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Eight Thoughts on Grizzlies vs. Jazz

The Grizzlies won last night. But all is still not well in Memphis.

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1) Pick-and-roll coverage is still a massive problem for the Grizzlies. Early in the game, Conley gave Exum baseline on a side pick-and-roll, forcing him to down the pick. Nobody stepped into the lane to cut off Exum, leading to a wide-open layup. That kind of error cannot be attributed to the Grizzlies' learning curve with coach David Fizdale's new system. That's a basic rotational breakdown that can't happen.

Later in the game, Andrew Harrison gave up an easy dunk to Dante Exum in the pick-and-roll because the coverage was off. Fizdale has harped on guards fighting through screens, which will help some, but at some point the Grizzlies are just going to have to learn to switch on more ball screens to combat breakdowns in coverage.

2) Marc Gasol really likes the three-point shot from the top of the key early in offensive sets. Guys are still not aggressively closing out on him, which plays directly into the Grizzlies' hands. Gasol is a 34.3% three-point shooter so far this season, could enough to be around league average. The Grizzlies will take an open Gasol three every chance they can get it because of the other offensive looks the shot opens up for the team. The spacing truly expands with each three Gasol launches.

3) Sets including flex action are much more crisp under Fizdale than they were under Joerger. This is largely because Fizdale doesn't have Matt Barnes as the guy popping to the perimeter after screening on the baseline, but also because Fizdale has implemented some wrinkles that were non-existent under Joerger. Fizdale has guys curling off of screens on the weakside of the action and/or cutting backdoor rather than standing around idly, and that's made a huge difference. Players seem to have at the very least bought into that part of Fizdale's offensive scheme.

4) Mike Conley's passing ability is incredible. He's executing nifty dump-offs, skip passes, pocket passes, etc. with ease. It's by far the best he's ever looked as a passer during his career. Much of that can be attributed to additional space now that Fizdale is staggering the minutes of space killers more than his predecessors were able or willing to. But Conley deserves a lot of credit for seeing the floor well and lulling the defense to sleep with his creative "dummy" dribbling that appears aimless to defenders but is actually essential to opening up the look he's waiting on.

5) Deyonta Davis getting some run is something I did not expect this early in the season, but it's an important piece of the puzzle. The Grizzlies need a guy like Davis to eat up space around the rim and plug some of the holes in the team's defensive rotation. Davis still has a ways to go before becoming any kind of force offensively, but his defense looks strong minus a few communication issues when he gets pulled out to the perimeter.

6) Parsons isn't right physically at this moment. That statement is not meant to cause panic. Rather, it just needs to be pointed out that it might take some time for this team to reach its potential as they wait on Parsons to round back into form. At one point, he had an isolation on Joe Ingles in the corner and couldn't take him off the dribble. In the past, Parsons would have hit Ingles with a combo of a little stutter step and an exaggerated crossover before blowing by him with a long stride. Tonight, Parsons' strides were choppy as he still seems uncertain of how his body will be able to hold up when he truly exerts himself.

Randolph

7) Zach Randolph uses the rim so much to protect himself. He did it masterfully against Rudy Gobert on multiple occasions tonight. This isn't new, but as Brevin Knight would say.... "for any of you young kids watching out there..." Randolph took Gobert baseline off the bounce once tonight and used the rim to shield himself before scoring on a reverse layup which Gobert had zero chance to block. That's what a veteran move looks like.

8) We didn't see Zach Randolph late tonight, and I think that's the right move (not just because it worked.) Up six points late in the game, the Grizzlies needed a stop more than they needed a bucket so JaMychal Green was given the minutes over Randolph. Defensive rotations late were still iffy, but at least the Jazz couldn't pick on Randolph by drawing him out to the perimeter in the pick-and-roll. That always forces Zach's teammates to do more than they should be responsible for, and the whole defense struggles. Fizdale made the right call tonight whether Zach likes it or not.

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