were doing things like this:
JaMychal Green has struggled to guard LaMarcus Aldridge. - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • JaMychal Green has struggled to guard LaMarcus Aldridge.
...and the game got so far away that it looked like the collapse of an entire era of Memphis basketball—and by transit Memphis history—was about to crumble and blow away in the wind. The comeback attempt was pure Grizzlies, with hounding defense and Zach Randolph running straight over LaMarcus Aldridge to score on the other end, and it showed that maybe the Griz do care about whether they win the series or not.

By the time they got the Spurs’ lead down to four, the self-dug hole was so deep they couldn't quite get out of it, and all it took was one Spurs run to put the game out of reach.

Can they get away with starting Ennis and Randolph in Game 3? I think they can. Ennis’ contributions have been uneven in the series but between he and Wayne Selden, Ennis is the much more obvious choice to try and slow Kawhi Leonard in Tony Allen’s absence. Randolph actually works against the Spurs’ starters, too, because he's always done a passable job guarding Aldridge and (going back to the one year they shared in Portland) seems to enjoy trying to truck him like a defensive tackle on the way to the rim. And now we’ve got to talk about last night’s Instant Classic, which happened after the game itself. I think it's fair to say David Fizdale was displeased with the way Game 2 was officiated:

“Take that for data” aside, those numbers certainly give the impression that the Spurs were getting calls that the Grizzlies weren't, and the eye test during the game backs that up. The counter, which is undeniable, is “don't go down by 30 points and the officiating won't matter so much,” but I think the disparity was more the issue than the raw numbers. It was not a game that was called the same way on both ends of the floor, and that lack of consistency is pretty damaging to the momentum of the team getting the short end of the stick.

At any rate, Fizdale’s outburst is a classic coaching move. He's going to pay a fine big enough to hurt his feelings, for sure. But the officials in the next game will be thinking about it, and the Griz will go into Game 3 knowing their coach is willing to cut a five-figure check to defend them. In a series where finding five guys who will all play hard at the same time seems to be a problem, that may ultimately be worth more than the money Fizdale is about to lose. But he's totally going to get fined, and probably a lot.

Game 3 is on Thursday. This new wrinkle, these Grizzlies that can make a furious comeback on the back of Zach Randolph, Old Faithful himself, Mr. 20-10 Since 2010, promises to make it a do-or-die affair. As a playoff catchphrase, “They Not Gon' Rook Us” is probably an all-timer. The Grizzlies have to find a way to make it matter.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Beyond the Arc Podcast #77: Can the Grizzlies Adjust?

Posted By on Mon, Apr 17, 2017 at 2:38 PM


This week on the show, Kevin and Phil talk about:

  • Our recap of the Grizzlies' lopsided Game 1 loss
  • What is the Grizzlies' counter to San Antonio's disruption of their offense?
  • Should the Spurs' pressure be affecting Conley as much as it is?
  • What adjustment can be made for Game 2? Does the roster limit what Fizdale can do?
  • A brief look at the West's other series

The Beyond the Arc podcast is available on iTunes, so you can subscribe there! It'd be great if you could rate and review the show while you're there. You can also find and listen to the show on Stitcher and on PlayerFM.

You can call our Google Voice number and leave us a voicemail, and we might talk about your question on the next show: 234-738-3394

You can download the show here or listen below:

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Game 1 Recap: Spurs 111, Grizzlies 82

Posted By on Sat, Apr 15, 2017 at 10:33 PM

  • Larry Kuzniewski

It wasn’t as bad as it could have been, but that’s really only because no important Grizzlies player was traded to the Lakers for Javaris Crittenton. The Grizzlies played a great first quarter in last night’s opening game of their first round series against the San Antonio Spurs, but after that point the wheels fell off and they slowly lost ground until head coach David Fizdale finally waved the white flag and cleared the bench with seven minutes to go.

Why? Kawhi Leonard, for one. Leonard finished with 32 points on 14 shots in only 32 minutes, and didn’t even play in the fourth quarter because the Spurs had already amassed such a lead. He was impossible to defend, and his defense–both of Mike Conley and others–caused problems for the Grizzlies all night.

