The Memphis Grizzlies never cease to amaze.
Just when you think they’re out, they pull themselves back in. Just when you write off a team that had a 0-2 deficit after two double-digit losses, they rally to reel off two wins at home.
Just when you logically put them away, they pull at your heartstrings and get you to #BelieveMemphis all over again.
Game Four was one of the best wins/games in Grizzlies history. But that was then, this is now. Memphis must win in San Antonio at some point if they want to win this series. Is tonight the night?
I talk about that and reflect back on Game Four with GBB Senior Features Writer Matt Hrdlicka in our Game Five Grizzly Thoughts.
JOE MULLINAX (@JoeMullinax) - Thanks for joining me, Matt. This has been a crazy few days for Memphis Grizzlies fans. I’m hesitant to say that Game Four was the biggest win in Grizzlies history - the first ever franchise win in the playoffs in 2011 and the Game 6 clincher against the Clippers in 2013 come to mind as bigger victories in Memphis. And on the road, the win to get Memphis to the Western Conference Finals over OKC also seems to be a bigger deal.
But this clearly belongs on the list. And it may be the best GAME of those four - neither team deserved to lose, and the Spurs more ran out of time than were defeated. What are your biggest takeaways from the instant classic that was Game Four?
MATT HRDLICKA (@theRealHrdlicka) - My takeaway is that these two teams are closer than a typical 2 vs. 7 matchup, but with the caveat that the Spurs have the best player and can run away from you on a run if you let them.
But if you look at each game, it's tough to find too many consistent lines, other than Kawhi Leonard being great, and Manu Ginobili being not great. Pau Gasol has been good, but in different ways. LMA has been disinterested in anything other than shooting long 2's.
The Spurs’ role players have been inconsistent, the same as the Grizzlies’ role players. These two teams are finding it tough to beat the other in the same ways game after game, and that means they're pretty evenly matched.
What about you?
MULLINAX - Mike Conley is a monster. That is a major takeaway - lots of players can have success over the course of a regular season, playing lesser competition more than half the time. But Mike Conley has a +12 net rating through four games playing against the mighty Spurs. Kawhi defending him is not the checkmate it once was - Kawhi is tremendous, but so is Mike, and their showdown in Game Four will be what I remember most from that game.
I also think role players like JaMychal Green and Andrew Harrison are doing better than I anticipated they would. Both are still flawed, but as I covered here, they play their tails off and are big reasons this series is 2-2.
I am surprised that the rotation has essentially shrunk to eight, and I’m surprised that Troy Daniels and Brandan Wright are largely the odd men out...especially Troy. Wright is the 4th best big on the roster, so JaMychal getting 26 or so minutes off the bench instead of running Brandan makes sense. But Wayne Selden Jr. supplanting Troy is mildly shocking - Daniels is a liability as a defender, but he represents instant offense (as he showed in Game Four). Meanwhile, Wayne Selden Jr. has a frame that Fizdale surely likes in this matchup, but he’s an offensive liability.
Don't get me wrong, I get it. It's a pick your poison kind of thing. But we have gone from Daniels being discussed as a replacement for Tony Allen in the starting lineup to seeing him on the fringe of the rotation. Would you like to see more Troy Daniels in this series?
HRDLICKA - Yes, I think Troy should get at least get 20 minutes. Fiz got psyched out from playing him after Manu hounded Troy and wouldn't let him get his feet set in Game 1.
Troy has to play with creators in order to get open shots. Playing him with the likes of Harrison, Ennis, JaMychal, and Z-Bo just won't cut it. The defense's job is too easy.
You can find things that both teams could, or maybe should do better in Game Five. The Grizzlies probably won't hit as many threes unless they play Troy. Manu probably will score at least one point before the series is over.
I think the thing that has most surprised me is that the Grizzlies have been able to build leads with Conley on the floor, so that when he goes to the bench they just have to lose by not as much. That's really surprising.
As for Kawhi on Conley, he can't do everything. Or at least, he did in Game Four and they still lost in overtime. It was relatively easy to get away off of Conley, as well. The Spurs switch the pick and roll when Conley threatens their defensive integrity, so the Spurs will simply have to change that rule to keep Kawhi on Conley. That will open up more things. Maybe the bigs will have to sit down, and that’ll open up the three point shot.
I think my biggest fear for Game Five is not Kawhi on Conley; it's that the Spurs just trap him on every pick and roll and force him to pass over longer guys.
Even if the screener is Gasol, that pass has to be lobbed and might give the defense enough time to recover. The Grizz have no secondary wing ballhandler to serve as a safety valve for the trap, so it's pretty much Gasol threes or Gasol drives, more Vince, or bad shooters taking threes. This is another reason Troy should get more minutes.
MULLINAX - I’m with you on the concern about adjustments like the trap. Listening to and reading Spurs coach Gregg Popovich's postgame comments, he doesn't sound like he’s interested in going away from the gameplan much. However, Pop is hardly an open book with the media. It is likely that the Grizzlies see something a little different tonight. That could be trapping Conley off the pick and roll - if that occurs, having Andrew Harrison out there would be nice, but not ideal. There is no quick fix here - the Grizzlies are what they are, and they will have to roll with whatever the Spurs throw at them and hope to counter effectively.
One adjustment I would like to see Fizdale make, outside of more Daniels minutes, is more high-low sets with Randolph at the elbow and Gasol in the paint. The Spurs love to crash down on the Grizzlies’ bigs (and for good reason) and Marc is much more of a willing passer in the lane than Zach is. Vince Carter/Mike Conley/Troy Daniels on the perimeter alongside a Gasol and Randolph high-low could be pretty difficult to defend.
Memphis needs to do something different than they did during the first two games in San Antonio. Don't let the recent home victories distract you from the fact that Memphis lost by an average of 20+ points in the first two games of this series. The Grizzlies have to pick off one of these San Antonio games, but is that realistic? Or are we asking too much of this group and should be happy with a competitive series?
HRDLICKA - I think it's realistic, but not likely. They're still underdogs to win the series, but the Spurs haven't run away from the Grizz in 2.5 games.
I was going to pick the Grizzlies in 6 before TA went down, but I just didn’t think their role players had this in them. Maybe we won't get another non-terrible game from Harrison/Selden. Maybe Vince Carter's injury late in Game 4 keeps him from driving. Maybe Zach Randolph can't give us another good game. Maybe Manu Ginobili or Patty Mills hit some threes. Maybe Kawhi scores 50 and guards Conley all game.
We don't need that many maybes to fall into place to pull a game out.
MULLINAX - It does feel more up in the air than I thought it would be. It mostly has to do with just how bad some of the Spurs have been. Beyond Gasol, Conley, Harrison, and Green, no one has really been consistent in terms of their play. And even among those four there are issues at times, with Conley being the most dominant for the longest stretch. Another strong Zach Randolph performance would be nice - it will take another 70 or so combined point performance from him, Gasol, and Conley for the Grizzlies to win in San Antonio.
That's possible. But like you alluded to, so is the Spurs figuring out the Grizzlies and waxing them these last two games through some “maybes” working their way. That’s what makes this game so interesting - outside of hopefully a competitive game, like you said, with 10 straight quarters of close basketball behind us, anything can happen. Vegas seems to think the Spurs will dominate...but they've been wrong the past two games, so it's all on the table in Texas tonight.