WHERE: AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami, Florida
WHEN: 5:00 PM CT
HOW TO WATCH: Fox Sports South East/NBA League Pass
HOW TO LISTEN: 92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
Memphis- Brandan Wright (Knee), Jordan Adams (Knee) - Doubtful. Jarell Martin (Foot) - ACTIVE FOR FIRST TIME ALL SEASON
Miami- Josh McRoberts (Knee), Tyler Johnson (Shoulder) - Questionable
For the Miami perspective, check out Hot Hot Hoops
The Memphis Grizzlies are in trouble.
Whenever core players are questioning defensive effort and whether or not the team's identity is slipping away, it is a dire situation indeed. Even if the overall condition of Memphis' playoff standing is not outside of expectation (currently the five seed in the Western Conference, three games in front of the nine seed) the team's play is well below what most Grizzlies fans would consider acceptable. Their loss against the Charlotte Hornets was their tenth loss by double digits this season, and if not for a well-timed dunk and a miraculous half-court buzzer beating shot, the Grizzlies could very well be under .500 right now.
Their offensive efficiency is 99.0, 24th in the NBA. More surprisingly/disappointingly, their defensive rating is 104.5, good for 25th in the Association. They are struggling on both ends of the court, especially defensively, and they truly seem to have lost their way.
It isn't like it gets any easier these next few games, as Memphis brace for a daunting "three games in four nights" stretch starting this evening in Miami against the Heat. The Grizzlies' issues could very well be amplified by a Heat team led by Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, and Hassan Whiteside. Miami is the second-best team in the NBA in terms of defensive efficiency, but are themselves riding a three-game losing streak, and are surely licking their chops at the prospect of beating up on a potentially sinking Memphis.
This season is bizarre - Memphis is reeling, but has won 10 of their last 15 games. The Bears of Beale Street have lost three of their last four home games by an average of 27 points, but they have won their last three road games. How can they get that unlikely streak to four?
Let Mario Chalmers Wake You Up
While some Grizzlies fans are surely looking forward to seeing the positive Beno Udrih again, who played 14 minutes in Miami's loss to Indiana Friday night, they would be wise to focus their eyes and efforts on Mario Chalmers heading into his return to Miami. Chalmers will no doubt be fired up to play his former mates, and the Grizzlies could potentially benefit from Mario's fire. This Memphis team currently lacks energy and ambition, breezing around on the court without a care for the game and its outcome at times, it seems.
Mario Chalmers will undoubtedly care, and his passion and desire to prove Miami wrong could be a spark. Mario has cooled a good bit since his initial outburst post-trade (he has only hit three 3-point shots total in the past 12 games), and this could be a great opportunity for him to regain some of that heat (no pun intended) from when he was first acquired. It almost certainly would not be a permanent fix, but energy is contagious and at least for one night Mario's fight could lead to greater Grizzly might. Let him lead the way for stretches, and feed off of it. He will appreciate the investment.
Get Whiteside Out of His Game
Hassan Whiteside has been a tremendous find for the Miami Heat.
(Insert anger about Memphis releasing him last season here)
Among centers averaging at least 25 minutes per game, Whiteside is 1st in the entire NBA in PER at 24.86. He is averaging a double-double, with 12.5 points and 10.4 rebounds per game, to go with an astounding 4.3 blocks per game. first in the NBA by over one and a half blocks. His defensive presence is massive, as his defensive dashboard from over at NBA.com/stats illustrates.
He is especially effective defending shots ten feet and in, and by especially effective I mean he is terrifying. He is the main reason why the Heat's defense is so stifling this season.
So the Grizzlies need to go after him. Whether it be with Marc Gasol's fancy footwork down low, slashers on the baseline, or ball handlers off of dribble penetration, they must test Whiteside's discipline and defensive technique. Getting him into foul trouble would do a good bit of harm to Miami and their defensive schemes. He appears to be very good, but how good will he be if he is constantly under attack in a variety of ways?
This is all easier said than done, as Whiteside is having a Defensive Player of the Year kind of impact on the Heat. It can be one of the fastest ways to disrupt Miami's rhythm if it is achieved, however.
Get Jeff Green Going
Speaking of terrifying, as I outlined in this week's Friday Three, Mike Conley needs some help as he continues to get into the swing of this season. As much as it pains many to see, head coach Dave Joerger continues to invest minutes and energy into Jeff Green...recently to nobody's benefit. He is playing his worst month of the season so far:
|October (3 games)||November (15 games)||December (6 games)|
Regardless of where you fall on the Jeff Green spectrum of disdain, which goes something like this...
1(HAIL JEFE)______________5(Meh)_______________10(He sucks and should feel bad)
...we can all acknowledge that that is not very good. In addition, his shot charts in wins and losses are pretty drastically different...and show how vital he is to the Grizzlies' offense being good, or bad, on any given night.
Jeff in wins:
Jeff in losses:
It isn't just shooting. Jeff's advanced numbers are drastically different in victories.
|13 wins||11 losses|
|True Shooting %||56.9||38.3|
Using all these numbers, and to a lesser extent our eyes, we have a general idea of how to get the best version of Jeff Green in tonight's game, where he could take advantage of several mismatches (depending on how he is deployed).
- Get out and run, and while you're at it, attack the rim. Pull-up jumpers are bad.
- Facilitate for others - the assist ratio above means in wins he would average an assist on 14.6 of 100 possessions, whereas in losses he only would average 7.8
- Be a net neutral defender, and do not lose your man on baseline attempts.
- If you're going to shoot threes, make sure they are in rhythm or in the corner. Again, pull-up jumpers are bad.
As strange as it is to say, this game may depend on how willing Dave Joerger is to push the tempo. Miami does not want to play a faster game, and if Joerger forces the Heat to respond to a smaller lineup (say, Conley/Chalmers/Lee/Barnes/Gasol) by benching either Chris Bosh or the aforementioned Whiteside, it would be a massive advantage to the Grizzlies.
Randolph and Gasol could match up with Bosh and Whiteside in theory, but putting a better athlete at the four to make Bosh chase on defense would be a nice wrinkle. And Bosh's offensive game is not one that is suited for consistent low-post dominance anyway. He wants to be away from the paint, if possible; only 31% of his shot attempts come at or around the rim. Let him do it with Matt Barnes, JaMychal Green, or Jeff Green defending him.
Jeff Green has himself a game, as does Mario Chalmers, and the Memphis Grizzlies continue to confound their fan base as they pick up yet another road win after some small ball success.