Marc Gasol played with a lot of emotion, and his intensity carried him to a 32 point game of his own, but most of that scoring came in the first half, and down the stretch of the third quarter, when the game was really getting out of reach, he was the only Griz player able to do anything. That’s the whole story of Game 1, really: it has very little to do with the absence of Tony Allen and everything to do with the absence of any offense at all. No one could score (not even Conley, who had a quick 10 points in the Grizzlies’ improbable 30-25 first quarter, but then only scored three more points the rest of the game.

I’m having a really hard time coming up with some sort of intelligent analysis of this game. The 20 minutes of garbage time had a way of erasing the earlier portions from my mind, the way Spurs coach Gregg Popovich adjusted to what was happening early and erased every single thing the Grizzlies were doing that worked. Fizdale was not able to win the chess match coming out of halftime, and when the Grizzlies’ season-long struggle to do anything in the third quarter reared its head again–and now naive we were for imagining that it could be a thing of the past!–San Antonio did exactly what every Grizzlies fan feared they would do. It felt like last year’s playoff series, where the Griz were undermanned and overmatched at every position. They seemed every bit as overmatched tonight. And, with Chandler Parsons doing whatever he’s doing these days and Tony Allen watching in a suit, two of their best three wing players are out, so maybe they are.

I’m not sure that’s a legit analysis of how the series will go, even though it feels that way at the moment. Zach Randolph had a horrendous showing tonight, unable to make shots, defend, or even screen well enough to help the offense make plays. It seems unlikely that he’ll have another game that bad, but against the Spurs, he will always be made to pay for the 2011 playoffs. Conley was bad after the early start, but it seemed like if the Grizzlies had been able to limit turnovers by making smarter decisions he could’ve gotten the game to a more controlled place, where the Grizzlies weren’t constantly forced to make up for Spurs points off a turnover.

Make no mistake: Game 2 is going to be a referendum on the season, and on this team. Can they show up, adjust, compete, and maybe even win? Or will they lose by 30 again and look like they don’t even belong in the playoffs? If it’s the former, and especially if they win, the way they lost tonight will barely matter and the Grindhouse will be electric for Game 3. If they lose badly again, and look aimless in the same way, things are going to be decidedly deflated.

The path is there. Find a bench contributor who can give more than Zach Randolph did with his 6 points and blisteringly bad -39 +/-. Limit turnovers. Play a third quarter with the same level of intensity that they play the rest of the game. These are all things that are doable, if difficult. If they can’t figure that out, it’s going to be a short, miserable series. If they can, they can make a series out of what appears to be a train wreck after its first night.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Tony Allen out indefinitely, "Doubtful" for first round

Posted By on Thu, Apr 13, 2017 at 4:46 PM

Tony Allen was injured in the Grizzlies' final regular season game. - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Tony Allen was injured in the Grizzlies' final regular season game.

According to Michael Wallace of Grind City Media, the Grizzlies' media arm, the injury Tony Allen suffered early in last night's game against the Dallas Mavericks has proven to be something of a worst-case scenario for the Grizzlies as they prepare to face the Spurs in the first round:

Allen's injury leaves a big hole in the Grizzlies' perimeter defense, and also hampers the offensive rebounding of the Grizzlies' starting unit. Not much of a good way to spin this one for the boys in Beale Street Blue.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Beyond the Arc Podcast #76: Gasol Brothers Three-Point Contest

Posted By on Tue, Apr 11, 2017 at 4:10 PM


This week on the show, Kevin and Phil talk about:

  • Phil won some money off of Wade Baldwin's crazy last-second shot against the Knicks.
  • The Grizzlies are about to make their seventh straight postseason appearance.
  • We detour into gushing over how good young Arvydas Sabonis was...
  • A breakdown of the Grizzlies' first-round matchup against the Spurs
  • The Gasol brothers' three-point shooting
  • Is this season a disappointment, or not? Is there a path for the Grizzlies to get to the Finals?

The Beyond the Arc podcast is available on iTunes, so you can subscribe there! It'd be great if you could rate and review the show while you're there. You can also find and listen to the show on Stitcher and on PlayerFM.

You can call our Google Voice number and leave us a voicemail, and we might talk about your question on the next show: 234-738-3394

You can download the show here or listen below:

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Thunder 103, Grizzlies 100: Next Day Notes

Posted By on Thu, Apr 6, 2017 at 9:46 AM

Andrew Harrison started at point guard in Mike Conley's absence. - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Andrew Harrison started at point guard in Mike Conley's absence.

