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Protecting Possessions: Why Turnovers Kill the Memphis Grizzlies

In Part Two of this week's Friday Three, we take a look at the second half of the Grizzlies' game vs. the Chicago Bulls and how losing possessions via turnovers ended their hopes at a Windy City win.

Conley and company must protect the rock so they can get as many chances to score as possible.
Conley and company must protect the rock so they can get as many chances to score as possible.
Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

Check out the rest of this week's Friday Three here

One of the flaws of making such a large lineup change in the middle of a season is the adaptation that takes place on the fly, especially with regard to positioning on the floor. On offense, Memphis is getting used to having three wings on the floor instead of two wings and a big. The positive of spacing that has come from this change can be canceled out by the lack of execution of set offensive looks within that space, as it was Wednesday night in Chicago against the Bulls. This especially reared its ugly head in the third quarter, where Memphis turned the ball over roughly eight times total and Chicago outscored the Grizzlies 24-13 in the frame as a result.

Some of these turnovers were as simple as poor execution or communication...

Gasol Conley TO 1

Other times, it was good defense amplified by misreads on positioning of teammates.

Barnes Gasol TO 2

The type of turnover that can be most frustrating, however, is the one that can be avoided by simple scheme recognition and ball movement. So often excessive dribbling can get an offense in to trouble, and in this next particular sequence involving Marc Gasol that is very much the case.

Marc TO 1

Gasol understands that he should absolutely be able to take his brother, at least forcing the defense to collapse so that an open slasher or shooter should become available...or so you'd think.

Marc TO 2

Jeff Green, despite playing with Zach Randolph at this moment, has a two-way go. He can take this wide open three, or he can dribble penetrate and dish out to an open teammate. The smart read, the right play, is to get the ball to Jeff Green.

Marc Gasol doesn't get it there.

Gasol TO 3

Poor reads, attempts to do too much, missing possessions. Marc must know that Butler is sitting and waiting. That lack of awareness leads to missed opportunity on the offensive end.

The Memphis Grizzlies simply cannot afford to lose possessions. Any team whose offensive efficiency is currently 99.3, good for 25th out of 30 teams, must maximize every chance that they get. In recent games, Memphis has not done this nearly enough. Protecting the rock must be a priority for an offense that is trying to find themselves in new spacing and personnel groupings.

How do you do it? You follow through on your passes. You make an extra pass before you make an extra step with a dribble. You trust your teammates to execute when given opportunity by a collapsing defender. You keep your eyes up and find the open pass.

You execute.

The issues with the Memphis Grizzlies can be that simple to figure out. Ball protection comes down to simple execution more often than not. Whether it is off of a screen, a pick and roll or pick and pop set, or in transition, Memphis has to do the little things that lead to better efficiency. Foot placement on a pass can make all the difference; if you lazily launch the ball without setting yourself, the inches you lose can make all the difference between a scoring opportunity for you and one for your opponent. A look to a pass ahead without acknowledging rotations defensively or where an opposing defender is will make for lost chances at possessions that a fledgling offense desperately needs.

The Grizzlies average roughly three assists less and a turnover more in losses this season than they do in wins. When Memphis executes passes cleanly, it results in multiple offensive converted opportunities. They must make this a focus as they try to recover some swagger on the scoring end of the court.

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