The Memphis Grizzlies have shifted around their starting lineups just slightly over the last few years with Tayshaun Prince, Tony Allen, Courtney Lee, and Jeff Green getting switched around multiple times. Now, it seems that Dave Joerger has at least temporarily settled on his starting five, which consists of Mike Conley, Courtney Lee, Jeff Green, Zach Randolph, and Marc Gasol. This leaves Tony Allen on the bench as an energizer for the second unit. We now have a big enough sample size of Jeff Green in the rotation to sift through the stats and see how the Grizzlies' starting lineup compares to the other talented starting fives in the Western Conference.
Memphis Grizzlies Starting Five:
Golden State Warriors:
The Golden State Warriors boast the league's best record at 42-9, while the Grizzlies sit behind them at second place in the West (third overall) with a 39-14 record. These two teams have only faced off once this season so far, when the Grizz won 105-98. Memphis' starting five (which, at the time, consisted of Conley, Lee, Allen, Randolph, and Gasol) outscored Golden State's starting five (Bogut was injured in this game and Festus Ezeli started in his place) by 6 points (65-59). Stephen Curry outscored Conley by only two points, and Curry was only 9-25 from the field, while Conley was 6-18. Memphis' front court easily overpowered the Warriors' depleted one. It's harder to match up these two teams since there are still two more games left in the series. On the other hand, Memphis has historically had the upper hand in this matchup. The addition of Jeff Green for Memphis and the return of Andrew Bogut for Golden State might be telling in the next showdown between these two elite teams. Tony Allen, who Green has replaced in the starting five, only had 2 points in the last game against the Warriors, but he did have 2 steals, 2 assists, and 7 rebounds.
Portland Trail Blazers
These two teams have already met twice this season, and Memphis won both contests. The first meeting was prior to the Jeff Green trade, so Tony Allen started in his place. In both matches, Portland's back court had strong performances (Lillard and Matthews each had 20+ points in each game), but their front court failed to stop Memphis' big men as Randolph and Gasol combined for 35+ points in each. Mike Conley and Damian Lillard both had strong performances in the first meeting, but Mike Conley was injured in the second. Beno Udrih started in his place and ended up with 17 points, while Lillard had 23. This further proves Memphis' depth as Memphis was still able to pull out the win without Conley. In fairness, Portland has been lacking their starting center, Brook Lopez, for quite some time now. Chris Kaman, his temporary replacement, averages 8.9 PPG and 6.7 rebounds on the year. In the January 17th game, Jeff Green was still getting adjusted to the Grizzlies' system and came off the bench. But he did play 30 minutes and ended up with 17 points. Similar to Golden State, Memphis almost seems to have Portland's number over the past couple of years. These two face each other again February 22nd.
The Memphis Grizzlies and Houston Rockets have already faced each other three times this season. The Grizzlies won the first round in a relatively easy fashion, 119-93. The second two, however, belonged to Houston. The second game was a blowout over Memphis in which Houston was extremely depleted as they were missing two starters. The third and latest match between the two teams was at FedExForum and ended up being a Houston win in OT. In the first match-up, Memphis' back court held James Harden to only 6 points on 1-8 shooting. Memphis' bench stepped up huge in this one, as 4 bench players had 10+ points. Dwight Howard held Marc Gasol to 9 points, while Howard had 15. The clear indicator in this game was that Memphis never let Harden get going. Mike Conley came up strong with 19 points.
The second match-up is hard to examine since Houston was without two of its starters. Their starting lineup that night consisted of Harden, Jason Terry, Tarik Black, Trevor Ariza, and Motiejunas. The Grizzlies' starters were strong at the beginning, but then Houston took off and won the game easily. The difference in this game? All of Houston's starters were in double digits, and Harden had 21 points. Memphis had only two starters in double digits and none of the Grizzlies players reached 20 points.
And last but not least, the Rockets managed to pull out the win over the Grizzlies the day after Christmas in a dramatic overtime game. The numbers are pretty indicative in this one. James Harden had 32 points and shot 10-11 from the line. Trevor Ariza had four threes, and the Rockets had 14 of them total. On the other hand, Marc Gasol had 29 points. But the other Memphis starters had 4, 10, 11, and 4. Too many threes allowed by the Grizzlies and not enough scoring by the rest of the starters hurt the Grizzlies badly in this one. Courtney Lee was 1-3 from beyond the arc, while Mike Conley was 2-5 from three. Jon Leuer actually started in this one to replace an injured Zach Randolph, and he only had 4 points in 16 minutes. The absence of Zach Randolph surely hurt the Grizzlies in this one.
