I love checking in on Memphis Grizzlies fans. Whether it's in the wilderness of Memphis, from the scattered masses of Grizz Nation around the globe, or here in-house at GBB, I enjoy hearing intelligent people talk about the Grizzlies. Some people I agree with, others not so much. But regardless of the similitude of our opinions, people talking means people caring. And when people care, the memories I form mean so much more and last so much longer.
Let's see what kind of perspective the GBB Staff can provide as we move further into the NBA Playoffs and further into the postseason journey of the Memphis Grizzlies. I gave them 11 questions. Here's the beat at GBB:
1) Courtney Lee has looked like the sharpshooter we were swooning over in December. Beno Udrih has looked like a version of Beno that I've only really dreamed about.
Who do you think is more likely to keep up their current pace and what impact do you see it having?
Eric Lenser: Beno all the way. I've been throwing him love all season and there's a reason- this recent uptick isn't really that different from what he's done throughout the year. Fun fact: Udrih's had a cool 21 games with double digit scoring this year, spread nice and evenly throughout the season. Really fun fact: Udrih OWNS the Blazers. His only two 10+ point and 5+ rebound games are 1) Game 1 of the Playoffs and 2) back in January against Portland.
Jonah Jordan: I don't think either is going to be able to keep this up, but the more likely of the two is Courtney Lee. He kept up this level of play for two months at the beginning of the season and Beno Udrih's ankle injury may slow him down.
Keith Edwards: I'll say Courtney Lee. I'm not sure how badly Beno's ankle injury is or will be going forward, but I think it will keep him from impacting the game the way we saw the Slovenian Sex Symbol do through the first two games in Memphis.
Chip Williams: I think Beno is more likely to keep up what he's been doing so far. We saw him do this last year in the playoffs, and it's starting to feel like this is what you should expect from Playoff Beno. CLee was terrific in game two, and if he's recovered from his hand injury, we should see something closer to what we saw the first few months of the season. But I fully expect Playoff Beno to continue being a thing for the Grizz.
Joe Mullinax: Is neither a fair answer? For this Portland series I would say both, because both Beno and Courtney are very skilled in the mid-range jump shot and the Trail Blazers give up that shot routinely. Even with adjustments, it will be hard to completely do away with what they have done all season long. Beno's ankle is the wild card here, but both of these guys can make Portland pay for their scheme (more so than most teams can.)
2) Marc Gasol hasn't yet eclipsed 15 points in the 1st round, but he's still been awesome. Why?
Craig Fielder: Marc's all round play has been tremendous. He may only have scored 15 in each game but has a combined 12 assists through the first 2 games. Very few centers can offer that to their team. 12 assists accounts for a minimum 24 points. I'd rather look at his assists as points gained and say that he's giving us 27 points per game. He's not making many shots but he's using so much energy in other areas of his game that I'll forgive him for his poor shooting.
Blues City Joe: Marc's been aggressive on offense but the some of the shots just haven't fallen, and his defense has been on point. In Game 2, Portland took 20 less shots at the rim than the Grizzlies. The Blazers are a perimeter team, but you have to think that wide of a divide was due at least in part to Marc's presence.
Andrew Millen: Defense, that thing that wins championships. Also, Marc knows when he needed, and so far Courtney Lee and Beno Udrih have been giving the Grizz production they aren't used to getting. If they cool down, Marc will step up and score more aggressively.
Andrew Ford: Gasol has anchored the Grizzlies defense through two games, directed traffic, played tremendous help defense, and generally helped the Grizzlies not allow many easy shots. Less obviously, he remains a threat offensively even when he's not scoring. Teams know he can score, so they must continue to focus on him when he has the ball. He's been able to manipulate the Blazers defense like a puppet, pulling the unit out of position eventually leading to a Grizzlies bucket.
3) Is Damian Lillard overrated or are we underrating an injured Mike Conley?
Half of the man known as Mike Conley, Jr. has outscored him through two games and done a superb job in limiting Lillard's offensive impact.
EL: I think it's a combination of a few things. First, Conley looks really great for someone who was just down with an injury. That's probably the biggest aspect. But also, Lillard has lost the majority of his supporting cast. The Blazers' whole All-Star push was annoying but he is still a great PG; however it's currently tough to see that through their fog of injuries.
JJ: I think both are on their way to being properly rated. Lillard's showing what happens when he plays against an elite defense like the Grizzlies. Conley is playing well enough to get the attention he deserves so all will be right in the world soon.
KE: Aren't we always underrating Mike Conley?
CW: A little bit of both. I've personally never been a fan of Lillard, but he's super talented. I was of the belief that both Conley and TA could have played if they were really needed at the end of the regular season, and that time was being utilized as rest/recovery. I have been very impressed with Conley's ability to defend Lillard. That was the one thing that really worried me headed into the series, but it's been a non-issue.
JM: Conley is properly appreciated at this point among the basketball community at large. Among casual fans? Probably still underrated, but most Memphis players (Marc Gasol being the exception this season) are not seen for their impact for a variety of reasons. Damian Lillard is an offensive force when on, but he has been exposed to an extent this series. The skill sets are there, but he must work on his game and elevate his understanding of schemes to better attack when teams like Memphis defend him in this manner. Basically, Dame needs to get better at one major thing every off-season and grow to maintain his positioning as an elite offensive guard in the NBA. You know, like Mike Conley does. Conley is an excellent role model for Lillard...wait...Conley's the role model now? We're getting old...
