WHERE: Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Indiana
WHEN: 6:00 PM CT
HOW TO LISTEN: 92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
HOW TO WATCH: FoxSports Southeast, FoxSportsGo.com
For the Pacers perspective, check out Indy Cornrows
Well, that first game was...not ideal, to say the least. The Cleveland Cavaliers came in to Memphis on Grizzlies Opening Night and beat the brakes off the Bears of Beale Street. This Tweet of a Tony Allen quote sums it up rather nicely...
Tony Allen: "I'm just rattled right now. They came in and hit us in the mouth."— Peter Edmiston (@peteredmiston) October 29, 2015
While it is never good to read such a statement from a key member of any team, it is exactly what happened, so you can appreciate the honesty. Memphis got knocked to the ground and was not able to get back up. The Grizzlies were not ready to play from the tip-off, and it showed itself rather quickly, and violently.
Thankfully, life in the NBA is such that the next opportunity to move on and right the wrong that was the last game is always right around the corner. The best thing that happened to the Grizzlies is the fact that they hopped on a plane right after the Cavaliers game and literally moved on to the next one. The Indiana Pacers are the next opponent, and they have a much different look to them this season than they have in the past. Monta Ellis is a Pacer, Paul George is a Power Forward and Indiana is hoping to get out and run more than they ever have before.
Everyone gets knocked down. How you respond is what makes you who you are. The character of the Grizzlies will get an early test this season Thursday night in Indiana. Here are three keys to tonight's contest.
1. Get More From the Wings
On Wednesday night in Memphis eight players played minutes for the Grizzlies as either a wing or a Point Guard. Those eight players (Mike Conley, Russ Smith, Beno Udrih, Jordan Adams, Courtney Lee, Tony Allen, Jeff Green, Matt Barnes) shot a combined 14-49 from the field, good for a 28.6% overall field goal percentage. Perhaps even worse than that is the fact that thee same players were 2-14 combined from three-point land, or 14.2% from beyond the arc. Conley, Lee and Barnes specifically were 4-21 overall shooting and 1-9 from three. Defensively on the perimeter these players also struggled, directly contributing to Cleveland's ability to make thirteen threes on 44.8% shooting from range. Rotations were slow, transition defense was sloppy, and the team at large was constantly chasing the Cleveland offense around, always about a step or so behind.
Make no mistake, Jeff Green must play better. He also may well need to start coming off the bench to help the core Grizzlies get off to a better start with a player who perhaps fits their skill sets better, like a Tony Allen or a Matt Barnes. But when Tony Allen has multiple turnovers and "Tricks" as the game gets out of hand and Matt Barnes does not make a single shot in 18 minutes, it is hard to make steadfast arguments for either. Allen was the best of the three Wednesday night, and numbers/the eye test lead many to feel that TA should start instead of Green.
The man who calls the shots, however, has seen things differently up to this point. Perhaps a change is indeed coming, but Jeff Green isn't the only problem. It isn't just starters, it's bench players as well, as they were dominated by Cleveland across the board. The collective of perimeter players must perform at a higher level on both ends of the court.
2. Paul George vs. Zach Randolph
Paul George has been moved to the role of a "small ball" Power Forward for the Pacers, at least to start games, and while this fits the mold of the "Modern NBA" it may not work quite as well against the man known as Z-Bo. Zach arguably had the best games against the Cavaliers with a 12 point 8 rebound stat line, and his bruising style of play could create issues for George defensively. Of course, the same will be true of Zach on the defensive end: how Randolph defends George bears watching, and what kind of help Dave Joerger provides Zach will tell the tale of how much Memphis fears this new-look Indiana offense.
It is possible that Indy puts Ian Mahinmi on Zach and allows George to defend the more mid-range minded Marc Gasol. But any time Z-Bo and George face off it will be old-school vs. new-school to an extent, and it will be cool to see which wins out on this night.
In a recent Friday Three column I stated that I was not worried about the Grizzlies' Point Guard situation. After one game, I am a little bit more concerned. Udrih played one of the worst games of any Grizzly against Cleveland and the fact that Dave Joerger has started experimenting with lineups that have no true Point Guard (Jeff Green at the point? OK, sure) states that he is not as sure about what Beno (and Russ Smith for that matter) are capable of bringing to the table for Memphis right now.
Of course, Beno had off-season surgery and it may take him a minute to get his bearings. Again, it was just one game; anybody can have an off night. It would be nice, however, to see Beno Udrih come in the game tonight and look more competent running the Grizzlies' offense and capable of defending his position. As time goes on, if improvement is not shown, it may force the Grizzlies' hand with regard to finding someone who can fill in behind Conley consistently.
Beno has time, to be sure. But the fact Jeff Green played Point Guard at all gives me some reason to pay attention a little bit more closely to Udrih's play as October becomes November.
Indiana will beat Memphis if they do not learn from last night's mistakes. They have players capable of killing you from range (George Hill and C.J. Miles shot 9-15 from three against Toronto on Wednesday night, George can hit from range as well), they have an athletic front court and they have Monta Ellis, who has a flare for the dramatic and ability to score the ball in a variety of ways (and has done just that against Memphis in the past.)
If the Grizzlies can have a better start and get in to their pace and style, however, it will be very difficult for Indiana to keep up. This will be a true battle of wills and styles; whoever can get in to their sets and play "their game" will likely win this game. Early foul trouble for Paul George is a possibility, and if that happens Indy is in big trouble. Look for a nice bounce back night for Memphis' perimeter players (especially defensively) on the way to the Grizzlies' first win of the 2015-2016 campaign.
Memphis 91, Indiana 87
|2015-16 NBA Season
|Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Indiana|
|6:00 PM CT|
|Mike Conley||PG||George Hill|
|Courtney Lee||SG||Monta Ellis|
|Zach Randolph||PF||Paul George|
|Marc Gasol||C||Ian Mahinmi|