The Grizzlies were able to prevent human wrecking ball Russell Westbrook from breaking the record for most triple-doubles in a season, but only by one rebound. Westbrook finished with 45 points, 10 assists, and 9 rebounds in a game that seemed out of hand in the third quarter (when the Grizzlies were trailing by 10, their largest defecit of the night) but ended up coming down to the wire.

Here are some scattered thoughts on last night's game, which pretty much locked the Grizzlies into a 7th seed and a likely first-round series against the San Antonio Spurs.

Game Notes

Wayne Selden deserves the look he's getting. I was not convinced Selden was the answer to any of the Grizzlies' problems, though he made an impression in training camp and preseason. I still don't expect him to be a big difference-maker in a playoff game. But I will say this: he's starting to look like an NBA player, and has already become a better defender than Toney Douglas. If you're looking for a 14th or 15th guy to carry into the playoffs, you could do worse than Selden.

Zach Randolph is ready. Z-Bo played very well last night, esecially in the second half. In the postgame, Fizdale said he was trying to wait until the 4-minute mark to put Randolph back in the game, but that he checked himself in with 4:30 to go and said "Can't wait, coach" as he walked past Fizdale on the way to the scorer's table. He was right. His scoring down the stretch was Vintage Z-Bo, and kept the Grizzlies in the game until the last minute when Westbrook dropped some bombs of his own. Randolph continues to make his case for Sixth Man of the Year, and continues to prove that coming off the bench, he's got years left to play.

Z-Bo was rounding into postseason form last night. - LARRY KUZNIEWSKI
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Z-Bo was rounding into postseason form last night.

We haven't talked enough about Tony Allen's rebounding this year. Allen finished last night with 7 rebounds, continuing his elevated rebound rate for the season. He may still struggle to finish around the rim, and he definitely shouldn't be the backup point guard, but Allen's rebounding has allowed him to remain relevant on offense even as he's struggling a little bit in other areas. His 70% shooting night last night certainly didn't hurt, either, but it's the offensive rebounding—the ability to create more possessions for a team that's starving for them—that is the most impressive new wrinkle in Allen's game.

The Grizzlies need Mike Conley right. We've seen how the playoffs go with no Conley (2016) and a 50% Conley with a broken face (2015) and with a hobbled Gasol (2014). You have to go back to the Conference Finals year, 2013, to find a postseason where neither guy was coming into the postseason with some sort of long-term malady. Gasol's foot seems to be fine—he said last night that it's a little weak from the lack of activity but not sore—so... with any luck at all, this may be a stronger Grizzlies team heading into the "real" basketball than we've seen in the past.

Up Next

Three games are left, all at home: the Knicks, the Pistons, and the Mavericks. I can't imagine that all of the important players will play in all of these games, but at the same time, the Griz are still searching for their rhythm lately, so we may see them rest less than expected (especially since Gasol and Conley have both missed time recently). I think we'll see them try some weird lineups to see what works, while perfecting the rough edges they're still showing execution-wise.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Beyond the Arc Podcast #75: Grit and Grind and Sports Media, Redux

Posted By on Mon, Apr 3, 2017 at 4:25 PM


This week on the show, Kevin and Phil talk about:

  • Kevin's big post from last week about Grit and Grind, sports media, what it all means, etc.
  • Has the Internet hurt sports coverage? Sports fandom?
  • Being able to predict when the Grizzlies aren’t going to play hard
  • The slow winding down of an era of Grizzlies basketball
  • The Grizzlies are going to play the Spurs again, probably
  • How will the grizzlies handle the end of the regular season?

The Beyond the Arc podcast is available on iTunes, so you can subscribe there! It'd be great if you could rate and review the show while you're there. You can also find and listen to the show on Stitcher and on PlayerFM.

You can call our Google Voice number and leave us a voicemail, and we might talk about your question on the next show: 234-738-3394

You can download the show here or listen below:

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Notes on “Grit and Grind: Burned in a Pale Fire”

Posted By on Wed, Mar 29, 2017 at 3:29 AM

  • Larry Kuzniewski

"Dead is the mandible, alive the song."
Vladimir Nabokov, Pale Fire

Author's Note: This is a weird one. It probably won't make much sense unless you first go read Grit and Grind: Burned in a Pale Fire, a great piece my friend Matt Hrdlicka wrote, and to which this piece is mostly a set of responses and annotations.