4) It's been all rainbows and sunshine, but which Grizzly has disappointed you through two games?
CrF: No Grizzly had dissapointed me in either game. Every single one of them has been superb so far. Long may it continue.
BCJ: This sentiment is becoming very tired, but probably Jeff Green. He's shooting 29% and hasn't done much to help the cause. Z-Bo's shooting percentage is low too, but he's still hitting the boards hard and I have faith that he'll get back on track for a big game or two.
AM: Honestly, none of them. Even Vince Carter dropped in three triples in Game 2. Jeff Green has been quiet, but 10 points in 27 mins ain't bad. Everyone else is playing their role to perfection.
AF: Nobody has disappointed me completely, but I have been disappointed every time Jeff Green receives the ball headed towards the rim and decides to pull up for a midrange jumper. Earth to Jeff. Look at yourself in a mirror, realize how incredibly big and athletic you are, and start playing more bully ball. There is no reason he shouldn't be getting to the rim more than he already is.
5) How big a role has Arron Afflalo's absence played thus far?
EL: It's been more impactful in the face of the rest of their injuries than anything else. He's quieted down in terms of production since arriving in Portland but plays a crucial role in giving Video Game Dame someone to hit the pass button towards. Matthews' was by far the biggest hit but en masse, the injuries to Afflalo and the rest of Portland have been devastating.
JJ: Well, without Afflalo Tony Allen and Courtney Lee get to guard CJ McCollum and Allen Crabbe. This allows both of them to roam and create havoc all over the court.
KE: I wouldn't say it's been huge, but it's a pretty decent sized absence. He's going to add a much needed scoring punch to a Blazers' team that hasn't yet scored 90 in the series. Afflalo has torched Memphis in the past, and is capable of getting you 20+ on any given night. Fortunately for the Grizzlies, Tony Allen has been guarding Nic Batum and Allen Crabbe, which is a bit of a waste of his talents, so they can move him over to Afflalo withouth much of an issue at all.
CW: It has hurt the Blazers, but I still believe the Grizz would be up 2-0 even if Afflalo had played. Now, if they had Wes Matthews and Afflalo, then this would probably be a 6-7 game series. But without Matthews I'm not sure how much difference Afflalo playing would have made. The Blazers look completely out-gunned.
JM: It's been a reason for the lack of competitive quarters (aside from Quarter 1 of Game 2.) Afflalo provides offensive spacing, defensive reliability and allows for C.J. McCollum to play off the bench, a role he is better suited for at this point of his career. If he is able to shoot three's (a fair question still) he will likely be good for a win in Portland, preventing the sweep, because of his presence and what it creates for those around him. If Afflalo is still hampered and is just a decoy? Memphis will figure that quickly and this series will be over Monday night.
6) If Portland is to get back into this series, how do you see that happening?
CrF: I'd be extremely suprised if Portland get back into the series. Lillard doesn't look his usual self and I can't see that changing anytime soon. LaMarcus Aldridge will have to carry the team on his back, but he alone won't be enough. They desperately miss Wes Mathews. They might steal one game in Portland but that'll be all.
BCJ: I think their shooters would have to get hot for them to make this a real series. Afflalo being back probably will help, but he, Lillard, and Batum would all have to start hitting at a high rate.
AM: Better offensive play by Lillard and Aldridge, and better defensive scheming. So far they've just been outplayed man to man. They might also have to break Beno Udrih's leg, Tonya Harding style.
AF: The two stars of the team, Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge have to take over. Aldridge scored a lot of points in both games, but he was incredibly inefficient from the field. Lillard has disappeared for long stretches of play in both games, and that can't happen. The Blazers don't have enough depth to overcome poor performances by their best players. Also, Aldridge and Lillard on their game opens up the floor for all of the other Blazers.
7) Dave Joerger: give me one thing you've loved about him this series and one thing you'd like to see done differently.
EL: Same answer really for both parts of this question. Lineups. I both love and hate the fact that he's toying with the lineups a bit. Love it because he's open to change. Love it because it's allowed the team to capitalize on the acknowledged success of Beno and others. Hate it because it's the playoffs and we should probably have things squared away by now (only acceptable since we're steamrolling Portland). Hate it because some of the choices (e.x. TA starting) haven't really produced as much as other options.
JJ: I love how he's shortened the rotation. I don't love the continued minutes for one Vince Carter and no Jordan Adams, but right now it's not hurting him.
KE: I love what Joerger is doing with the rotation and the line-ups. I thought it was weird to insert Tony Allen into the starting unit after coming off the bench for so long, even though I think its the right call. My main gripe with Joerger is what it has always been: the man simply doesn't know how to dress. *Looks up pictures of Greg Popovich* Thankfully, that doesn't matter one bit when it comes to winning basketball games.
