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The Memphis Grizzlies: Born to run (and defend)

The winning formula for Memphis

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Memphis Grizzlies Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

The Memphis Grizzlies won a basketball game.

The last time the Grizzlies won was almost a month ago. They played the Minnesota Timberwolves last night and cured all their problems, at least for one night anyway. The Grizzlies played a style of basketball that they have not played in a long time. Right now, the Grizzlies do not have the players to play a consistently slow pace and run sets in halfcourt basketball. They do not have skilled enough starters or reserves to keep up with other teams like they have in the past few years, especially with Mike Conley out for the next 2-3 weeks.

They have traditionally have had good defense, and in past years, that allowed them to slow the pace down, throw it to Marc Gasol or Zach Randolph in the post, and take the entire shot clock to get a good shot. That wont work as often anymore, as that is not how the roster is constructed. When the Grizzlies beat the Timberwolves on Monday night, they did something they have not done in a while.

They played defense and they ran.

They got defensive stops and got out in transition, which allowed players like James Ennis III, Deyonta Davis, and Ben McLemore to score the ball without having to run set plays. It played to the strengths of the roster, allowing players to get down the court and get easy buckets. The Grizzlies out scored the Timberwolves 24-8 in transition points, but all that started with defensive stops. When they are getting defensive stops, it does not allow the defense to set up. It forces the opponent to make quicker decisions than they normally do in a half court set.

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Memphis Grizzlies Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

When the Grizzlies lost eleven in a row, they never out scored their opponent by six in fast break points. Most of the games were spent tied in fast break points or getting beat by a large number. The last win that the Grizzlies had back in the early part of November was against the Portland Trail Blazers. They out scored their opponent in fast break points seventeen to three. In the last two wins, they have over ten extra points just by running the court and scoring in transition.

Scoring in transition is not the only part of the equation for this most recent win against the Timberwolves. Defense is the other piece for this team and it means even more than it has in the past few years. Tyreke Evans, Marc Gasol, and Chandler Parsons are the only three players on the roster right now that can create their own shot. Chandler Parsons isn’t even playing right now, so defense has to be the most important focus right now for this team.

The average defensive rating in the eleven losses over the past month has been 113. The average defensive rating for the last three wins has been 105. The game Monday night was the best defensive rating in over a month at 103. However, when they slow the game down and at the same time stop playing defense, the Grizzlies lose.

For example, the win against the Timberwolves, the Grizzlies were playing great defense and running the court until about 3 and half minutes left in the game. After that, they decided to slow the game down and run some clock for their offensive sets.

JaMychal Green misses 25-foot three point jumper.

Tyreke Evans misses step back jumpshot.

Andrew Harrison personal foul.

Tyreke Evans out of bounds bad pass turnover.

Dillon Brooks misses 26-foot three point jumper.

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at Memphis Grizzlies Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Thats it. That is all the offense for the last three and a half minutes of the game, and they scored two points off of two free throws from Tyreke Evans, but their defense held on for the win. Their defense is what put them in a spot to run up and down the floor for twenty four fast break points. Their defense is what held Jimmy Butler to four points in the fourth quarter. Their defense is what made it so difficult for Karl-Anthony Towns to score the ball and only take six shots in the entire game. Something that has not happened all season for KAT.

If this team wants to win while they are still missing very important players on their roster, then their defense will have to be the focal point. Their defense is what will make it easier for this team to score points. It will play to the strengths of the athletic roster and being able to score in transition will only come easier for players that are not used to creating shots for themselves or others.

The key is in the defense.

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