January 6, 2017; Oakland, CA, USA; Memphis Grizzlies guard Mike Conley (11) passes the basketball against the Golden State Warriors during the first quarter at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
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This week, the Memphis Grizzlies have a challenge. If they prevail, the NBA must watch out. If they fall, they will be on the long list of pretenders.
Spurs tonight, Warriors Friday? No problem. Toss a game against Phoenix, and the Memphis Grizzlies have a serious potential to officially put themselves on every team’s radar.
They’ve already beaten the Warriors, and they face the next best in West tonight as they have their first of four meetings. Tonight’s game will likely open the flood gates to the Grizzlies bandwagon, especially with non-NBA fans desperate for sports and any good game to watch.
*insert the millions of absurd tweets about basketball made by people who don’t actually watch basketball*
Apr 24, 2016; Memphis, TN, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard (2) handles the ball against Memphis Grizzlies guard Tony Allen (9) during the first half in game four of the first round of the NBA Playoffs at FedExForum. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports
Looking ahead at the Spurs
Gregg Poppovich is easily the best coach in the NBA, according to tenure and success, but until he starts to drop 30 a night, the Spurs are just as beatable as any other team.
Unfortunately, one thing the Spurs have that other teams don’t is the ultimate on-court camaraderie. They communicate well on the defensive end, and you can bet that they are going to come prepared. This means that any time Tony Allen takes the ball up the court, the rest of the Grizzlies are going to be locked off.
For the Grizzlies to come out with a victory, players outside Mike Conley and Marc Gasol are going to have to contribute. If Zach Randolph can get his usual 15, JaMychal Green will have to pick up some of the scoring to somewhat counter LaMarcus Aldridge. The Grizzlies cannot afford another empty outing from Green on the offensive end and the Spurs will capitalize if that happens.
Kawhi Leonard has his work cut out for him. The Grizzlies are solid on defense everywhere except for guarding players like Leonard. In the past few games, they have struggled against opposing small forwards, meaning Chandler Parsons and James Ennis need to score the ball to balance out the effort from Kawhi.
Those are just some of my thoughts, but you get the point. It’s going to come down to bench scoring and rebounds. Both teams have plenty of players that can knock down shots, so this game very well could come down to the final possession.
Devin Booker, Marqueese Chris, Tyson Chandler and Eric Bledsoe (not in order) are all very good, but the Suns don’t have reliable scoring help on a consistent basis. Earl Watson is a good coach and is building up a young Phoenix teams to play competitive basketball.
This could be a great game to toss the bench players into an increased role before taking on the Warriors.
January 6, 2017; Oakland, CA, USA; Memphis Grizzlies forward Zach Randolph (50) shoots the basketball against Golden State Warriors forward David West (3) during the second quarter at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Looking ahead at the Warriors
Speaking of the Warriors, the Memphis Grizzlies have the opportunity to be the first Western Conference team in the past three years to best the Warriors in a season series. That being said, it won’t be an easy task, obviously. I don’t need to tell you why the Warriors are dangerous, but I will say this:
If the Grizzlies want to win, JaMychal Green, Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol need dominate the paint.
In both wins over the Warriors, six Grizzlies scored in double figures, something they haven’t done in eleven games. While I’m not one that thinks individual stats mean much, team stats tend to be more accurate. When more Grizzlies score, they win. What a mind-blowing stat, I know.
When the Grizzlies are hitting their shots, they have proved they can compete with the best in the league. They tend to step up for big games, and this week, I expect them to beat the Spurs and Suns but finally lose to the Warriors. However, I do think the Grizzlies will still win the season series, putting a sickening feeling into every Warrior fan.