At least this game was exciting. The final score would suggest otherwise, but I promise it was. As Dan Devine of Yahoo’s Ball Don’t Lie blog tweeted: This was a five-point game with 4:51 left, and we wound up with both benches emptied with 2:12 left. The game got out of hand quickly per usual when playing the Spurs. But to the Grizzlies’ credit, they fought hard to stay within striking distance throughout.
In good news though, Kawhi Leonard did not have 43 points. He did get 28, and dominated the game with his court vision and basketball IQ. The Grizzlies worked to double team him when they could, but he simply made the right basketball play every single time. Patty Mills played STUPID and killed the Grizzlies; he was a measly 7-10 (5-7 three-point) from the field for 20 points. Oh and Manu Ginobili finally scored - he threw in an extra 10 points via some creative euro-steps and a three.
The Grizzlies shot 51% from the field, 40% from deep, and still managed to lose. That’s because the Spurs struggled to miss the whole game. At one point after trailing by 18, the Grizzlies make 11-of-13 from the field but never brought the lead closer than four points. It was that kind of night. This Spurs team is scary like that, even after a valiant effort by our Grizzlies.
Mike Conley and JaMychal Green both had solid games. Marc Gasol shot 50% from the field but didn’t play great overall. Zach Randolph played OK in the first half and then basically didn’t play in the second half. The Grizzlies flip-flopped their strengths in this game: offense was solid and consistent, but the defense struggled to get a stop.
Here are a few important notes to look forward to in Game 6:
Defending Kawhi Leonard
That sounds like an oxymoron. David Fizdale jokingly admitted that the Grizz have run out of options to defend Leonard, but deep down we all know there’s no stopping him. I thought the Grizzlies did about as good a job as you can against him on Tuesday night. He was 9-16 from the field (including 3-5 from three) and only shot 8 free throws. He actually missed his first FT of the series in the first quarter (he’d made his previous 42), so maybe we’re wearing him down?
The Grizzlies sent two defenders at him most of the night, which worked a few times. The issue with that is, because of math, it leaves an open Spur somewhere else on the floor. Leonard found that guy pretty often, and the Grizz suffered for it. I was a fan of the double team, but as I think back to the previous two wins in Memphis, we didn’t double Kawhi much, and just played straight up defense on all 5 positions. That did work for two of the previous four. He is unstoppable, that’s just it. But perhaps Fizdale will draw up a different scheme for Game 6 just to have some more fun with Kawhi.
Grizzlies’ Big Three
It’s almost beating a dead horse at this point. Every Grizzlies fan knows we need all three to play well to win. I’m not going to argue that - I agree and will say it again. Mike Conley is on one in this series - he’s playing at the All-Star level he never gets recognized for. Zach Randolph has shown signs of life, but consistency has been an issue. He became a liability on defense in Game 5, which has not been the case in the previous playoff games. But the biggest red flag is Marc Gasol.
Marc has struggled two games in a row now. Yeah, he hit the game winner in Game 4, but he really didn’t have a great game. Same story (minus the game winner) in Game 5. Gasol went for 17-5-7, which is a pretty decent stat line. But his decision making and shot selection were just off last night. He didn’t seem like his dominant, best-center-in-the-league type self. We need him at his All-Star level to win this series. He also only took one three-pointer. I know it’s crazy to expect more than that from a center, but the long range shots are what clears the lane for him to score down low.
We need Z-Bo and Gasol to step up. Conley, you do you.
The Grizzlies bench was outscored 47-30 based on the final stats. But if you consider players that logged significant minutes, the Grizz bench was outscored 42-20. The Spurs bench scoring is a little flawed because Patty Mills went nuts, but regardless, it is what it is.
Coach Fizdale stuck with Andrew Harrison and JaMychal Green for much of the game, and Wayne Selden and Troy Daniels were mixed in sparingly. I don’t expect Harrison to provide an offensive spark, though he has played better(?) in the past couple of games. JaMychal actually played pretty well, his first impactful game in awhile. But the problem isn’t necessarily in the Grizzlies’ bench scoring; rather, the problem is their defense on the Spurs’ bench.
Just guard Patty Mills. That’s a start. And we had to know Manu GinobilI would eventually score and play better minutes. Pau Gasol also had a pretty decent game, with 9 points on 3-5 shooting. San Antonio has good players on their bench, there’s no denying that. But we need the Grizzly bench to step up and guard someone. The reason Gasol and Conley have to play 40+ minutes is because the bench can’t get a stop. When the bench logs productive minutes, the Grizzlies win. We need more of that.
Game 6 will be played at FedExForum in Memphis on Thursday, April 28th. Tip is scheduled for 8:30 CT. Check back here at Grizzly Bear Blues for more thoughts on this series and Game 6 previews.