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Week-side Help: Week 23 - Workin’ Overtime

Memphis comes out on the wrong end of a week full of 50-50 games

NBA: Houston Rockets at Memphis Grizzlies Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Week 23 Results

Houston Rockets 125 @ Memphis Grizzlies 126 (OT) (29-42) Recap | Box Score

Memphis Grizzlies 119 (29-43) @ Orlando Magic 123 (OT) Recap | Box Score

Minnesota Timberwolves 112 @ Memphis Grizzlies 99 (29-44) Recap | Box Score

Week 23 Storylines

-The Grizzlies announced G/F C.J. Miles will likely miss the remainder of the season with a stress reaction in his left foot that will require 3-6 weeks for recovery. He has averaged 9.3 PPG on 40% shooting in 13 games off the bench since coming to Memphis.

-The Grizzlies also announced last Wednesday that G Avery Bradley suffered a shin contusion that will need at least a week of rest to recover. He will be re-evaluated this week.

-Joakim Noah left the game against the Timberwolves Saturday with a right knee issue. He did not return and an update on his health should be coming shortly.

-Required Reading: GBB’s Brandon Abraham in his weekly, in-depth recap of everything Memphis Hustle, reviews a week where the Hustle clinched their first ever spot in the G-League playoff. | GBB’s Parker Fleming looks at the rest of the league tanking for Zion and how others’ quest for the #1 pick can be helpful for the Grizzlies’ efforts to convey their pick | Listening instead of reading, but G Avery Bradley went on Site Manager Joe Mullinax’s GBBLive podcast and gave a rare interview about a variety of topics, such as the greatest Grizzly ever and his transition to a new role in Memphis.

Week 23 Thoughts

-Two overtime games that were both a bounce or two away from different results and a decisive loss at home. This could have been a much better week for conveying purposes than it ended up being.

-At least Jonas Valanciunas is doing his part. He is seriously becoming the second-best player on this team, with or without Jaren Jackson Jr. available to play (by the way, he’s taking a mighty long time to recover from a deep thigh bruise). JV is averaging 19.4 PPG on 56.3% shooting and 9.9 RPG as a Grizzly. His overtime free throw with 0.1 seconds left(!) against Houston gave us a huge win and he played his butt off all night, only to be overshadowed by James Harden’s 57 points.

-Even outside of Jonas, the Houston game was F-U-N. If stress is as fun to you as it is to me, at least. It was nice to see Memphis blow a giant lead and actually win instead of it being truly depressing. Only allowing 20 free throws in 53 minutes to the Houston Rockets, who average 25 attempts a night, was a victory in itself. Houston went 9-16 on three-pointers in the fourth quarter alone (21-48 for the game) to counteract that low free throw rate. That’s one way to erase a 19-point lead.

NBA: Houston Rockets at Memphis Grizzlies Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

-Non-Grizzlies note: James Harden scored 57 against Memphis and it wasn’t even his best scoring night of the week. He poured in 61 against San Antonio two days later. He may not win MVP, but the man is a scoring machine. He will likely finish 2nd in MVP voting for the third time in his career. It’s not new to fawn over James Harden’s greatness, but it is deserved.

-And Orlando turned out to the game where Memphis gave up a huge lead and lost. An ice-cold fourth quarter (what else?) extinguished a 14-point lead heading into the fourth quarter. Mike Conley had the night off, so maybe his steady hand would have been good for at least a few more points in the fourth to avoid overtime, but it couldn’t be. Besides, a team without Conley should be able to do better than 5-18 in the fourth quarter.

-I’m still not 100% sure what a Tyler Dorsey is, but his 29-point outburst against Orlando was well-played and well-deserved. The only thing I can really gather about him is that he runs around like crazy on the floor, so him getting the starting nod in place of Mike felt like a “sure, why not?” moment to me.

-But he played so well! 5-10 on threes for an offensively repressed Memphis franchise is like 10-15 on threes for any other team. He was given the responsibility of carrying some offensive slack for Mike Conley and came up big.

-Despite going 1-2, this week was quite inspiring for the roster next year. I am fascinated by how JV, Bruno Caboclo, and Justin Holiday (and Jaren) potentially play next year.

-Memphis looked like a team out of gas against Minnesota. They were on the second night of a back-to-back and have been facing a flood of injuries late in the season. Shorthanded as they were, early foul trouble where Joakim Noah (4), Ivan Rabb, and Jonas Valanciunas all had 3 or more fouls in the first half. Then Joakim never returned after his knee injury, and the team just lost what little energy it had for the night.

