January has not started the way that the Memphis Grizzlies had hoped. 1-2 on the recent road trip out to Portland, Utah, and Oklahoma City has to be considered a disappointment for a team (and some bloggers) who had hopes that January would be the month that the Memphis Grizzlies turned it around. The overtime loss in Utah, with an offensive explosion by a player like Rodney Hood, particularly stings considering Utah's health issues and the Grizzlies' missed opportunities in the contest. Both Mike Conley and Marc Gasol had their chances to close out the game, and could not convert.
With the health of the roster in question heading in to Friday night's game against the Denver Nuggets, as Ron Tillery of the Memphis Commercial Appeal points out in this Tweet...
Mike Conley (Achilles) and Courtney Lee (Hip Contusion) are doubtful tomorrow vs Denver— Ronald Tillery (@CAGrizBeat) January 7, 2016
The Grizzlies can now share in the concerns of the Jazz...and hopefully in their success despite health issues. These next six games are vital if Memphis has any hopes of turning their season around and getting back into the realistic conversation of being a four or five seed in the Western Conference playoff picture. This is very important not just to the Grizzlies, but to the Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Clippers as well- all three teams would almost certainly prefer to avoid Oklahoma City, San Antonio and Golden State as long as possible. As the conference settles over the next month or so, it is looking more and more likely that these three teams (with Memphis perhaps being the squad most likely to fade back to the six seed of the three) will be the ones fighting it out to face each other in the four-five matchup.
Which brings us back to Memphis' next six games. They are all at home, and are theoretically all winnable. Who exactly are the Grizzlies facing, and how do they compare to Memphis statistically? Lets compare Memphis since their move to a smaller starting lineup December 13th with their upcoming opponents.
|Team||Offensive Efficiency||Defensive Efficiency||Net Rating|
|New York Knicks||107.2||106.3||+.9|
|New Orleans Pelicans||102.5||103.9||-1.4|
Memphis, despite their 6-7 record the past 13 games, is the 3rd best of the seven teams listed in net rating during that time span. Their offensive rating is sixth best (thanks for helping out, Boston Celtics) but they are playing the best defense of all of the teams they will be competing against. If the Grizzlies can figure out their offensive woes (a potential issue, considering the fact that Mike Conley and Courtney Lee may be out for one or more of these contests) they should be competitive in all of these games, especially considering that they are at home...
That would be helpful, if Memphis was a team that performed at a dominant clip at home. Unfortunately, so far this season, that has not been the case. Memphis is 11-6 so far this season at home, and is actually shooting worse at home (42.9%) from the floor than they do on the road (43.5%). Their shot chart is a bit depressing, especially at the rim, where the Grizzlies are drastically underperforming.
The three point shooting isn't overly impressive either, although it is better at home overall (34.4%) than on the road (a miserable 28.9%). Being so poor at and around the rim is concerning, and is a number that must increase if the Grizzlies want to have success in this six game home stand. The Grizzlies also attempt more free throws at home (26) than on the road (23.2), making four more of them per game (21.6 to 17.5). This is also very important for an offense struggling to score; converting "easy" opportunities at the charity stripe will be a good indicator of whether or not Memphis will be in the game in the FedExForum.
That 11-6 record mentioned earlier, good for a 64.7% win percentage, is tied for tenth in the NBA so far this season but is nowhere near their win percentage of 75.6% from last season. If that 64.7% were applied to the next six games, it would be a safe prediction that the Grizzlies would go 4-2 over these next six games, with perhaps contests against the Celtics and Pistons being potential losses for Memphis. However, 4-2 would only get the Bears of Beale Street to a record of 23-20, probably not good enough to move up (or closer to the five seed) out west and putting the Grizzlies on pace for roughly a 44 win season.
It may have to be good enough for Memphis, if this level of play is "the new normal." The Grizzlies may well struggle if the injuries to Courtney Lee and Mike Conley are serious. For this home stand to be a success, however, 4-2 must be the bottom of expectations. If the Grizzlies somehow fall to 3-3, or heaven forbid worse, in these next six games starting tonight with Denver? It may well be time to sell some pieces, and fast.
Stats provided by NBA.com/stats