After a rough two games in San Antonio, the Memphis Grizzlies now return to the home crowd that has only watched them lose one game in the Grindhouse since February 8th. There's no doubt that Memphians and other TAMs will do their part by filling the FedexForum with a raucous bruhaha of basketball passion. The question and answer will lie within what the Grizzlies plan to do about it all.
The Griz simply cannot come out looking like they have the past couple of games. Getting down early will be a recipe for disaster that'll make the entire arena anxious, and in turn probably hinder the Grizzlies from finding a comfort zone in the first half. The Tayshuan/Qpon debate has been on broadcast all week, and the resounding conclusion seems to be that the probable scenario keeps Prince as the starter but will have him subbed out much earlier to give Pondexter some quality minutes with the starters. There's no arguing that perimeter shooting opens up space for Marc and Zach, but until we mix in some made shots the Spurs will continue to barricade the paint, and the beast-like qualities of our big guys will be largely negated.
In Game 2 the Grizzlies' defense did a fair job of shoring itself up from the sieve that it was in Game 1 while leaving themselves plenty of room for improvement. I can't say the unnecessary "help defense" was completely filtered out, as the Spurs still got multiple wide open looks in the 2nd half. SA isn't going to continue missing open shots (remember gm1?). If the Griz are going to turn this into their kind of game, it's imperative that they communicate better on defense and continue to make the Spurs take contested shots. San Antonio dropped from 53% FG shooting in gm1 to 43% in gm2, so there is reason to believe that Memphis can continue to improve against the pinball machine that is the Spurs' offensive ball movement.
Keys to Game 3:
- Quincy Pondexter - it sounds like you're going to get your minutes. You have to make your shots or it won't matter. Qpon needs to continue his hot shooting in the playoffs, and he needs to get his shot selection to rub off on everything else... leading me to...
- Better offensive shot selection. And that includes a lot more than just "open" shots. I don't have all the sports science knowledge to spell out exactly how and why it's happening, but the Spurs have done a good job of taking the Griz out of timing in half court sets. Tony needs to live and die by the 5/5 rule. Marc needs to pop the outside shots he gets with a defender 5 feet off him before he looks for a pass. Bayless needs to stop driving in the lane unless he's got a 1on1. Zbo needs to do the opposite and go at the rim as often as possible.
- Stop trying to force the steals. I know it's one of our calling cards and it's a valuable tool for shifting momentum, but the Griz have cheated so many times on defense in this series that you'd think they had a copy of the Spurs playbook or something. What ends up happening is that we bail the Spurs out of rough possessions by defending well for 10-15 seconds and then getting burnt on the steal attempt. Keep your man defended longer and the steals will come, I promise.
- Bench rebounding. Our front court bench players have tallied a total of 17 rebounds in the first two games. We don't have a ton of sharp shooters on this team so getting second chance points is huge. Quincy did a nice job last game, but Arthur and Davis (if by some voodoo magic he ends up playing) have to bring more effort and energy.
- Play smarter. I know that's a vague copout, but it's so incredibly true. In a radio interview today, Keyon Dooling said he doesn't believe the Griz have yet played well at any moment in this series. I'd have to agree - we haven't seen the true Grizzlies yet. It's all in the quick, little things: force players to go to their offhand, be more aware of the pace on fast breaks, find a good shot rather than trying to get a foul called. I know there's gotta be some good tidbits being sent down from Hollinger - use that math to your advantage.
I won't say this is a must-win for the Grizzlies, but technically I just did by even mentioning it. It's more a must-win for the actual Grizzlies players because the overwhelming sentiment I get from our fan base is a belief that this is no different than the deficit we started with in the Clippers series. Our boys in Beale St Blue need to reassert their belief in themselves. I have no doubts that our Griz aren't satisfied with merely forcing an overtime again. Let's be the faster, stronger team and take care of the Grindhouse.