Before the Memphis Grizzlies and San Antonio Spurs tip tonight for game two, I felt the need to talk through some things with a fellow GBBer. Get some things off my chest, ask some questions, hope to find some answers...you know, the type of existential thinking that occurs after the team you follow gets smacked in their opening game of the 2017 NBA Playoffs.
This series will continue as long as the Grizzlies are in the playoffs...which won’t be long if the Grizzlies don’t figure things out...and fast. For game two’s edition of Grizzly Thoughts I am joined by GBB Video Content Editor Mark King. Follow him on Twitter @king_producer.
Joe Mullinax (@JoeMullinax)- OK Mark, game one was exciting for about 24 minutes and then a nightmare for the other 24 minutes. The Memphis Grizzlies were in the fight for the first half, then they got destroyed in the second. WHAT WENT RIGHT, AND WHAT WENT WRONG?
Mark King- I guess we should talk about what went right first, since it will be a much shorter answer. First of all, they came out with the right attitude. Marc and Mike both came out from the start of the game looking to take it over and score the basketball. I think we were all a little worried about how Marc Gasol was going to play in the first place, and he answered that pretty quickly. He came out aggressive, and the overall team defense was smothering in that first quarter. That defensive pressure was like watching a game from 2011, unfortunately that little snippet was the only thing reminiscent of that 2011 series.
The problem is the same problem that I think we knew going into this series, and that is they are severely undermanned on offense. Their best role players are now playing staters minutes instead of regular rotation minutes. You have guys that are supposed to be playing 15-20 minutes a night, and now you are asking them to be a much larger part of the team. The Grizzlies did not get anything from Troy Daniels. Vince Carter, and Zach Randolph, their three main "secondary" scorers. When Mike Conley when out of the game, the offense went off the rails quickly, something we knew was likely to happen coming into the game.
The Grizzlies have no one outside of a few guys that can dribble the basketball and not be pressured in to bad turnovers. There were a lot of problems with that game, but the main one is that they just couldn't make shots. They were getting some good looks in that third quarter, but they just couldn't convert. You cant miss shots AND play mediocre defense against the Spurs. It doesn't work like that. WHAT DO THEY DO GOING FORWARD TO GAME 2? WHAT CHANGES SHOULD THEY MAKE IF ANY?
Mullinax- I think Pau Gasol and David Lee were sneakily problems for JaMychal Green and Zach Randolph. It was an all-around bad night once the third quarter started. A lack of depth was magnified by the fact this team's third scorer hasn't been healthy all season. And of course it didn’t help that Andrew Harrison was not consistent. But neither was the rest of the bench. 3-13 shooting from Zach Randolph can’t happen again if Memphis hopes to win.
As far as changes go, I would seriously consider starting Troy Daniels. It would allow for offensive flow and spacing to start both halves. Wayne Selden Jr. isn't the problem, but Daniels allows for opportunities to spread the floor. Make Selden an early sub for Daniels or Carter. It would also help ensure, as Jon Roser brought up on GBBLive last week, that Daniels and Randolph aren't on the floor together as two defensive liabilities too often.
From there, I'd explore playing Conley off the ball a lot more, especially when Danny Green or Kawhi are defending him (which is most of the time). Carter, Andrew Harrison, even Daniels could facilitate basic offense. Let Conley run around and off of screens, freeing up opportunities for him to have more space. Gasol can also get back to that role of facilitator on the elbow a bit more.
I look forward to seeing what Fizdale does to counter the Spurs adjustments. HOW CONFIDENT ARE YOU IN FIZDALE'S ABILITY TO ADAPT FOR A MORE COMPETITIVE GAME TWO?
King- I like the idea of starting Troy Daniels. It would give up some things offensively for the second unit but it does rectify some of the defensive liabilities. Scoring is going to be a problem no matter what for the second unit for this team because of injuries. I am not sure how you can fix that at this point in the season.
As far as Fizdale is concerned, his lineups have confused me all year long. Some of the times that he had Troy Daniels riding the bench on hot streaks or Toney Douglas some of the minutes that he was playing. That being said, I am not super confident in his ability to adapt quickly. I think he can recognize patterns as well as any coach and make the changes eventually, but I think he is hesitant to make changes quickly. Selden starting isn't the answer, but it wouldn't surprise me if was starting Game 2. Fizdale tends to stay with a player for too long and make the changes too late, and against this team and this coach, that simply won't work.
I am curious to see who is starting Game 2. WHO DO YOU THINK WILL START GAME 2?
Mullinax- Part of the lineup issue is the health of the roster, but your point is well taken. I think that Selden Jr. will start Game 2. Again, it isn’t like he is the reason the bench stunk, or Mike Conley struggled beyond the first quarter. Fizdale likes how complete the young wing is, or how he is the most complete option he currently has, and seems willing to invest this opportunity in him. I don’t think starting Daniels or Ennis III or anyone else saves them at this point- and that includes Tony Allen if/when he returns.
That isn’t to say they can’t compete tonight. On the contrary- I am a big dummy who still thinks they can win. But Mike Conley, Marc Gasol, and Zach Randolph are going to have to combine to score at least 70 points. If they can do that, they have a shot. A combined 35 or so from the rest of the roster would get them over 100, and if you score 100 on San Antonio you would imagine you would have a chance.
Although...when opposing teams scored more than 100 points this season on the Spurs they were still 23-8. The Spurs are a machine. Gasol/Randolph/Conley must lead the way, or the Grizzlies will return to Memphis down 0-2.
Thanks to Mark for chatting with me. Look for the next edition of Grizzly Thoughts on Thursday before Game Three.