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The Friday Three: The Anatomy of a Game-Winner

In this week’s Friday Three, the cardiac Grizzlies are about to have their minutes restrictions tested.

It has been quite the intense week, both in Grizz Nation and the country at large. You’ll find no hot political takes here, just a hope that folks know that no election impacts how you treat others. You control that.

Keep that in mind. Be happy, disappointed, angry, whatever. Just don’t lose sight of what you can control - being a great person. Politics are politics, but you are still you and those you love still need you at your best. Don’t lose sight of that. Be a part of making this country and world better - get involved and be a force for good in your community.

Off the soap box. To the Friday Three.

The Cardiac Grizzlies Strike Again-The Anatomy of a Play

The Memphis Grizzlies continue to be one of the luckiest most clutch teams in the NBA, with Marc Gasol leading that charge. Winning on buzzer beaters and long-range threes is cool and all, but it’s hard to shake the feeling that it isn’t really sustainable. The Grizzlies as of this writing were 25th in the NBA in point differential, posting a paltry 97.1 points per game while giving up 102.1 points per game. That -5 point differential is more along the lines of a 2-6 or 3-5 team, which Memphis could easily be at this point...

But they aren’t. Because the Grizzlies continue to buck those statistical trends with excellent execution down the stretch of games (and a little bit of luck).

So how did Gasol and his Grizzlies teammates get it done against Denver? First, the play itself:

Impressive, right? The ol’ screen for the screener trick. Let’s break it down:

Emmanuel Mudiay goes under the Gasol screen, defending the initial set by the Grizzlies well. He does the very best that he can on this play - impressive for a younger player in this situation.

Kenneth Faried? Not so much.

Watching the ball is not Faried’s major sin here - many players would have played this in a similar fashion. The problem is not using another of his senses - touch - well enough. If he felt Gasol by having his hands on him, his eyes could go and find the ball/impending pass. But the combination of the Ennis screen and the lack of overall awareness by Faried has doomed the Nuggets.

Not having a taller player like Nikola Jokic or Jusef Nurkic surely hurts here, but there is no guarantee they defend this play better than Faried. While size was not on Denver’s side, it was defensive execution that let them down and offensive execution that won the day in yet another miracle in Memphis.

Will the Weary Rest at Home?

NBA: Preseason-Oklahoma City Thunder at Memphis Grizzlies Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

A look ahead at the Grizzlies schedule after this four-game road trip shows quite an interesting situation developing for Memphis. The Grizz will have a back to back next weekend, with a road game in Dallas against the Mavericks on Friday night to end the road trip followed by Memphis’ third game against the Timberwolves in 12 days Saturday night back in FedExForum.

David Fizdale has shown willingness to both limit minutes for key players like Marc Gasol and Mike Conley in these situations, as well as completely sit them out. You can probably add Chandler Parsons to the list of those who may sit out on select back to backs. This strategy, while controversial to some, is logical considering the investment in Parsons/Conley/Gasol and their past health concerns.

Golden State Warriors v Memphis Grizzlies - Game Three Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

However, this back to back is different than the previous two. The first game is a divisional game against a team who Memphis may be competing with for a playoff spot come March and April, and the second game is a Saturday night contest at home. Memphis is obviously a place where the paying customers have spent their hard earned money to watch Conley and Gasol play, so while resting them may be the logical choice, it has to be a concern for the Front Office to perhaps frustrate those ticket holders who want to watch the Grizzlies at full strength.

David Fizdale may not want to have to worry about that, but it comes with the territory of being a professional head coach. He is not Gregg Popovich yet - there will be times to sit those guys again completely, but next weekend is not one of them. While Gasol/Conley/Randolph will surely see some sort of restriction, I would be surprised if all three don’t play in either Dallas or the home game against the Timberwolves. 20 minutes in each game is better than no minutes at home or in a divisional contest.

The Double-Edged Sword of Turnovers

NBA: Denver Nuggets at Memphis Grizzlies Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

The Grizzlies are both giving to and taking away from the opposition so far this season, and it has contributed to their 4-4 record directly. The Grizzlies heading into Thursday night’s games ranked 19th in the NBA in turnovers per game, at 15.3 per game. This is not ideal for a team that struggles to score the basketball at times - every possession is precious to the offensively challenged Grizzlies. The most troubling part is that it’s veteran players - Mike Conley (2.9 turnovers per game), Zach Randolph (2.1), Chandler Parsons (2.0), and Marc Gasol (1.9) - who are some of the biggest early culprits of not protecting the basketball. New schemes or not, they should know better.

However, on the other hand, the Grizzlies are forcing a lot of turnovers themselves. Memphis is creating 15.8 turnovers against their opponents per game through eight games this season, good for sixth in the NBA. Their turnovers forced percentage, or amount of turnovers forced per 100 possessions, is 15.1%, which ranks fourth in the Association. They may be losing opportunities to score, but they are getting them back through playing passing lanes and forcing their competition into mistakes as well.

The good news is that as the Grizzlies get more comfortable in the schemes of David Fizdale, Memphis should start to see that turnovers per game number go down while still being able to maintain their turnovers forced. It comes down to offensive execution - following through on passes, allowing the game to come to you, not over-dribbling or forcing a pass or penetration attempt that isn’t there. That will come with time and opportunity for these Grizzlies to play together. Everything is still very new.

And that in and of itself is a double-edged sword. The same thing that makes Memphis so fascinating to watch so far - new players, new schemes, and new coaching staff - is in part leading to issues with turnovers offensively so far. But patience must be a virtue here. Defensively the schemes are beginning to bear fruit, and with health and minutes together this roster will only continue to gel under their new head coach.

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