The Grizzlies have been riddled with inconsistency this season, and that trend has unfortunately continued following the All-Star break. After a disheartening loss in Indiana, the Grizzlies picked up a much-needed win against the Denver Nuggets on Sunday. Last night, the Grizzlies returned to FedExForum to face the Phoenix Suns. Coming into last night, the Grizzlies led the season series 2-0.
Out the gate, Marc Gasol and Mike Conley opened the game up with a couple three pointers. But the game started off with a bang as Vince Carter was ejected in the first period after an elbow swing. The Grizzlies quickly found themselves in a 9-point hole and with 4 turnovers. However, the Grizzlies made course corrections and went on a run themselves to pull within two going into the second quarter (27-25).
In the second quarter, Phoenix and Memphis wrestled back and forth for the lead. Phoenix maintained the lead, though, thanks in part to a strong first half performance from Devin Booker. For Memphis, both Marc Gasol and Mike Conley had solid first half showings. Conley had 13 points, while Gasol had 14. However, Memphis continued to allow Phoenix too many points in the paint, trailing in that category at halftime, 30-24. Memphis was down by 1 going into the half, 56-55.
During the third, the Grizzlies picked up the pace on offense, and Marc Gasol showed off his range by hitting two threes in a row midway through the quarter. The Suns stayed within striking distance and never let the Grizzlies grasp too firm of a lead. That is, until the last couple minutes of the third. Memphis led Phoenix going into the final period, 93-85.
Down the stretch in the fourth quarter, the Grizzlies took control of the game and didn’t look back. The Grizzlies extended it to a double digit lead, and with 5 minutes left Memphis had a 16 point cushion. After that, the Suns seemed to roll over and let the Grizzlies take control. Memphis swept the season series against the Suns with a victory on home court last night, 130-112. For the Suns, Eric Bledsoe scored 20 points, and Alan Williams had 11. In addition, the Grizzlies finally caught back up in points in the paint and ended up leading 62-58 in that category.
"I thought it was a game that we needed," -Tony Allen— Grizzly Bear Blues (@sbnGrizzlies) March 1, 2017
The Troy Daniels Conundrum
Troy Daniels’ performances as of late (or lack thereof) have been a concerning development. It seems that Coach Fizdale is cutting down on Daniels’ minutes the past handful of games, and James Ennis appears to be possibly taking his spot. Even with Vince Carter ejected in the first quarter of last night’s game, Daniels still only had 12 minutes total and 2 points.
In the past 6 games, he’s averaging 6.3 PPG and 14.3 minutes per game. For a stretch of the season, it wasn’t abnormal for Troy Daniels to play 20+ minutes, but now that’s more of a rarity.
On the flip side, James Ennis is getting an increase in minutes overall. In the past 6 games he’s averaging 16.9 minutes per game.
Daniels’ minutes have been spread out and quite invisible, as his production has been inconsistent overall. Although it’s not a dramatic decrease, as Ennis’ minutes have increased slightly, Daniels’ minutes have had a slight dip.
So is Daniels having issues with Fizdale? Is there an unannounced injury? Is his confidence waning? Or is it just a coincidence?
Only time will tell.
The Big 3
Marc Gasol, Mike Conley, and Zach Randolph all followed up their strong performances from Sunday against the Denver Nuggets with another stellar showing last night. The three Grizzlies combined for 80 points and took control of this one to lead Memphis to victory. After an overall slow start to the game for the team, Zach Randolph got it going off the bench, and Marc Gasol was a perfect 5-5 from the three point line.
Mike Conley continues to prove that he’s an All-Star snub after putting up 29 points last night to go along with 8 assists and 0 turnovers.
The only slightly concerning number is that Mike Conley played 39 minutes in a game that he really shouldn’t have had to. Also, Marc Gasol had a -1 plus-minus rating, while Randolph had a rating of +20 and Conley a rating of +25, which is odd but seems inconsequential.
Zach Randolph is still contending for sixth man of the year as he continues to impress on and off the court (Randolph also just received the NBA Community Assist Award). In addition, the results continue to be positive when Gasol and Conley are both aggressive on offense, rather than one letting the other shine alone, which isn’t surprising at all.
First Half Slumps
A slightly concerning trend has been the Grizzlies’ mediocre first half performances since the All-Star break. Friday versus Indiana, the Grizzlies were -12 at the half. Against Denver, Memphis was only +3, and last night they were -1.
Memphis needs to get off to faster starts, because against teams like the Golden State Warriors and the Houston Rockets, the Grizzlies can get buried so deep they won’t be able to recover. Against Indiana last week, this definitely was the case. The Grizzlies came out sloppy, still seemed to be on vacation, and performed lackadaisically offensively and defensively, and that was ultimately the killer.
However, against Denver and Phoenix, the Grizzlies picked up the pace on both ends of the court in the second half and were able to take hold of the game after having sluggish starts in both matches. It was really impressive as Memphis reached 130 points last night, which is unheard of in recent Grizzlies memory.
"Defensively I thought we were much more engaged, much more consistent," -Marc Gasol.— Grizzly Bear Blues (@sbnGrizzlies) March 1, 2017
Now, Memphis looks ahead to two pivotal division road games. With the playoff race being so tight, it’s crucial that Memphis at least splits the back-to-back this weekend. After facing the Dallas Mavericks on Friday, the Grizzlies will face the high-octane Houston Rockets on Saturday. Having slow starts in either of those games could prove fatal, so it’s extremely important that Memphis is mentally and physically ready at the tip for this weekend.
"This is the most important time of the season, it's a sprint to the finish," -Mike Conley— Grizzly Bear Blues (@sbnGrizzlies) March 1, 2017
"You're talking about one of the biggest givers this league has ever seen," -Coach Fizdale on Randolph's community assist award— Grizzly Bear Blues (@sbnGrizzlies) March 1, 2017
"I think all great players have specific teams that they just play better against," -Coach Fizdale on Conley's fantastic play against Suns— Grizzly Bear Blues (@sbnGrizzlies) March 1, 2017
"The last two games, to win against speed, is a good thing...Speed has kinda been kicking our butt lately," -Coach Fizdale— Grizzly Bear Blues (@sbnGrizzlies) March 1, 2017