Your Memphis Grizzlies (7-11, 4-6 home) return to FedExForum this evening for an early tip against the Brooklyn Nets (6-12, 2-7 road). Game time is 5:00 PM CT and can be seen on FOX Sports Southeast and heard on 92.9 FM ESPN Memphis. The Grizzlies remain without the services of Mike Conley, Wayne Selden Jr., and Brandan Wright. Meanwhile, Brooklyn is without their starting backcourt of Jeremy Lin and D’Angelo Russell.
Things have not been going well for Memphis as of late, as you likely know if you are reading this game preview. But the good news is there is still plenty of basketball left to be played, and the Grizzlies are only a game away from the eight seed in the way too early to keep track playoff race. They also are only four games out of the four seed in a Western Conference that is extremely jumbled in the middle. There is time to right the ship, but wins against bad teams like the Nets are a must.
Here are three quick keys to victory-
Dictate the tempo
The Brooklyn Nets currently are 1st in the entire NBA in pace, according to basketball-reference.com. They want to run the floor, they want to get up shots, they want to push tempo as often as they can. Even with the new personnel for Memphis, this isn’t the greatest strength of the Grizzlies as an all-the-time philosophy. It does work, however, when JaMychal Green and company can create turnovers and rebound long misses off of threes.
Brooklyn protects the ball well (only 15.3 turnovers per game), but they shoot 33.7 three pointers per game, good for 5th in the NBA, while only converting on those shots 34.7% of the time, which is 24th in the Association. Memphis, as long as they secure the rebound (not always a guarantee as Denver showed us), can use these opportunities to try to get easy and efficient scores in transition.
Give them nothing easy
Much like Denver on Friday, the Nets are a poor free throw shooting team. They shoot a paltry 73% from the charity stripe, which is 26th in the NBA. Wings like Caris Lavert (60.4%), as well as bigs like Trevor Booker (54.3%) and Timofey Mozgov (69.2%) should never be given an easy lay-up. It is unrealistic to expect Memphis to turn around their defensive issues in a single game, so there will likely be breakdowns on that end of the court with poor communication and switches.
The Grizzlies just have to make sure those Nets in particular earn their points from the free throw line.
It’s the ball movement, stupid
Watching the Grizzlies offense lately is like watching the worst of the Rudy Gay and Zach Randolph iso days, those times where the ball stops with those players and they miss the shot or dribble it off their foot out of bounds. Stagnant is a nice way of putting it- it’s poor execution and effort on that end of the floor without Mike Conley there to orchestrate sets. With Tyreke Evans being perhaps the one exception, Grizzlies players should be looking to move the ball as quickly as possible to try to find a shooter or a player with a lane to drive to the basket.
You cannot, and will not, replace the production of Conley. But in order to have a chance to put together his impact in the aggregate you must create opportunities as a unit. Standing and watching someone dribble and then shoot, or two guys in the pick and roll, is not going to work. It hasn’t for seven straight losses, and it isn’t going to start now. Move the ball.
Ah yes, we’ve been here before. We caution you that this will be a tough game because of the opponent’s strengths- in this case, the ability of Brooklyn to push the pace and well-rounded scoring (seven active players who average scoring in double figures). Then, we call on Marc Gasol or Tyreke Evans to step up in crunch time and pull away when the game matters most in crunch time and call for a close win for the Grizzlies.
Well, Memphis, that trend is going to continue. Because recent results aside, this Grizzlies team is not as bad as their record suggests they are. In this moment, yes, they are not playing well. But today, in an early start against a supposedly inferior opponent (-3.5 net rating for Brooklyn according to basketball-reference.com, -1.7 net rating for Memphis), with Marc Gasol playing against Mozgov and Tyreke Evans lining up against the likes of Joe Harris...you just have to believe that the streak will end.
If it doesn’t? Things could get real ugly, real fast. But Memphis will win.
Memphis 101, Brooklyn 95