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Grizzly Thoughts: Memphis vs. San Antonio Game Three

Site Manager Joe Mullinax and GBB Writer Ross Jarrar miss Tony Allen and try to kickstart the offense.

NBA: Playoffs-Memphis Grizzlies at San Antonio Spurs Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

“They’re not gonna rook us” and “take that for data” are both immaculate catchphrases.

As of this writing, catchphrases aren’t officially included in box scores and don’t count toward the final score (Adam Silver, if you’re reading, please return my emails).

So the Memphis Grizzlies and San Antonio Spurs still have a basketball game to play. Game 3 is going to be emotionally charged and will make for a great atmosphere.

But the Grizzlies still need to execute to win. The 2-game trend of scoring just 82 points will never cut it against a team as dominant as these Spurs. The Grizzlies’ best game from the field this series was 39% — yuck.

Before game 3, Site Manager Joe Mullinax and Game Coverage Writer Ross Jarrar talk ahout missing Tony Allen (and Courtney Lee), and how valuable TA’s defense has been in his 13th season. We also discuss how the remaining Core Four can be more effective to make this series 2-1.

Joe Mullinax (@JoeMullinax): Ross, thanks for joining me. I have something that's been weighing on my mind pretty heavily. The Grizzlies were posted as 3-point underdogs for game 3 against the Spurs Thursday. Given the emotion of a post-Fizdale rant world and the raw energy that’s likely to fill FedExForum, perhaps Vegas has faith the Grizzlies will compete.

My first thought, though, was "that number is too low". As in, the Spurs should be favored by more. I truly believe the Grizzlies have a shot - I picked the Spurs in 5, so logic stands to reason that game 3 or 4 would be where Memphis wins. But even with the most momentum any team down two games to San Antonio probably has ever had, I can't turn off the voice in my head telling me to prep for a bloodbath.

Am I being too pessimistic?

Ross Jarrar (@asaprockytop): You aren't being too pessimistic, and frankly, get ready for the bloodbath.

I also picked Spurs in 5, and an emotional game 3 after THEY'RE NOT GONNA ROOK US/TAKE THAT FOR DATA would probably be the best time for that one win to happen. But, that was before Tony Allen got hurt. Think about the drop-off the Grizzlies experience there. Tony Allen is one of the best defenders in the league, and his replacement is Wayne Selden Jr., a rookie, tasked with guarding MVP-candidate Kawhi Leonard in the playoffs. That's damn near impossible and the Grizzlies are going to struggle with it all season.

Until TA gets healthy and comes back, I would expect more of the same. But Fizdale's rant may grant the Grizzlies a few extra calls and free throws Thursday night. If Kawhi isn't crazy efficient again, the Grizzlies could grind it out. I just don't see it happening.

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Los Angeles Lakers Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Mullinax: I feel like I underrate just how important TA is to these Grizzlies at this stage of his career. He’s a little bit worse than he was last season, but he’s still the best option for Memphis currently on the roster at that position. I still have a hard time believing he changes the series that much. I mean, TA and Vince Carter is still drastically behind Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard, at least in my estimation.

The numbers for Kawhi are drastically lower with Allen defending him. Clearly there is value to TA playing in the series. But is the series 1-1 with Tony Allen playing in both games at 100%? I have a hard time believing he’s THAT integral to this Memphis team I wrong?

Jarrar: I think the series would still be 2-0. Tony Allen is still our best defender, but I don't think he would have swung either of those games. He would have made the games a hell of a lot closer, though.

TA is still so important to this team’s defense. The Grizzlies' DRating is 107 with him on the floor and 109 with him off the floor. He's still head-and-shoulders above every Memphis player as a perimeter defender. He might not be as stingy as he was in prior years, but the available options on the Grizzlies are a lot worse this year than before.

Courtney Lee was a decent defender, and we replaced him with Troy Daniels. Vince Carter, Wayne Selden, and James Ennis are the only other perimeter defenders who could physically match-up with Kawhi. This team has fallen apart guarding him without TA and it shows how important he really is, particularly just being better than our other choices.

Mullinax: I miss Courtney Lee.

I also miss Chandler least what we all hoped he would be. Without that third scorer, the Grizzlies simply cannot keep their offense running consistently. The first two games of the series we have yet to see complete games from the three key Grizzlies- Marc Gasol, Mike Conley, and Zach Randolph. Part of that is the fact that the Spurs are tremendous defensively. Part of that is the minutes these players are putting in.

But part of that is these guys not executing consistently. How can Fizdale and his coaches help get those three going in Memphis?

NBA: Playoffs-Memphis Grizzlies at San Antonio Spurs Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

Jarrar: Who doesn't miss Courtney Lee? Animals, that's who.

But that's the big problem with the Chandler Parsons injury. He was signed to fill a Chandler Parsons-shaped void on the Memphis roster. His specific skill set is exactly what he need, and it's also hard to find. A 6'10" wing that can score, create, AND defend? Those are big shoes to fill.

As to getting those guys going, it's going to be simple, yet difficult. Mike Conley and Marc Gasol run a lot of pick and roll, but it hasn't been that effective this series. I'd like to see Gasol start initiating the offense from the high post, a la Nikola Jokic in Denver. Gasol's passing has been fantastic and I think he and Conley could thrive in that situation with Mike off-ball.

For Zach Randolph, I'd like to see pick-and-pop with him and Conley. I think Conley would burn Tony Parker if he's on him and Zach Randolph could draw away LaMarcus Aldridge from the rim, who's been a great rim protector this season.

Mullinax: Marc Gasol was Jokic before Jokic was Jokic. I think Marc at the elbow more with slashers and shooters surrounding him would be good use of him. Zach in the pick and pop could work, but I also think that high-low sets with Zach and Marc should be utilized more, especially with shooters on the floor like Conley, Troy Daniels, Vince Carter, or James Ennis. Force the Spurs to respect your shooting as much as you can.

NBA: Playoffs-Memphis Grizzlies at San Antonio Spurs Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

It won't be easy, but moving Conley/Gasol/Randolph around a bit more could get them to that 70-ish point plateau those three likely need to hit to win a game in this series. Lets hope it happens tonight.

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