5 Keys to Memphis Grizzlies' Success in 1st Month

Tom Firme@TFirmeAnalyst IINovember 9, 2012

5 Keys to Memphis Grizzlies' Success in 1st Month

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    The Memphis Grizzlies have started the season on the right foot with a 3-1 record. This start is fairly impressive since the Grizzlies have only started 3-1 two other times. Still, the Grizzlies have work to do to finish the first full month of the season in good condition.

    Memphis has a chance to move through this section of the schedule with a charge. The month of November presents the Grizzlies with an imbalance of home games to road games and an even number of cupcakes to challenging contests.

    Certain players have burdens to carry through this month. Rudy Gay needs to show himself as a stellar scorer. Others need to shine in certain roles.

    Click ahead to see what the Grizzlies need to do to walk out of November with their heads held high.

Win 10 of 13 Games

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    The Grizzlies have a strong opportunity with the imbalance of home games to road games. With nine home games and only four road games this month, the Grizzlies could go into December with a full head of steam.

    The Grizz dominate their home court, having gone 30-11 in 2010-11 and 26-7 in 2011-12 at home. Nine games at the FedEx Forum give Memphis an easy avenue with which to build a solid early-season record. Five of those games are against 2012 playoff teams.

    After managing the Utah Jazz in the first one, the Grizzlies can reasonably split the other four games, which include the Miami Heat, Los Angeles Lakers, Denver Nuggets and New York Knicks.

    The Grizz can get through the four games against non-playoff teams from last season with some margin for error.

    By winning all road games in November, as the next slide will discuss, the Grizzlies have a fair shot at finishing the month with a 10-4 record for the season.

Win All 4 Road Games

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    As mentioned in the previous slide, the Grizzlies have it easy with just four road games in the first month of the season. Memphis hasn’t been a strong road team in recent history, going 16-21 on the road in 2010-11 and 15-18 in 2011-12.

    The November road matches shouldn’t start them in that direction. Road wins against the Milwaukee Bucks and Golden State Warriors gave them a good start for the road track after losing to the Los Angeles Clippers in the opener on Oct. 31.

    The “grit ‘n’ grind” will be on the road on Wednesday against the Oklahoma City Thunder and Nov. 17 against the Charlotte Bobcats. Oklahoma City presents an important challenge for a team that was 5-10 against the Top-8 teams in the Western Conference last season.

    After losing both games at Oklahoma City last season, the Grizz can show an ability to beat good teams on the road by beating this tough conference rival. Both games played at the Chesapeake Energy Arena were decided by single digits. After those close losses, the men in the three shades of blue could take a win with both Rudy Gay and Zach Randolph healthy.

    Beating the Bobcats will be no problem. Charlotte won its opener narrowly against the Indiana Pacers but could hardly make a stop in the last two games while allowing the Phoenix Suns and Dallas Mavericks to score more than 115 points.

Give Jeremy Lin His Due

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    Jeremy Lin has had a fairly decent season to this point as far as ball control is concerned. He’s averaging three turnovers per game and has an assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.33, which is much better than his dismal rate of 1.71 last season. He hasn’t had more than four turnovers in a game. Last season, he had at least five turnovers in 12 of 35 games.

    Come Friday evening, the Grizz will have to remind Lin of the side of himself that many fair-minded followers know all too well.

    The “Grindhouse” is the perfect team to shed this light on Lin. Having led the league in steals and turnovers forced the last two years, this team digs into opposing point men like no other. With Tony Allen and Mike Conley averaging two steals per game this season and at least 1.8 per game the previous two, Lin will be facing intense pressure in the backcourt.

    A key litmus test of this major turnover-forcing team is whether it can force one of the most vulnerable point guards into making a high number of mistakes. If the Grizzlies can do that, fans can be assured of their defensive capability.

Have 2 Bench Players Averaging 8 Points Per Game

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    The Grizzlies need to establish a significant level of scoring contribution from the bench. Last season, the Grizzlies had only one significant bench scorer. Averaging 12.6 points per game, O.J. Mayo was the only one averaging more than six points per game.

    This season, the Grizzlies have had four bench players score in double figures, but only one player, Marreese Speights, scored at least seven points in three games. With nine points per game, Speights is also the only one averaging at least seven points per game.

    Indeed, Lionel Hollins takes some time to sort out his rotation. He plays guys in varying amounts early in the season to see how they fit. He needs to figure out how exactly to use newcomers like Wayne Ellington and Jerryd Bayless.

    Still, he must have a couple players distinguish themselves as substantive scorers off the bench. Marreese Speights has done a decent job thus far. His 18-point performance against the Milwaukee Bucks was a refreshing burst of frontcourt scoring, with Marc Gasol struggling most of the night.

    To have Ellington, Bayless or another reserve guard averaging at least eight points per game along with Speights would ensure some depth of bench scoring.

Rudy Gay Averages 20 Points Per Game

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    Rudy Gay was never a truly aggressive scorer for a full season. His second season is the only one in which he averaged 20 points per game, and he was just a tad above it that season. After four seasons with between 18.9 and 19.8 points per game, Gay needs to show some change.

    That needs to start with a month of inspired scoring affairs. Gay needs to be above the 20-points-per-game threshold after November is finished.

    Thus far, Gay hasn’t met that standard. He’s averaging 18.8 points per game, which isn’t too bad. But his only 20-point performance was in the opener against the Los Angeles Clippers.

    His moderate scoring hasn’t been for a lack of effort. He’s taken at least 17 shots in each game. The trouble has been accuracy. He’s shot 30.9 percent in the last three games.

    One can reasonably expect a regression to the mean for Gay, a career 45.5 percent field-goal shooter. If Gay continues to take 19 shots per game as he has in the first four games and shoots around his career mark, he will easily average 20 points per game through the end of the month.

    That would be a good indicator that Gay is showing new aggression, while not showing a great likelihood that he’ll drop off, considering that it would not be far above his average since his second season of 19.5 per game.