Don’t look now, but yet again the Memphis Grizzlies are in a do or die play-in game!
This time, the Grizzlies face an opponent in the San Antonio Spurs that are lacking in play-in experience but more than make up for it in actual experience. Led by Head Coach Gregg Popovich and DeMar DeRozan, the Spurs are a solid mix of veteran presence and youthful exuberance. For every Dejounte Murray and Keldon Johnson there is a Patty Mills and Rudy Gay - the Spurs are imperfect to be sure, but in a one game situation? They have the talent and postseason pedigree combination to be a threat to the hopes of Memphis.
For this Roundtable previewing the play-in for the Grizzlies, I am joined by GBB Senior Writers Shawn Coleman, Ben Hogan, and Brendan Smart, as well as GBB Writer EdMemphis.
What disappointed you most about the Loss to the Warriors Sunday?
GBB SITE MANAGER JOE MULLINAX (@JoeMullinax) - The reserves. Jordan Poole is a good young player. He scored 15 points for Golden State Sunday and helped them win. He is not better than Brandon Clarke and De’Anthony Melton, however, and he outscored them both more than twice over. Beyond Melton and Clarke, Desmond Bane (a decent 8 points but in almost 30 minutes of play) and Tyus Jones (scoreless in 10 minutes) were a mix of inconsistent and inexplicably invisible. For the Grizzlies to have any chance moving forward, they will need much better production from the bench. Especially considering how several of the key the reserves of the Spurs are seasoned vets. They’ll be ready for the moment.
GBB SENIOR WRITER SHAWN COLEMAN (@StatsSAC) - The production of the bench. Moving forward, the Grizzlies starting lineup is likely to be less talented than their opponent’s starters. As a result, the Grizzlies must find advantages that give them a chance to win. The Memphis bench, specifically Desmond Bane, De’Anthony Melton, and Brandon Clarke can provide that advantage through shooting the three and defensively. However, especially over the past month, all three of these players have struggled. If they are not productive, Memphis’s chances of making the playoffs weaken.
GBB SENIOR WRITER BEN HOGAN (@NotTheGolfer) - Ja didn’t make the Warriors pay. Golden State did a decent job on defense against Ja, but they also were giving him space on the perimeter. As a result, Ja scored 16 points on 7-21 shooting, including 1-6 from deep. His shooting from deep had improved as the season went on, but when they needed it most, the shots just didn’t fall.
GBB SENIOR WRITER BRENDAN SMART (@bsmart21) - A lack of consistency. I was very impressed with the 17 point comeback but the Grizzlies were sloppy in a game that they didn’t need to be sloppy. 10 turnovers in the 3rd quarter didn’t help at all. A lot of things that could’ve been controlled weren’t, and that was the disappointing part.
GBB WRITER EDMEMPHIS (@SquareBidness) - Jaren Jackson Jr., specifically his 2nd half performance. Jaren has become lazy on defense & is truly living up to the Andrea Bargnani theory presented by Nate Chester. I understand he avoids physical play to avoid injury but at what point does it show it’s head? Boxing out & rebounding can’t be left solely on the shoulders of Jonas. I also wished the team played with more sense of urgency & Tillman should’ve gotten more of Jaren’s minutes.
How much does the result of Wednesday’s play-in game matter to the long-term prospects of the Memphis Grizzlies?
MULLINAX - Not too much...but it’s the start. I recently wrote that the rebuild was over, and I stand by that. This is a winning basketball team. The time has come to push to win. But that doesn’t mean they go from 0 to 60 overnight - there will still be growing pains and problems to deal with. The difference now is, there shouldn’t be any data being accumulated in this one beyond playing your best players and fighting to win. Expecting that, and this being the beginning of the new day for the Grizzlies and how they respond, should be the focus.
COLEMAN - The result Wednesday means very little in the long term plans for the Grizzlies. It certainly would be awesome if the Grizzlies can win a game on this stage, as the roster clearly wants to make the playoffs. However, if they were to lose, though short-term disappointment will certainly occur, it does not change the reality the much more significant events will occur this offseason for the future of this franchise than will take place over the next few days and weeks.
HOGAN - I’d say it matters a good amount. In order for the GRZNXTGEN era to take the next step in its evolution, they have to win a game that matters. Last year, they lost to Portland in the play-in game in the bubble, and then they lost to Golden State in a game that would’ve given them a leg up in the play-in this season. A win over San Antonio would boost the confidence of the guys; a loss to me would feel like a step back, because they are a better team than the Spurs.
SMART - I think it’s more about the experience that comes with it. This team is really young, so I’m enjoying the growing pains that come with a young team. As far as long term prospects, this front office has performed really well. With that being said, they have the assets and potentially the money to sign those great free agents. Also, who wouldn’t want to play with a pass first Point Guard like Ja Morant?
EDMEMPHIS - None unless I’m missing something. This front office already has their minds set on the future of most of the guys on this roster for better or worst & one game they weren’t expecting to make anyway won’t change or alter that.
Prediction time - what seed will the Grizzlies finish the season with? #10 (losing Wednesday), #9 (winning Wednesday, losing Friday), or #8 (win both games) and why?
MULLINAX - Logically? The Grizzlies should win on Wednesday against the Spurs, because they’re better, then go out to California and get beat by either the Lakers or Warriors, because those two teams are better. That’s the most likely scenario coming out of all of this - Memphis finishing 9th. But I am a sucker for the story of sports. No amount of “data accumulation” can account for the lesson these young Grizzlies could potentially learn this week. Give me a Memphis win and a Golden State loss, setting up a Grizzlies-Warriors rematch Friday...and the baby Bears of Beale Street growing up to knock off Stephen Curry and company to earn the #8 seed.
COLEMAN - I predict the Grizzlies will finish ninth. I do feel Memphis will be rested and ready on Wednesday and will be able to find a way way to defeat the Spurs. However, on Friday, I feel the experience and talent of either the Warriors or Lakers on the road will be a huge task to overcome. In the end, I feel Memphis falls just short of the playoffs for the second straight season.
HOGAN - The Grizzlies will finish the season with the #9 seed. As I just mentioned in the previous answer, they are a better team than the Spurs and should be able to pull off a win in front of the biggest home crowd of the season. In the next game, the Grizzlies will either face LeBron James or Steph Curry in an elimination game. That’s not something any team in the league wants to sign up for. I’d prefer to get another crack at Golden State, as the Grizz hung in there. But, still, Steph is Steph, and I expect him to end the Grizzlies season on Friday.
SMART - Memphis falling to Golden State on Friday *if* they take down San Antonio Wednesday night. Golden State is hooping right now, and plays at similar pace to Memphis. It’s okay for this team to finish 9th in the West. It’s been a tough season, and they still raised their win total in their second year.
EDMEMPHIS - I can see Memphis beating San Antonio but simply not having enough veteran experience to defeat the likes of The Lakers or Warriors after. They have a punchers chance against the Warriors more so than the Lakers. I will say Memphis would give Utah fits if they somehow upset the loser of the Lakers vs Warriors matchup
The Memphis Grizzlies will take on the San Antonio Spurs in the #9-#10 Play-In Game on Wednesday night at 6:30 PM CT on ESPN. Thanks to Ed, Brendan, Ben, and Shawn for joining me in this Roundtable!