WHEN: 7:00 PM CT
WHERE: FedExForum in Memphis, TN
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: FOX Sports Southeast/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
MEMPHIS- Mike Conley (Out, Achilles), Wayne Selden Jr. (Out, Quad), Brandan Wright(Questionable, Groin), Mario Chalmers (Questionable, Ankle), Chandler Parsons (Questionable, Knee)
SAN ANTONIO- Kawhi Leonard (Out, Quad), Derrick White (Out, Wrist)
MEMPHIS- Tyreke Evans, Ben McLemore, Dillon Brooks, JaMychal Green, Marc Gasol
SAN ANTONIO- Tony Parker, Danny Green, Kyle Anderson, LaMarcus Aldridge, Pau Gasol
A team that lost 8 in a row, in utter disarray, fired its coach, a move causing even more havoc on a leaky organization. That team then had to face the San Antonio Spurs. They have now lost 9 in a row. That team plays the Spurs again, tonight, with no indication that anything has changed for the better.
The Memphis Grizzlies fired David Fizdale, a nod to NBA players’ power in this league. A move to appease the players would surely motivate them to play harder, better, or at least differently than before...right?
It did not.
The Grizzlies defense looks toothless, the offense looks stagnant. Maybe the losing streak was David Fizdale’s fault, maybe it wasn’t. But the team is at a talent disadvantage most nights. The personnel might not be up to snuff with the rest of the league, showing in the terribly small sample size of one game, that they could lose without Fizdale.
These discussions about the organization and its capabilities are heavy and big-picture topics, but it affects day-to-day games. The team isn’t as sharp as it was to start the season and eventually it’s going to change.
Here’s what needs to happen to get snap the losing streak and get the first win in the Bickerstaff era.
Not to sound like a broken record, but the defense needs to be better before anything will get better. A team that prides itself on executing well on that end and is reliant on a good defense currently has the 14th best defensive efficiency in the league. Memphis allows a turnover percentage of 14.5% with 15.7 turnovers per game. Against San Antonio, those numbers were 9.5% and 9, respectively. They need to cause more havoc and turnovers to give their stagnant offense a boost.
LaMarcus Aldridge has been having a great year for the Spurs and we all got to witness that first-hand on Wednesday. He has a career-high in PER and true shooting percentage, while shooting the most three-pointers of his career at his second-highest percentage. Memphis undying desire to switch no matter the situation off a screen let LaMarcus Aldridge have his way two nights ago. If any defender with size can stay with LMA the entire game, he won’t be so dominating tonight. The Spurs don’t have a ton of go-to options for scoring (I know I’m saying this as a Grizzlies fan), so making life tough on LaMarcus Aldridge will have a snowball effect against the Spurs.
Too often recently, Marc Gasol OR Tyreke Evans would have a good game, and the rest of the Grizzlies would have some poor offensive production. Or, even more recently, everyone would have poor offensive production or empty points in garbage time.
For the Grizzlies to win this game, their offense can’t be reliant on watching one player go to work while the other 4 watch, even if that one player is a sometimes unwilling passer (lookin’ at you, Tyreke). Keeping everyone on the offense engaged is better for morale and to keep the defense guessing instead of being keyed in on Marc Gasol, making every shot for him be out of rhythm and contested.
A steadier offense would also do wonders for this team’s confidence. Some players get motivated by great defense on offense, some are the opposite or both. But knowing you have a consistent or at least capable offense backing your defense is a load off a defender’s mind. They can play freely and more aggressively, rather than playing sheepish as if they have 5 fouls. Tyreke and Marc need to be in a rhythm, that’s a given, but role players like James Ennis and Andrew Harrison contributing like they did in the last match-up would give Memphis a huge boost.
All the pressure was on Marc to produce on Wednesday. Not only in basketball terms him being our best player and the team having their back against the wall, but the Grizzlies appear to have just fired a coach for this guy. They can say it was because of long-term views or differing philosophies, but all the public sees or is going to see is Marc Gasol being benched against Brooklyn, getting mad, then Fizdale getting fired. Those events are going to always be tied together.
Maybe Wednesday Marc was too shook considering the circumstances; he’s been known as moody, but never a coach killer. Hopefully being back home will be a boost to his production, if the home crowd doesn’t boo him.
Until anything changes, I’m going to predict a loss. I don’t even remember what a Memphis win feels like. It was years ago.
The Spurs are very good, and are unlikely to take their foot off your throat just because you’re struggling or they beat you two days prior. If anything, it makes them more likely to beat you because they never take a night off and they’re extremely well coached. The Grizzlies take several nights off and are interim-coached. Do you see the issue?
Memphis is still injury-riddled and still free-falling. They very easily could win this game if they play a modicum of defense with some lucky shots. They could also easily lose this game by double digits. That’s happened more often than winning outright, so I’m going with a Memphis loss, their 10th in a row.
San Antonio 94 @ Memphis 86