CW: I've loved Joerger's rotations. He's done a good job getting the right mix of guys in there and shortening the elongated regular season rotation. I like Jeff Green coming off the bench and TA starting. I like only using three true bigs and having Green be the fourth 'big.' I like allowing Vince Carter to prove his playoff worth. I love that there have been no two point guard lineups. One thing I'd like to see differently is Joerger grow out his goatee.
JM: I love how Dave Joerger has prepared these guys for this series. They know every Portland set, where to position themselves and rotate for help and how to attack their defensive scheme. Preparation is a lot of the battle in the playoffs, and Joerger has these Grizzlies ready to hunt. I wish Dave would trot out more multiple point guard looks. Whether it be Conley and Beno or Conley and Calathes, having multiple ball handlers out on the floor would be a nice wrinkle that Portland may not be prepared for/equipped to handle.
8) What role do you see Jeff Green settling into after going from starter in game 1 to coming off the bench in game 2?
CrF: Jeff should stay with the bench unit and give us the scoring we need from them. Green can give us 12-15 points per game in that role, come in and play the 3 or 4. Plus leaving him on the bench means Tony Allen can start and wreak havoc.
BCJ: I think Green will be in with bench lineups to add some scoring punch and in any tight games for his free throw shooting. Beyond that, I think it's Tony Allen and Courtney Lee getting the heavy wing minutes. I don't know whether he'll start or not, and frankly I don't think it makes much difference.
AM: I don't think it matters much if Green starts, because if Tony continues to post an defensive rating of 89, he'll get the majority of minutes. Beno can use Green as a go-to scorer on the second unit and Jeff can turn turnovers into buckets on the break. He'll be a small utility knife in this series.
AF: I think that largely depends on Tony Allen's health, but I see him coming off of the bench. I maintain that he plays better with the bench because he seems less up tight about making a mistake in that role. He can be a volume scorer coming off the bench, and that suits his game better. Joerger will continue to play matchups and try to get Green posted up against smaller guards. That strategy works better with the starters, because the focus isn't typically on Green. With that said, Green will continue to serve in a plug and play role. He will probably play plenty with the starters and various bench lineups.
9) What is your opinion on the Brisket Mac & Cheese Jalapeño Cone?
EL: I'll be passing on this one at the food court...
JJ: I don't understand why people eat anything other than BBQ Nachos at Grizzly games.
KE: I used to wrestle as a construction worker, and they called me the Demolition Man, because I was always blowing up my opponents. Nick Jonas and I were tag team partners. They called us "Diabetes Explosion," which is the nicest thing I can say about said food item.
CW: I'm totally down for ridiculously fattening food. That looks like something I'd eat and probably enjoy.
JM: I almost booked a flight for game two when I heard about it. Enough said.
10) Who is the hardest to look at without cringing: Robin Lopez, Chris Kaman, Meyers Leonard or Steve Blake?
CrF: Robin Lopez. Ball don't lie. Neither does that face.
BCJ: This is a tough one given Portland's mix of pretty boys (Leonard), possibly auditioning for Sons of Anarchy (Kaman), and possibly descending into madness (Lopez, Blake). I'll give it to Blake for his chihuahua-esque appearance and style of play, narrowly edging Meyers and his hair product.
KE: This is really a two horse race. Meyers Leonard is kind of a beautiful man, I think we can all admit that, and Steve Blake is just Meth Nick Calathes. So it comes down to Lopez and the K-Man. What's it called when your back hair grows into your neck hair grows into your real hair? That's what Robin Lopez is working with. But as of now, it has to be Chris Kaman. Ovaries immediately dry up the moment he enters a city, and he has the sex appeal of a pediatric cancer ward.
AM: Easily Chris Kaman. Like, it's not even close. The ratty red beard, the soulless eyes... he looks like the fat grand-nephew of Vincent Van Gogh. His goatee looks like it got sucked halfway down a disposal. To quote Donald Glover: "...It's like God spilled a person."
AF: Is this from a basketball perspective, or is this more of a looks thing? Assuming it's a looks question, Lopez's eyes will always creep me out, and that hair adds to the whole "I'm going to kill you because I'm crazy" vibe he gives off. I'm answering this late at night, so it looks like I won't be getting to sleep anytime soon. Thanks a lot, Robin Lopez.
11) Who wins the series and in how many games, and why?
EL: Grizz win and don't even have to grind it out- 5 games.
CrF: Grizz win in 5. Blazers might just sneak one on their own patch.
JJ: Grizzlies in 4.
BCJ: Grizzlies in 5. Portland may well pull out one of the next couple at home with Afflalo back, but the Grizzlies are 6-0 against them this season and have looked in control every minute of these first 2 games.
KE: Grizzlies in 6. I think Rip City shows up loud and proud during the next two games, but then Memphis takes 5 and 6 with relative ease.
CW: Grizz in 5. They're better than the Blazers.
JM: We talked about this on GBBLive; Game 3 is the game Portland has to take in order to send this series back to Memphis. If Afflalo can go and play close to his ability, that plus the energy of being back home should carry them to a win. Game 4 will be Memphis' chance to then come home and end it in 5. So, Grizzlies in 5.
AM: Grizz sweep. Sorry, Portlandia.