The Memphis Grizzlies are coming down to the final stages of the regular season as they just started play for the month of April. They’ll play a handful of games against tough opponents during the next two weeks. After that, the Grizzlies will have a soft finish to the season.
They started the month on the right foot with a win against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Hopefully, the Grizzlies will be able to do well with their remaining schedule. Seeing them win tough games against the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs on the road would be delightful. If they can pile up easy wins against teams like the Charlotte Bobcats and New Orleans Hornets at the end of the season, whatever slump they go through in the short term would be negated.
A strong finish to the season could bring them home-court advantage in a playoff series.
Following are some things that the Grizzlies need to do to have a successful month.
Keeping the energy through a back-to-back set of games is tough. Players might come out tired in the second game and might not have great rhythm. Staying strong through three straight nights of play is even more difficult. Players could be exhausted during the third game.
The Grizzlies have a fairly difficult back-to-back-to-back this week. They started the string well with the win against the Thunder. Memphis scored a decent number of points (94), and it showed a good amount of defensive energy, picking up nine steals and forcing 18 turnovers.
Next comes a game against the Golden State Warriors. That shouldn’t be too bad. The Grizzlies have won both matches against the Warriors this season.
The third game is a difficult one on the road against the Dallas Mavericks. The Mavericks have been up-and-down this season. Still, they can be difficult to beat. Marreese Speights might be able to guard Dirk Nowitzki, but it’d be difficult for him, or anyone for that matter. Hopefully, Dante Cunningham is healthy for that one.
The Grizzlies would need Cunningham to contain Nowitzki’s stroke on the wing. Speights might not be as good defending Nowitzki in the open as Cunningham would be.
The Grizzlies would need Speights, Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol to be rock solid on the boards. Randolph will need to be his dominant self on the offensive glass to give the Grizzlies plenty of second-chance opportunities.
I would like to say the Grizzlies should win eight of their last 10 games, but asking them to win seven is reasonable enough.
The Grizzlies have an easy finish to the season. They play seven of their last 10 games against teams with losing records. Two are against the Hornets and one is against the Bobcats.
Of the three games in the last 10 against winning teams, the only challenge is the April 12 road game against the Spurs. The Grizzlies play one against the Utah Jazz. The regular-season finale in Memphis is against the very beatable Orlando Magic.
The finale against the Magic could be a great confidence boost for the playoffs. The Magic don’t have as many credible offensive threats as the Grizzlies. Besides Dwight Howard, they don’t have anyone to cause great concern. Marc Gasol matches up with Howard well with his size and strength. It’ll be an interesting matchup, one that Gasol can win at this point in his career.
Good health isn’t always predictable. Injuries often come as a shock, like when Zach Randolph knocked into O.J. Mayo against the Chicago Bulls on January 1, partially tearing his MCL.
The Grizzlies have had some misfortune lately, losing a few players to injury. Marc Gasol missed last Tuesday’s win against the Minnesota Timberwolves with an ankle injury. Mike Conley missed the last two games with an ankle injury. Dante Cunningham missed the game against the Thunder with an ankle injury as well.
Hopefully, the Grizzlies can finish the season without any mishaps and enter the playoffs with their rotation intact. Having Conley healthy is important. The Grizzlies wouldn’t want to leave Jeremy Pargo to run the offense in a playoff series. He held his own in the regular season in a few starts, but Grizzlies fans don’t want to see him starting with the season on the line.
Lionel Hollins will likely give key players extra rest during the last several games of the regular season. He’ll rest Gasol and Conley to make sure they’re healthy come playoff time. Rudy Gay may receive extra rest to ensure he’s fresh for the playoffs. Quincy Pondexter could see more floor time to allow Tony Allen and O.J. Mayo rest time.
Marc Gasol has been disappointing at times in road games against good teams. He shoots worse than 40 percent from the field against winning teams on the road.
He had a nice start to the month against the Thunder, putting up 13 points on 6-of-13 shooting, along with eight rebounds.
He’ll have to do much better to help the Grizzlies win important road games against the Heat, Mavericks and Spurs. He might be able to do well against the Heat since they don’t have any good centers. The Spurs could give Gasol trouble with their textbook defense.
Somehow, Gasol has to find a way to win matchups in games against good teams. He can’t go into the playoffs exposed like this when playing against solid clubs.
Maybe he’d be able to turn it on in the playoffs, but he has to find a way to come up big in tough games before crunch time really hits.