This is a monumental time for the Memphis Grizzlies franchise and the city of Memphis as a whole. While this will be the second straight season that Memphis has made the playoffs, the overall vibes around the team are far different than they were in June of last year. This time around, the Grizzlies are no longer the underdogs. They believe they are true title contenders, and likely feel they can put together a formula for success in the postseason - even after an opening game loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Of course, the best way for the Grizzlies to emerge as true contenders is to be the best version of themselves by being highly active on both ends of the court. If the Grizzlies can consistently meet certain thresholds during the postseason that they did during the regular season in many of their wins, the Grizzlies have to feel good about their chances.
Let’s take a look at what some of these thresholds might look like.
Pushing the Pace
The Grizzlies record when....
Scoring 115+ points: 43-5 (most occurrences in NBA)
Attempting 95+ shots: 29-14
+7 or better in shot differential: 27-14
30 or more points in first quarter: 37-11
It is well-known the Grizzlies are one of best teams on the run and in transition in the NBA, and when the Grizzlies find success in this area of the game early, it usually translates to wins. Arguably the best first quarter team in the league in 2022, if the Grizzlies can find offensive success early, it is much easier for them to find their rhythm, whether it be in the open court or the half court.
The Grizzlies were second in the NBA in scoring and third in pace during the regular season; if they can remain near the top of those categories in the postseason, both winning and advancing should become realities. The Grizzlies were among the league leaders in frequency of reaching these aforementioned thresholds during games in the regular season. So it is not a matter of Memphis having a good chance to win IF they reach these thresholds, but WHEN they meet these standards in the playoffs.
Effective Ball-Movement/Offensive Balance
Grizzlies records when....
Producing 30+ assists: 18-1 (6th most times in league)
Producing 25+ assists and 10+3s: 35-8
Producing 25+ assists and 12 or less turnovers: 26-6 (4th most times in leagues)
One near certainty about the Grizzlies is that they are going to pass the basketball a lot and produce in the paint. These two aspects of the game are trademarks for Memphis. The Grizzlies are at their best when they are complimenting these two strengths by finding and making shots from distance and taking care of the basketball. Open looks will be there for the Grizzlies as defenses try to take away the paint. If the Grizzlies can consistently convert those looks, they are going to be hard to beat.
In fact, if we expand the statistical scenarios, the Grizzlies are 24-3 when they have 25+ assists, 10+ threes, and 12 or less turnovers in a game. They accomplished that feat at the third highest frequency in the league, and all of their losses were actually in the last week of the season when they did not have an incentive to play for. In other words, when the Grizzlies can pass the ball effectively, hit open looks, and limit their errors offensively, they become very, very tough to beat.
Triumphs with Threes
Memphis’ record when....
Producing 13+ 3s: 26-6
Hitting 35% of 3s: 35-5
Holding Opponent under 35% from 3: 35-5
Games in which opponent did not make 3+ more 3s than Grizz: 47-12
Overall, the Grizzlies will likely be the less productive team from three in any playoff series they are in. However, the numbers above prove that the Grizzlies do not have to win the three point battle in the playoffs game after game. Instead, they simply must prevent the other team from creating a huge advantage from three. The Grizzlies consistency from three improved significantly from March 1st to the end of the season, especially with the production of Desmond Bane and De ’Anthony Melton.
The Grizzlies have been among the best teams in the NBA at defending the three since the All-Star Break. If Memphis can hold their opponents frequently under 40% on threes and make in the double digits themselves, then other aspects of the game where the Grizzlies are truly elite will carry more impact. The key for Memphis is not becoming a team that heavily relies on the three; it is simply making sure it is complimenting the strengths of its roster with shooting and defending the three effectively.
The Grizzlies record when....
Getting 15+ offensive rebounds: 27-12 (led NBA in occurrences)
Getting 10 or more rebounds than opponent: 29-3 (led NBA in occurrences)
Forcing 15 or more turnovers from Opponent: 25-15
Producing 10+ steals and 7+ blocks (season averages): 24-10 (led NBA in occurrences)
Memphis could easily be considered the most active team in the league when it comes to supporting aspects of the game of basketball. They led the league in rebounds, steals, and blocks per game. It all leads back to Memphis winning the possession battle by a significant margin, and then capitalizing on scoring during those extra possessions due to the opposing defense not being set.
Sure, an approach through activity may typically not be the most ideal strategy in the playoffs. However, not many teams in recent history have produced overall activity at elite levels like the Grizzlies do. Plus, this style of play is Memphis simply being the best version of itself. As the records above show, there is no need to stray away from what has worked all season.
Productive Player Thresholds
Jaren Jackson Jr. has 2+3s, 2+ Blocks: 19-8 (led NBA in occurrences)
Steven Adams has 5+ ORB, 3+ AST: 21-6 (led NBA in occurrences)
Desmond Bane has 3+ 3s, 3+ assists: 18-2
Ja Morant 25+ points, 5+ assists, 5 or less Turnovers: 17-6
At the end of the day, what the Grizzlies do as a team is more important than what any one player does in most cases. However, if some of the more significant talents on the roster are performing at their best, it usually ends well for Memphis. And the key is that these players are not just doing the one thing they do best; the Grizzlies are at their best when these talents are contributing to winning in multiple ways. Fortunately, that happens more often than not.
The significance of many of the thresholds listed above is to show the Grizzlies have multiple ways they can make an impact on a game that highly correlates with winning. And yes, it certainly is true that any team would see a high correlation between meeting these thresholds and winning. However, the key for the Grizzlies is that they have met many of these thresholds in the same game more frequently than nearly every team in the NBA this season.
If Memphis can establish many of these advantages early in games, they have to like their chances to win and advance. However, and more importantly, if the Grizzlies are creating those advantages, they simply are playing to the best of their ability. That has been good enough to get them where they are now. And as the data above shows, they have to feel confident it will also get them to where they want to be.