6 Impressions from Memphis Grizzlies Season Opener

Tom Firme@TFirmeAnalyst IINovember 1, 2012

6 Impressions from Memphis Grizzlies Season Opener

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    The Memphis Grizzlies excited fans, but couldn't keep the grind consistent for the full 48 minutes, as they fell to the Los Angeles Clippers in the season opener. Giving up 101 points to the the team which Memphis lost to in last season's playoffs is a disappointment, even if it's on the road.

    That aspect of the Grizzlies defense was a letdown, but another aspect was just what fans of the grit 'n' grind would expect. Their effort forcing turnovers generally met expectations.

    Offensively, Memphis did just about what they did in the past. The offense wasn't exactly efficient. Three-point shots didn't connect. Zach Randolph led a strong effort on the offensive boards.

    Read along for a rundown of gleanings from the Grizzlies' 16th season-opening loss in 18 seasons.

Marc Gasol and Rudy Gay Rev It Up

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    The two Grizzlies players expected to come up big, Marc Gasol and Rudy Gay, played spectacularly. Gay posted 25 points and seven rebounds. He was both aggressive and accurate, knocking down 11 of 21 field-goal attempts.

    Gay's scoring burst is a delight to Grizz fans. He scored 25 points just 10 times last season. The type of aggressive shooting he showed was uncommon last season. He took at least this many shots in a game only seven times.

    The seven-year pro has been an enigma for the past few years. After averaging 20.1 points per game in his sophomore year, he hung in the 18.9 to 19.8 points-per-game range. Grizzlies fans have waited anxiously for him to become something more than a very nice scorer.

    Gay told The Commercial Appeal how much he wanted to push himself this season. This performance gives fans some hope that Gay could be more focused in the scoring department.

    Gasol did just about everything he'd be expected to do. His 20 points on 8-of-13 shooting demonstrated the fire he had wanted to show. Seven rebounds are fine. He put his spectacular passing ability on display again, dishing out five assists.

    Gasol hadn't put forward remarkable scoring performances often before this season. He scored 20 points just 16 times last season and a total of 24 times in the three seasons before that.

    If Gasol has such strong scoring nights like in this opener, the Grizz could overcome the type of poor shooting performance Zach Randolph had against the Clippers.

No Improvement from Three-Point Range

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    The Grizzlies had hoped to improve their three-point shooting after placing in the bottom 10 in the category the last four years. Chris Wallace signed Jerryd Bayless and Wayne Ellington to add to this aspect of the offense. Josh Selby was expected to take on a bigger role.

    Memphis didn't start the season right in long-range shooting. They shot 2-of-14 from beyond the arc. Quincy Pondexter held the team down by missing all three of his three-point attempts. Mike Conley went 1-of-4. Bayless was 1-of-3. Ellington missed both of his deep shots.

    Lionel Hollins noticed early in the game that his squad wasn't on key in that category, as Memphis TV reporter Rob Fischer tweeted.

    Grizz come out of timeout and attack basket twice to tie after Lionel told them, "Enough jump shots. Attack basket and get to line" #FSGrizz

    — Rob Fischer (@thefishnation) November 1, 2012

    Hopefully, the Grizzlies' three-point performance changes. If it doesn't, the offense will be missing a valuable dimension.

Plenty of Turnovers Forced

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    After leading the league in steals and turnovers forced the last two seasons, the "Grindhouse" was at it again on Wednesday. The Grizzlies had 14 steals and forced the Clippers to turn it over 22 times. Every Grizzlies player except Wayne Ellington had a steal and four (Rudy Gay, Tony Allen, Mike Conley and Quincy Pondexter) had at least two.

    Granted, the Grizzlies allowed the Clippers to gain control of the ball in the fourth quarter. Only three of L.A.'s turnovers occurred in the final frame.

    More turnovers forced wouldn't have completely changed the game, but it would have helped a little.

    Still, the Grizzlies defense started the season by doing what it does best—grind opponents down and force turnovers.

    One can only expect them to keep that grind on that end of the floor.

Rickety Offensive Play

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    In general, the Grizzlies were underwhelming on offense. As a team, they shot 38 percent from the field. Aside from Gay and Gasol (who combined for 19-of-29), the Grizzlies shot 24.5 percent from the field. Zach Randolph shot 5-of-15 from the field and Mike Conley knocked down just two of 10 shots.

    Free-throw shooting was nice (24-of-30). As mentioned before, three-point shooting was way off.

    The Grizz managed to make good on their 17 offensive rebounds, as they turned them into 15 second-chance points.

    Memphis experienced fits and starts throughout the game. The Clippers opened with a 16-8 lead. Then, the Grizz tied it with a 10-2 run. After the Clippers went on a 16-6 spurt, Memphis ran to a halftime lead with a 19-3 run. In the third quarter, the team in the three shades of blue fell behind by nine before staging an 18-3 rally.

    L.A. took control for good with a 10-0 run to start the fourth quarter. The Grizzlies couldn't gain a foothold in the race to the finish, as they missed seven of their first 10 shots in the fourth quarter.

    Such a wild offensive night won't work. The Grizzlies need to have some rhythm hitting shots.

Continued Improvement at the Free-Throw Line

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    After jumping from 23rd in free-throw percentage in 2010-11 to 13th last season, the Grizzlies showed further improvement in the opener. They knocked down 80 percent of their free-throw attempts. That includes making 18-of-20 through 34-plus minutes. Marc Gasol and Tony Allen each made all four of their shots at the line.

    Marreese Speights made all three of his.

    Free throws don't make a big difference in winning games, but they remain an important point of detail. A team that knocks those free throws down is a little more likely to win or at least stay competitive in games.

    The Grizzlies keep themselves safe in terms of competitive positioning with their fine work at the charity stripe.

Sparse Bench Scoring

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    Points off the bench were hard to come by for the Grizzlies in the opener. The small-market team totaled just 17 points off the bench. Of the four bench players who appeared in the game, three scored. Marreese Speights led the way with a decent seven points on 2-of-4 shooting. Jerryd Bayless was just 1-of-8 on his way to six points.

    Wayne Ellington had the other four.

    The Memphis bench players combined for just 5-of-21 shooting (23.8 percent).

    For a team that has a starting 2-guard in Tony Allen who is limited in what he does offensively, and a point guard in Mike Conley who could use a little help, bench scoring is a must. In the post-O.J. Mayo era, at least one reserve guard needs to distinguish himself.

    Two or three significant scoring bench players would be optimal.

    Memphis is a balanced scoring team. In order for the scoring to balance out, a significant contribution needs to come from the bench.