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The heart of the Grizzlies is Grit'n'Grind, but that heart needs to beat a little faster

Times are tough in Memphis with a slumping Grizzlies team that has been tough to watch and reluctant to score when they should be hitting their stride.

Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports

(another thanks to Eric for a guest post here at GBB! -CF)

A Quick Briefing

Five or six weeks ago it would have been near impossible for any glass 1/8th full kind of person to imagine the Grizzlies in the predicament they find themselves today: 6-5 over the last eleven with several close wins against some of the league’s bottom-dwellers. A win's a win but in the 5 W's before Chicago last night, the Grizzlies only outscored opponents by an average of 4.4 points. Not overwhelmingly reassuring or dominant to say the least. Which brings us to what’s becoming the Grizzlies’ biggest (and annually occurring) problem- scoring.

Just Put The Ball In The Basket

Getting the ball in the hoop has never been a major tenet of the Grit and Grind philosophy, but it remains a somewhat integral part of the game. But that’s not to say there isn’t a compromise to be had; just look back at Memphis’ early season success all the way up through February. They were regularly throwing down over 100 points/game with the best of them. Something changed around that time and Memphis has come down with a nasty cold streak that has them averaging a whopping 93 points per game. That stretch starting from January 31st includes games with final tallies of 82, 85, and 79(!!!) Grizzlies points. Saying Memphis avoids points like the plague would be quite the understatement over this past month or so.

Needless to say, the Jeff Green honeymoon quickly and violently reached a premature ending over these past few games. Until last night Coach Dave Joerger struggled to put the pieces together in a way that wasn't forcefully and incorrectly jamming the puzzle to completion. The alleged 3-point threat of Green has been a mercurial aspect of his game. The front office knew this going in and even lifelong Celtics fan and NBA pundit Bill Simmons commented on Green's potential with Memphis saying,

"Jeff Green is one of those guys who, like in a Game Four at Portland, will have 33 points and he’ll shoot 10-for-12 and make five threes and he’ll single-handedly swing the game. Then the next game, he’ll have three points but it doesn’t matter because you’ve got such a good team already. He’s a guy who, during the playoffs, can win three of the 16 games for you."

Those up-and-down performances have complicated the Grizzlies' lineups of late and finding some sense of consistency has been a challenge but is essential with the playoffs around the corner. No the Grizzlies don't always shoot well, but it’s not a Jeff Green problem- it's a team wide problem. Normally those missed points would simply come from other areas but that hasn’t panned out for Memphis in the doldrums of February/March. Take a look at the recent Clippers loss at home compared to several recent wins:

Opponent

Result

%FGA-2pt

%FGA-3pt

%Pts-MR

%Pts-FBP

%Pts-PITP

LAC 2/23

W

81.5

18.5

17.8

16.7

44.4

LAC 2/27

L

86.2

13.8

25.8

8.9

50.6

MIN 2/28

W

82.8

17.2

15.8

9.9

51.5

HOU 3/4

W

80.7

19.3

21.6

16.7

52.9

CHI 3/10

W

83.3

16.7

27.7

14.9

45.5

%FGA-2pt: Percentage of total field goal attempts taken within the 3 point arc

%FGA-3pt: Percentage of total field goal attempts taken outside the 3 point arc

%Pts-MR: Percentage of total points that came from midrange shots

%Pts-FBP: Percentage of total points that came from fast breaks

%Pts-PITP: Percentage of total points that were from in the paint

Pay attention to the first column which shows what percentage of the Grizzlies total field goal attempts were 2-point attempts. There’s a large discrepancy between their Clippers loss and this, admittedly small, collection of winning games. A step further reveals even more about Memphis’ recent style of play and performance.

Midrange field goals are generally accepted in the statistical community as the least effective shot in basketball today. Some real-world evidence of that is apparent in these games. Taking a peek at the loss, it's obvious that the Grizzlies shot a glaringly large number of midrange jumpers, especially compared to most of their wins. But the Grizzlies have never played a "pretty" style of basketball and statistics have never been able to pin down this team's essence. Case in point- last night's win over the Bulls. In that game the Grizzlies still took a huge number of midrange field goal attempts but managed to escape the United Center victorious. The caveat: they also put up a significant number of 3's compared to two-point shots. This very basic analysis might seem trivial but can’t be ignored when the team lost all but one game in which they scored less than 94 points since February began.

Give It to Me Straight, Doc

Ask your average longtime Grizz fan for the solution to ANY problem the team experiences and you’re likely to get a unified response: feed Marc/Z-Bo the ball and play tough defense. It’s certainly not a bad answer but right now the team needs more than slow-down, grind it out basketball. The team has been winning games when they run the ball and winning games when they utilize the 3 point line effectively. Unless this inconsistent stretch of games is a subtle attempt at avoiding a first round Thunder matchup, a change is needed- and quickly. The heart of this Grizzlies team will always be Grit and Grind, but right now that heart just needs to beat a little bit faster.