Opening Statements: Wizards at Grizzlies, Game 23 | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Opening Statements: Wizards at Grizzlies, Game 23

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Updated: December 14, 2015


Teams: Wizards at Grizzlies
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET
Venue: FedEx Forum, Memphis, Tennessee
Television: CSN+
Radio: WNEW 99.1 FM
Spread: Grizzlies fav’d by 4


The Memphis Grizzlies won’t die. But the current team as we know it—pounding bruisers in Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, their Grind House defensive attitude, a previously underrated now just ‘rated’ point guard in Mike Conley, and piece-meal scoring—is losing shelf life by the day. Or are they? (Hint: probably.)

Memphis has long been a below-the-surface threat in the Western Conference, making its mark on defense (where teams win championships, ya know), but also bailing lack-of-scoring-star water weight from the ship. They’ve made the playoffs for five straight seasons, seeded 8th, 4th, and 5th under Lionel Hollins from 2010 to 2013, and seeded 7th and 5th over the past two seasons under David Joerger. The results mirror themselves: second round exit to the Thunder (they beat the Spurs); first round exit to the Clippers; conference finals exit to the Spurs (they beat the Clippers and Thunder); first round exit to the Thunder; second round exit to the Warriors (they beat the Blazers).

Now:

  • Zach Randolph is 34 and is putting up the third-worst PER of his career (16.2).
  • Marc Gasol is 30 (although with not as much NBA mileage, since he entered the league at 24). He has a PER, 17.4 and True Shooting Percentage of .550, both below his career averages of 18.6 and .565.
  • Mike Conley’s point guard skills are as nice as ever (career-high 34.1 AST%; Russell Westbrook leads the NBA at 49.1% and John Wall is ranked fourth at 44.2%), but support in the scoring department leaves a lot to be desired. Conley’s TOV% is also at a career-high 11.0.
  • The Grizzlies’ “Big 3” rely on the underwhelming Jeff Green and Mario Chalmers for scoring support. Green is actually having his worst season since his rookie season.
  • Vince Carter, Tony Allen and Matt Barnes are all very old, but at least the latter two are still fully capable of being defensive irritants.
  • Courtney Lee is just not an effective NBA player at this point; JaMychal Green hasn’t overly-impressed; Brandan Wright is sort of a bright spot, but has missed almost the entire season with an injury.

So the Grizzlies sit at 13-12 and 6th in the West but Grizzlyland is panicking. One reason: their hallmark defense is fading. Memphis allows 0.90 points per possession (PPP) to the pick-and-roll ball hander (per NBA.com/stats)—that’s tops in the league. Their defense against the roll man in the P&R is a bit better (0.95, 7th-lowest allowed), but that doesn’t make the prospects of defending John Wall any less scary.

Red Coleman of Grizzlies blog 3 Shades of Blue writes:

Grit and Grind is fading away. It’s not dead yet, but it’s certainly headed that way. The question is, what do they do now? This team appears to have lost its identity, which is frightening because that was the one thing that has never been in question. The experts and pundits have continually said, “The Memphis Grizzlies know who they are” when asked why they have a chance to win any given game. Right now, they don’t seem to know who they are and they don’t appear to believe they can beat anyone they aren’t clearly superior than.

Chip Crain of 3SOB sounds the alarm:

The Memphis Grizzlies may be facing their biggest home game in years tonight against the Washington Wizards.

That sounds of hyperbole but it doesn’t make it any less true.

Fans can accept the Grizzlies losing to the Spurs, Thunder, Warriors and even Charlotte who is red-hot but to lose to this wisp of a Wizards team will create more than just fan displeasure. It will create an attitude that someone needs to be held accountable.

Joe Mullinax (@JoeMullinax) of SB Nation’s Grizzlies blog, Grizzly Bear Blues, tosses salt into the air and lets it coat his face:

And you thought the #SoWizards had problems. (Hint: They do! Bradley Beal be hurtin’) …But at least Washington’s problems still come under the thumb of a top 5 NBA point guard who’s been brilliant as of late and are a team, despite an old school and previously unrelenting coach in Randy Wittman, forging ahead with a new style of play more suitable for said point guard, John Wall. Also, per The Washington Post’s Jorge Castillo, and alluded to by Mullinax’s tweet, the Wizards are actually making the Grizzlies adjust to their style of play—Zach Randolph is not scheduled to be in the starting lineup tonight.

Also: Dear, sweet, #Slenderman Otto Porter is “terrifying”? How cute! (h/t #Cuteball; h/t Conor Dirks).

So these teams face each other and there’s a lot on the line for a mid-December game. The Wizards have won the last two meetings, but they’ve beaten Memphis only 11 times out of 30 meetings since the year 2000. None of that matters now. What exactly does?

 

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Kyle Weidie
Founder / Editor / Reporter / Writer at TAI
Kyle founded TAI in 2007 and has been weaving in and out the world of Wizards ever since, ducking WittmanFaces, jumping over G-Wiz, and avoiding stints on the DNP-Conditioning list. He has covered the Washington pro basketball team as a member of the media since 2009. Kyle lives in D.C. with his wife, loves basketball, and has no pets.