Let's start with the first sentence.

Before the season, I wrote that Grit ‘n Grind was a tired term in need of retirement.

We've all said it, and yet it's still with us. I think Chris Herrington's recent distinction is a good one to think about here: there are two things we mean when we say "Grit and Grind"; the first describes an era of Grizzlies basketball, and the second describes an overarching ethos, a way in which Memphis as a community expects our basketball team to reflect us, or at least the outlaw part of ourselves that we keep mostly under wraps.

While the latter is just as "Memphis" as Isaac Hayes' Eldorado, the former is no longer an adequate framework for discussing what's going on with the team. It is bankrupt. It has been thoroughly strip-mined of new ways to discuss what happens on the court, as you'd expect from any other metaphor about a core team that's been together since 2009. It's come to mean more than it should, and to imply an embrace of ugliness, when what it really was, say, when the Grizzlies beat the Clippers in a Game 6 and we poured all of our collective bloodlust—Memphis is a city that loves to see just how close we can come to being totally out of control—it was only ever an exhortation to do what you do, how you do it. To play hard, and fight anybody who tries to swing on you first. It was never about pace or offensive rating. It was a cri de cœur.

Continue reading »

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

The Grizzlies' Bad Springtime Trip

Posted By on Tue, Mar 28, 2017 at 9:06 AM

  • Larry Kuzniewski

I thought it was the Jeff Green trade.

I figured it was because his total space-cadet lack of awareness on the court and his aloofness off of it had fatally disrupted the chemistry of the Grizzlies and that was the whole problem—that was the reason Marc Gasol looked like he was having a Ritchie Tenenbaum-style breakdown, ripping his jersey like shedding layers of signature Fila gear. My thesis in those days, well-documented on the back pages of this blog, was that once the Jeff Green Problem was sent to Siberia (or the Clippers, whichever is worse) the Grizzlies would get it together and play better basketball.

There's no Jeff Green to blame this year. There was for a while, when Chandler Parsons briefly occupied the same "Marc Gasol hates playing with this guy" niche, but he was removed from the equation, things improved, and then things rapidly went right back to where they were.

Where they are is this: the Grizzlies are either not good enough to win without Marc Gasol expending superhuman amounts of energy, or they've realized that they're going to lose in the first or second round and have decided not to care about their seeding situation. My fear, the thing that makes me question why I'm even still paying attention (other than the fact that I have to) is that it's both.

Continue reading »

Monday, March 27, 2017

Beyond the Arc Podcast #74: Good Gasol/Bad Gasol

Posted By on Mon, Mar 27, 2017 at 4:32 PM


This week on the show, Kevin and Phil talk about:

  • The Grizzlies' bummer of a road trip
  • The difference in Good Gasol and Bad Gasol and why they show up when they do
  • Whether the mileage on Marc Gasol is finally starting to get to him
  • What rock band would the Grizzlies be?
  • The sacrifices the Grizzlies will have to make to keep JaMychal Green
  • How many more years can Vince Carter play?
  • What's the Grizzlies' plan for the future?

The Beyond the Arc podcast is available on iTunes, so you can subscribe there! It'd be great if you could rate and review the show while you're there. You can also find and listen to the show on Stitcher and on PlayerFM.

You can call our Google Voice number and leave us a voicemail, and we might talk about your question on the next show: 234-738-3394

You can download the show here or listen below:

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Beyond the Arc Podcast #73: Z-Bo: Sixth Man of the Year?

Posted By on Tue, Mar 21, 2017 at 9:15 AM


This week on the show, Kevin and Phil talk about:

  • Zach Randolph's candidacy for Sixth Man of the Year, and who some of the challengers might be.
  • How can the Grizzlies win four straight games right after losing five straight? How much of that is tied to Marc Gasol's engagement level?
  • Is Chandler Parsons ever going to play again?
  • The effect of Gasol's three-point shooting on the Grizzlies
  • Bench numbers after the All-Star Break, and a requiem for Toney Douglas
  • A preview of the weekend's Griz/Warriors matchup.

The Beyond the Arc podcast is available on iTunes, so you can subscribe there! It'd be great if you could rate and review the show while you're there. You can also find and listen to the show on Stitcher and on PlayerFM.

You can call our Google Voice number and leave us a voicemail, and we might talk about your question on the next show: 234-738-3394

You can download the show here or listen below:

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