-Karl-Anthony Towns did us so dirty. Also, I’m NOT looking forward to this team trading Mike to Minnesota for Wiggins and filler in the summer.

Protection Inspection

3/24 NBA lottery standings via tankathon.com
tankathon.com

Memphis is doing its best to convey that pick. Where once Memphis seemed a lock for the 6th spot, uncertainty now reigns with just 1 whole game separating #6 Memphis/Dallas and #9 New Orleans.

If you’re Team Convey, Memphis has been playing great basketball in the past few weeks or so. 6-6 in the last 12 games is considerably better as a win percentage than the season before that stretch. That record would have us at the 14 spot ahead of Sacramento.

The rest of the schedule is brutal. After this upcoming week previewed below, Memphis has @POR, @DAL, DAL, @DET, GSW. It’s hard to find easy wins the rest of the year, save for Phoenix and one of the Dallas games. With how tightly contested this part of the lottery is, Memphis needs to win more than those two games to give themselves out of the top-8. This could get ugly for the #PlayToConvey crowd.

Week 24 Schedule and Preview

Oklahoma City Thunder @ Memphis Grizzlies Mon. Mar. 25th 8:00 PM ET/7:00 PM CT

Golden State Warriors @ Memphis Grizzlies Weds. Mar. 27th 8:00 PM ET/7:00 PM CT

Memphis Grizzlies @ Phoenix Suns Sat. Mar. 30th 10:00 PM ET/9:00 PM CT

Memphis Grizzlies @ Los Angeles Clippers Sun. Mar. 31st 10:30 PM ET/9:30 PM CT

An absolutely BRUTAL week of games. The “easy” game of the bunch is against the Phoenix Suns, who actually haven’t been horrible lately! The rest of the week is playing playoff teams, so that should be fun.

The Thunder are simply not playing as well as their January/February peak. In the month of March, they have a negative net rating (-2.9) compared to their total season net rating of +3.2. But Memphis is in the glass house from which to not throw stones. The majority of the league, no matter how they’re playing lately, is going to be threatening to the Grizzlies.

Paul George is not a lesser MVP candidate now than he was the last time he played against the Grizzlies and came out with a 22-point win. When the Grizzlies and Thunder played with PG in street clothes on the bench, a month later, the Thunder squeaked out a 4-point victory. Unfortunately for Memphis, Paul George will most likely be playing as the Grizzlies grow more short-handed by the day.

And after they get past the Thunder, they get to host the defending champion Golden State Warriors. The Warriors have been objectively great this season, but they are the one team in the league who can afford to simply not care on a given night. They lost to the Mavericks by 35 on Saturday! They barely lose close games, but just big, ugly blowouts to show the world they’re too cool for the regular season. Of their 23 losses this season, 8 have been by 20 or more points, with 6 of those 8 losses coming in Oracle Arena. I think Memphis is unpredictable night-to-night, but the Warriors just spit in the face of predictability. They’re just waiting for the playoffs. They are weirdly enough a better road team than home, so the Grizzlies might be doubly screwed. Here’s hoping its a load-management day for their stars.

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Golden State Warriors Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Memphis’ slight reprieve for the week comes on the road as they travel to Phoenix to play the Suns. To their credit, the New York Knicks have easily surpassed them as the league’s worst team. It feels like Suns head coach Igor Kokoškov has finally got a handle and an idea for what this team can and will be in the future. Deandre Ayton has quietly been a great #1 pick. He’s averaging the quietest 16 and 10 on 58% shooting by a rookie in league history.

As they relate to the Grizzlies though, the Suns still by far their easiest chance at a win this week. Their only two match-ups this season have come in the first 8 games of the year, when both teams were drastically more different than they are now. The Grizzlies have been transformed through transactions and the Suns through development in that time. If Memphis can play clean basketball, they should come out with the win.

And finally, a criminally late Sunday night game (9:30 Memphis time? No, thank you) to cap off the week against a stronger-than-expected Clippers team. People (me included) have been waiting for this Clippers team to stop over-performing and fall back down to earth since November and it just hasn’t happened. Not even after trading Almost-All-Star Tobias Harris. They’re just a good team playing great ball, winning 9 of their last 10. Memphis would do well to stay clear away from foul trouble, as the Clippers have the highest free throw rate in the league and shoot more free throws per game than everyone else, as well.

Have a good week, Memphis

Follow @sbnGrizzlies