Dallas and Memphis have seen each other already three times this season. In two of the showdowns, Rajon Rondo started. In both of his starts, he only had 13 points and 6 assists combined. In the two match-ups Memphis won, the Grizzlies held Dirk to 11 points and he didn't make a three. In the one that the Mavericks won, Dirk had 21 points and 2 threes. Zach Randolph has had strong showings in all three contests. In the most recent, he completely demoralized Tyson Chandler as he buried a seemingly endless barrage of rainbow jumpers. Z-Bo had a double double in all three games. Chandler Parsons was pretty consistent in all three games as well, as he posted 30 in the first game (which resulted in a Mavericks loss) and 15+ in the other two. The Grizzlies were without starter Mike Conley in the last game at the Mavericks' house and still managed to win with the help of some strong performances from their starters. Monta Ellis only had 2 points in the first game but followed up with 25- and 19-point performances. Rajon Rondo has clearly been ineffective in his showings against the Grizzlies, and Tyson Chandler has been unable to stop Z-Bo in all three games. If Dirk is rolling, then the Grizzlies have a problem. However, Memphis seems to win most of the starting match-ups in this series as is apparent by the stats from the past three games.
Perhaps one of the most heated rivalries in the NBA, the Grizzlies and Clippers have seen plenty of each other over the past few years. However, they've only met once so far this year, in which the Grizzlies drilled L.A. 107-91 back in November. At that point in the year, the Grizzlies were rolling, and the Clippers were still navigating the waters of a rocky start to the season. The Clippers' starting back court had a nice showing as Paul had 22 points, including 7-7 free throws, and J.J. Redick had 15 points, including 3-6 from long range. However, Blake Griffin (who is currently injured) had only 12 points on 5-17 shooting. Four of the Grizzlies' five starters were in double figures, including Marc Gasol, who racked up 30 points. Oddly, Mike Conley was the only starter in single digits with 7, but he only played 27 minutes. These two teams will meet twice in one week coming out of the All-Star break, and their final meeting is in April. The next two games will provide a larger sample size of the Grizzlies' starters vs. the Clippers' starters.
San Antonio Spurs
The Grizzlies have had some long-needed success against the team that has had their number for the last few years. However, San Antonio hasn't been at full strength in any of the matches. Tim Duncan played in all three contests, averaging 15.3 points in those games. Zach Randolph played in only two of the games, and he had an extremely impressive 21 points to go along with 21 rebounds in Memphis' triple overtime win. In the game Z-Bo missed, Conley came up big with 30 points; Tony Parker was out that game and Cory Joseph started in his place, ending up with 18. Danny Green was solid in two of the three meetings, and Matt Bonner (who started in two of the games in place of an injured Tiago Splitter) was practically invisible. Courtney Lee's best game against the Spurs came in the triple overtime meeting as he had 14 points and was 2-2 from beyond the arc. Both the Grizzlies' starters and the Spurs' starters have had some strong showings, but the lack of health from both sides has prevented some more solid evidence as to who has the superior starters.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Much like the Grizzlies and Clippers, the Thunder and Grizzlies have seen each other a lot over the past few seasons. This year, they've faced each other three times. Memphis leads the series 2-1. I can hardly use the first contest to judge the Thunder's and Grizzlies' starters, since Andre Roberson, Kevin Durant, and Russell Westbrook were injured. However, both teams have almost had their full line of starters in the other two games. The indicator in who has the superior starters is obvious: it depends on Memphis' starters not allowing Westbrook and Durant to get to the free throw line. In the Memphis win on January 31, Durant and Westbrook had a total of 10 free throw attempts. In the Thunder's blowout win, Westrbook and Durant had 30 combined. Andre Roberson was pretty weak in both games, as well as Courtney Lee. Mike Conley struggled in both contests, particularly in the Thunder's win, but his bum ankles were clearly a factor in that one. Marc Gasol didn't allow Adams or Perkins (he started at center in the second match up due to an Adams injury) to get going in either game. Gasol himself had 15 and 12 in the first game, but only 8 and 5 in the second. Like I said, the biggest indicator in this series has been Memphis' ability to shut down Durant and Westbrook. And this doesn't mean Memphis has to make sure Durant and Westbrook do not get shots. In the first game, they had a combined 32 field attempts, but they only made 10 of them. In the second game? They combined for 30 attempts and made 13 of them. The difference was in the amount of times they went to the free throw line. The Thunder starters were the aggressor in the second game, while Memphis was in the first.
Taking a look back on the first "half" of the season, it's clear that Memphis has shown up against some big time opponents. However, Memphis has also seen its share of opposing stars taking over the game and leading their team to victory. Memphis has multiple starters who can step up in intense situations, but their ability to stop superstar players like Kevin Durant and James Harden is crucial to this team's success, both in the regular season and the playoffs.