We’re taking a look at the Grizzlies schedule, month-by-month, to get a better feel for what the 2016-17 season has in store for the Bears of Beale Street. Earlier this week, we took a look at October and November. Today, we’ll be breaking down the Grizzlies’ final month of 2016.
After starting the month out with a few teams that finished last season below .500, the Grizzlies enter a brutal run of basketball. Starting December 8, ten of Memphis' next twelve games are against teams that made the playoffs last season, including two games against the defending champion Cavaliers, and one against the Durant-infused Warriors.
The most daunting portion of that stretch is likely the beginning. The Grizzlies will get the Blazers and the Warriors at home on the 8th and 10th before a home-and-home back-to-back series against the Cavaliers (hopefully LeBron will take one of those games off, but that's probably wishful thinking). Then, after Dave Joerger makes his return to Memphis with the Kings on the 16th, the Grizzlies will play host to Utah and Boston on the 18th and 20th before heading up to Detroit to face the Pistons on the 21st.
The silver lining here is that a lot of it takes place within the friendly confines of FedExForum. Only two of those seven games (Cleveland and Detroit) will take place outside of the Bluff City. It doesn't help, however, that both of those games are part of a back-to-back.
Fortunately for the Grizzlies, before they kick off that brutal stretch of games, they open December with games against Orlando, the Lakers, the Pelicans, and the Sixers, four teams with a combined win percentage in 2015-16 of 31.4%. Memphis will need to start off the month hot to give themselves a little cushion in the standings as December wears on. It’s possible that they’d be okay with a 3-1 record to open the month, but they’d (obviously) be much better served by taking all four of those contests.
Memphis is going to need to take advantage of the few soft spots of their schedule in December. That means likely going 4-0 to open the month, and taking at least one of their two match-ups against the Kings. It’d also be nice to see them take at least one game from the Warriors-Cavs-Cavs three game stretch. If they can do that, combined with winning some tough games against playoff-caliber competition, it’s possible that they win 10-12 games for the second straight month.
That may be wishful thinking, though. The schedule is loaded with talented teams, and there’s just as much chance for things to go off the rails. And if things do go sideways, there’s a good possibility that the Grizzlies finish with a sub-.500 record for December.
It’s hard to look at the December schedule and feel confident about the Grizzlies’ chances. Even if they’re able to stay healthy and find a groove, the close of 2016 is far from kind to the Grizzlies. This is one of those months where it may be best to just hope that the Grizzlies can manage to keep their heads above water. It’s still too early in the year to call it “make or break” time, but December will certainly provide insight into just how these Grizzlies handle a good challenge and a little adversity.