The Grizzlies had a tough set of five games, which is how Coach Hollins has told the young team to see their schedule, over the past two weeks. With Dallas, Cleveland, and then Oklahoma City at home, Memphis saw some serious superstar scoring.
They then took it onto the road against Miami, and then came back home against the Celtics. For those of you that don't really follow the rest of the league, that's five teams currently in the playoffs with a combined 82-41. For those of that don't really follow mathematics, that means they win twice as often as they lose.
And yet the Grizzlies came away from this five 3-2, which is one win better than Coach Lionel Hollins wants to average on the season, and two wins better than I predicted in the last edition of 'Five Game Cycles'
Get over the jump to see how the Grizzlies made dreams come true and also what to expect from this five game cycle.
The Breakdown- (3-2): Talk about some kind of goodness. The Memphis Grizzlies just lit it up on offense, just torching some big time defensive squads. The Grizzlies averaged a nice 105 points per game.
Yes, that number is somewhat high because the Grizzlies battled, and beat, the Cavaliers in overtime, though they probably also would have dropped a few more buckets had they needed to play the starters longer during a blowout against the Mavericks. And against Miami the Grizzlies offense barely even had to play to score 118, all they needed was to put the ball in Rudy Gay's hands -- he scored a career high 41 points.
The two losses came against Boston and Oklahoma City. The Grizzlies looked flustered by a very motivated, and increasingly talented, Oklahoma City Thunder. But when Boston came to town they worked out Boston's defense, getting up and down the court, shooting 50%, and scoring 105. It was too bad Boston had even less trouble on offense.
What Feels Good- Big wins against big teams always feel good for the Grizzlies. But this five game cycle was special because it also included two blowouts against playoff teams, not to mention the young Grizzlies leaving their hearts on the court in losses against the Celtics and the Thunder.
Rudy Gay continues to prove that he can contribute in more ways than highlight reel dunks. Rudy is racking up steals and rebounds like never before, and is sharing the ball better than ever also. Most importantly though, in my opinion at least, that extra muscle is helping. Rudy is now averaging a career-high number of free throw attempts per game -- if only he could start making some.
You've also got to like seeing Marc Gasol coming out of his relative slump, Mike Conley has been scoring much better at times, Jamaal Tinsley has made some serious intangible contributions, Sam Young and Hasheem Thabeet are both playing better, and O.J. Mayo is getting some consistency on his stroke.
Tell Me What Hurts- We're going to harp on this all season, I think, because the Grizzlies defense is just downright poor at times. It's definitely improving, but I also have a feeling that no amount of cohesion and growth under Coach Hollins is going to get rid of this problem.
I mean Zach Randolph, Mike Conley, and O.J. Mayo all have significant shortcomings as defenders. Zach just isn't that great and, more importantly, isn't respected by the other team. No matter how many hands he puts in their face, other power forwards just shoot right over him with confidence because they have no fear. Mike is too small and isn't strong enough, and O.J. Mayo arguably is as well.
Also there has to be some serious concern over the minutes these starters are playing, especially Rudy, who is around 40 minutes per game and still doesn't really have a sub. If Von Wafer is signed, he will slide to backup shooting guard and Sam Young will be at the forward spot, but our sub teams definitely need at least one starter on the floor with them at all times.
Into the Horizon- Here's a big prediction: the Grizzlies are going to lose to the Atlanta Hawks 110-97. Joe Johnson will handle the much, much smaller O.J. Mayo. And Rudy Gay will roll his ankle, which is more than a little bit worrisome without much depth on the bench.
But the next four are Indiana, Denver, Golden State, and then Dallas again. Indiana has some serious problems without Danny Granger, and T.J. Ford is one of the few good matchups for Mike Conley. Denver will be somewhere between tough and impossible, especially if Rudy Gay is laying on the sick bed all game. Golden State should be a win, but even in their dilapidated state, that franchise is always dangerous. And Dallas certainly isn't planning on crapping out against against Memphis, especially not at home.
So I'll give us a number that will make Coach Hollins nice and happy. The Grizzlies should come out of this stretch 2-3, and this next couple weeks is definitely going to test their staying power. The national media is starting to give respect -- the Grizzlies are 16th in ESPN's newest power rankings -- and this week, especially possibly dealing with Rudy's injury, is going to go a long way towards proving they deserve to be there.