Site Manager Note- GBB Senior Features Writer Andrew Ford is back! Andrew has tremendous experience as a member of Coach Bruce Pearl’s staff at the University of Tennessee and writes for inRecruit.com and The Sports Post in addition to his work at GBB. He’s a very talented, very busy man, and he found some time to write some thoughts about Grizzlies vs. Spurs.
1) Marc Gasol’s shimmy fake with his back to the basket is so hard to defend because he doesn’t commit to a pivot foot. He beat the Spurs with that move over and over. As soon as the defender guesses which shoulder Gasol is going to turn over, he turns over the opposite one. He’s also perfected the one-legged Dirk fadeaway to the point where I don’t think he will ever miss.
2) Nobody on the Spurs can guard Gasol. Dedmon? Nah. Brother Pau? Nah. Aldridge? Nah. The Grizzlies need to maximize Gasol’s touches on the elbow and the block for the rest of the series. The Spurs are going to continue to try to make the Grizzlies uncomfortable defensively by making Gasol guard either his brother or Aldridge on the perimeter. Force feed Gasol and possibly that forces the Spurs’ hand to go bigger and a little more traditional. I doubt it, but it’s worth a shot.
3) When Aldridge and Gasol are on the floor together, I’d like to see a guy like James Ennis or Vince Carter guarding Aldridge and JaMychal Green on Pau Gasol. That leaves Gasol to roam a little bit more and to sag off into the paint. At the very least, the Grizzlies should attempt to see how the Spurs are aligning and attempt to position him on the strong side of plays more. The Spurs are taking him out of the picture by making his man stand on the opposite wing from where the ball is.
4) David Fizdale deserves a little X’s and O’s credit despite the thorough waxing which transpired in game one. The Grizzlies run a nice little rub curl action on the low block that’s a nice wrinkle into the system. It’s designed to free a guard curling toward the paint or popping out to the perimeter for a quick-hitter, but if the initial action doesn’t work, the guard in the action clears out for a Gasol post-up. That’s a nice way of setting up a post-up that’s not stagnant, and the Grizzlies generally create a good shot from the look.
5) Hubie Brown had a nice, obvious quote during game one. “You can’t get this done tonight as the Memphis Grizzlies if Gasol and Conley are going to be the only guys who can score.” That’s been the case for the Grizzlies all season, and it was the case in game one. Conley is better than any guard the Spurs have. Gasol is better than any big man the Spurs have. But collectively, the Spurs are a dominant team, whereas the Grizzlies have dominant players who are tugging the rope for the rest of their teammates.
6) Andrew Harrison led the bench in scoring in game one, which is of little solace given the glaring mistakes he made throughout the game. Early in the game, not long after he checked in, he missed a defensive assignment that led to a Pau Gasol three. Marc was furious with him for not rotating over. At this point in the season though, if the Grizzlies don’t have their rotations down, they’re never going to get them down. Marc was frustrated because he knows he needs to sag off of his man on the perimeter to guard against one-on-one drives from the Spurs’ savvy ball-handlers, but he can’t do that if the proper rotations aren’t there. Harrison should’ve at least gapped the distance between his man in the corner and Gasol.
Sticking on his man is either foolish or intentionally selfish defending by Harrison.
7) While we are on the subject of Andrew Harrison, let’s talk about creators for the Grizzlies. The Chandler Parsons gamble was worth a shot, and while it hasn’t panned out to date, it’s hard to fault the Grizzlies for trying to create a legitimate third creator with which to surround Conley and Gasol. But with Parsons not healthy and having never lived up to his billing even when he was seemingly somewhat healthy, the Grizzlies don’t have a single guy who can take the load off of the team’s two stars. Harrison can’t do it, and Wade Baldwin probably can’t do it either since he was relegated to the NBA D-League for much of the season. Memphis prioritized shooting (Troy Daniels) over a quality ball handler for most of the season, and it bit them in a big way in game one.
8) Zach Randolph had the same exact stat line in game one of the 2016 playoffs as he did in game one of the 2017 playoffs. If that’s not a Debbie Downer and an indication of offseason changes to come, then I don’t know what is.
9) The Spurs are really good at pushing the Grizzlies’ buttons. After made baskets, they’ll have Conley’s man hound him so that Gasol or someone else has to bring the ball up the court. That right there prevents the Grizzlies from getting into horns or flex action as quickly as they’d like, and it takes away a few of the actions that could be at the Grizzlies’ disposal on every possession. In an ideal world, Vince Carter would step up in those situations, but he’s gotten to a point where he’s not going to utilize screens and turn the corner all too regularly anymore. He has to force a lot of tough jump shots around the paint, which plays right into the Spurs’ hands.
10) All hope is not lost. The Grizzlies can make this a series, but they have to remain focused defensively for 48 minutes. They can’t lapse and allow 6-0 and 8-0 runs by the Spurs randomly throughout the game when they feel like it’s acceptable to take their foot off the pedal. The Spurs made the Grizzlies uncomfortable in game one. It’s time for the Grizzlies to do the same to the Spurs in game two. The Grizzlies strategy in game one was fine. They just didn’t execute all game long. Some of that is a depth issue, but some of that is finishing the Grit and Grind.