Memphis Grizzlies: 5 Lessons Learned in January

Tom Firme@TFirmeAnalyst IIFebruary 1, 2012

Memphis Grizzlies: 5 Lessons Learned in January

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    The Memphis Grizzlies survived the month of January without Zach Randolph, their best player. After Randolph went down with a partially torn MCL, many believed the Grizzlies were done for the season.

    However, the Grizzlies hung together and escaped January with a winning record. They did it with help from Marreese Speights, who they acquired from the Philadelphia 76ers in a three-team trade. A few players have stepped up. Also, it came despite continuing struggles on the road.

    Games like Tuesday's overtime win against the Denver Nuggets showed how much different the Grizzles are without Zach Randolph.

    Read along to find out why these things are the case.

Life Is Manageable with Zach Randolph out

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    The Grizzlies might have seemed like they couldn't sustain themselves with Zach Randolph out. However, the Grizzlies rallied with Randolph injured just like they did with Rudy Gay injured. Gay stepped up his game, which had been lagging in the first few games.

    Gay shot 47.1 percent and scored 19 points per game after Randolph went down in the January 1 loss to the Chicago Bulls. He has scored 20 points or more in nine of the 17 games since Randolph went down.

    Marc Gasol is putting up career highs with Randolph out. He has averaged 15.2 points per game and has pulled down 11 rebounds per game. Gasol has 13 double-doubles since then. With 14 double-doubles on the season, Gasol is on pace for a career-high 42 double-doubles.

    As he did when Gay was out last season, Tony Allen has stepped up his scoring. Allen has averaged 11.5 points per game since Randolph went down.

    Marreese Speights has been a nice contributor since coming from the 76ers, putting up 7.7 points and 5.8 rebounds per game.

The Grizzlies Still Struggle on the Road

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    After a season in which the Grizzlies went 16-25 on the road and shot 4.5 percent worse from the field on the road than at home, the Grizzlies continue to struggle away from Memphis.

    This season, the Grizzlies are a mere 4-7 on the road, including 4-6 in January.

    The Grizzlies haven't been able to beat winning teams on the road. They've lost all five games against teams with winning records in January, scoring fewer than 95 in each game and scoring fewer than 90 points in four of the five games.

    Marc Gasol continues to struggle on the road. He has shot 46.7 percent from the field on the road while scoring 13.4 points per game. That's 6.9 percent and 3.2 points worse than at home.

    He was dismal on the western road trip from January 23 to 28. In those four games, Gasol shot 43.8 percent from the field while averaging 14.5 points per game.

    Against the Portland Trail Blazers, Gasol scored seven points and shot 2-of-7 from the field.

    Fortunately for Gasol and the Grizzlies, they'll play nine of their 14 February games at home. Considering their road woes, that will be beneficial for the Grizzlies.

O.J. Mayo Is Dealing with the Trade Rumors Just Fine

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    Despite the trade rumors swirling around him, O.J. Mayo is playing well off the bench. Mayo is averaging 12.2 points per game this season, 0.9 points more than last season. That includes 13.3 points per game in January. Mayo is shooting 45 percent from the field, 1.2 percent better than last season. His 78.4 percent free-throw mark is 2.8 percent better than last season.

    He's stepped up to provide a few very nice shooting nights. Mayo has scored 20 points twice in the last two weeks. On Tuesday, he drained the go-ahead three-pointer.

The Grizzlies Offense Functions Much Differently with Randolph out

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    The Grizzlies had been a double-post team on offense with Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph playing the key roles in the offense. Randolph would often take it inside and score. Gasol would take the inside pass and score or kick it out to Rudy Gay. Sometimes the Grizzlies would work Randolph off the pick-and-roll.

    With Randolph out, the Grizzlies had to reconfigure their offense. Rudy Gay has become the key figure in the offense. He takes 5.4 shots per game more than any other Grizzlies player. He'll often take the ball wire to wire for the score. Generally, the Grizzlies have done a good amount of work in transition.

    Playing more in transition has led to more turnovers for the Grizzlies. They've averaged 14.5 turnovers per game in January. Last season, the Grizzlies turned the ball over 13.4 times per game.

    Still, Marc Gasol is a significant part of the offense. He takes 11 shots per game. That includes 11.8 per game since Randolph went down. Gay and Mike Conley enjoy dumping it down low for Gasol to drop it in.

    One might have thought that the Grizzlies would have regained some of the double post feature with the acquisition of Marreese Speights. However, Speights doesn't play a great number of minutes, he averages 20.7 minutes per game. Also, Speights only takes 7.6 shots per game.

    With Randolph coming back in roughly a month, it'll be interesting to see whether the Grizzlies transition back to the double post offense or Lionel Hollins waits until Randolph's return to reinstall it.

Rudy Gay Is Back in Great Condition

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    At the beginning of the season, Rudy Gay looked rusty in his first NBA games since his shoulder surgery. Gay shot 35 percent from the field in the first four games of the season while averaging only 13.3 points per game. To that point, he had only hit one of six three-point attempts.

    Since then, Gay has come roaring back to form. As mentioned earlier, Gay has averaged 19 points per game and shot 47.1 percent from the field since then. In the last 12 games, Gay has shot 50 percent from three-point range.

    Gay has come back to a high minute load. He's playing 37 minutes per game, including 37.5 minutes per game in January. He has played 40 or more minutes in eight games.

    While he isn't playing quite as much as last year's 39.9 minutes per game, Gay is showing that he's back to performing at a high level. He's handling a high amount of touches, posting a 25.4 percent usage rate, 0.2 percent lower than his career high.

    No longer do people have to worry about his strength.