5 Secret Reasons for the Memphis Grizzlies' Scorching Start
Commentators are fawning over the Grizzlies in their power rankings with little comprehension of the underlying cause of their hot start.
Placing the "grit 'n' grind" atop his power rankings, Marc Stein of ESPN said in his power rankings video, “I think Memphis, based on strength of schedule, quality wins, overall record and what we expect from them overall, they are a contender."
Discussing Memphis in his NBA.com power rankings, John Schuhmann mainly harped on their troubles on the defensive boards.
Stein, Schuhmann and others have focused on the basic parts of this small-market team's feverish run out of the gates.
A deeper gaze reveals what has brought the Grizz to claim the best record in the NBA through the first four weeks of the season.
Follow along to see the real reasons why this typically slow-starting team is on the top of the totem.
Disclaimer: Statistics are current through Monday’s (November 26) games.
Zach Randolph Takes a Backseat to Rudy Gay
The idea that Zach Randolph and Rudy Gay would have a hard time playing together after not playing together for a large portion of the last two years was mere smoke. All people could wonder was how it would happen.
This duo has made a new adjustment to evolve their on-court relationship. Randolph is taking fewer shots, allowing Gay to take greater command of the offense. The 31-year-old has taken just 14 field-goal attempts per game. Gay has put up 17.7 shots per game.
This is a departure from the shared shot-taking enacted by the pair before the big man suffered a partial MCL tear early last season. In 2010-11, the 26-year-old gunner tossed up 16.1 shots per game. Randolph lofted 15.8 per game. In 2009-10, Gay had 16.1 shots per game. Randolph attempted 16.5 per game.
As he ages, the 11-year veteran is seeing his role change somewhat. With that, he’s withdrawing to the man who demands the most attention on offense.
The magic sauce that keeps any hot team sizzling is efficient offensive play. That’s especially true for a team like the Grizzlies that forces a great number of turnovers.
Memphis has keyed victories with clean offensive play. In putting the Oklahoma City Thunder away in the first half, the “Grindhouse” committed only one turnover through two quarters. The Grizzlies gave it away just four times in the last 22 minutes to put away the New York Knicks.
The Grizzlies have been one of the most efficient teams in the league to this point. They're sixth in turnovers per game (14.3). Also, they have the sixth-lowest turnover rate (13.3 percent). They also have the fourth-highest differential in turnover rate, as they cough it up 2.4 percent less than opponents (15.7 percent).
Teams that make fewer mistakes are unmistakably difficult to beat. If Mike Conley and company can keep up the slick play, they'll be a tough out down the stretch.
Rotating Bench Scoring
In search of someone to replace O.J. Mayo's scoring contribution from the bench, Lionel Hollins has found not one player, but a cast of willing characters to pitch in.
Marreese Speights had been fairly steady to start the year, scoring at least seven in six of his first 10 games. He dropped 18 against the Milwaukee Bucks.
Wayne Ellington has had a couple hot nights. That includes 25 points on 8-of-13 shooting—7-of-11 from three-point range—against the Miami Heat.
After playing sheepishly last year, Quincy Pondexter has become a relevant reserve. Pondexter has gone from 4.2 points per game last season to 6.8 per game this season. He helped push the second-half rally against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday with 10 points.
Instead of relying on just one player to have a big game off the bench like they did the last two years, the Grizzlies can look to any one of a few guys to pop a nice figure after popping off the jump suit. That has given this scrappy team great flexibility as they rush through the first four weeks.
Control the Game in the Second Half
An easy way to tell that a team is rocking hard is that it doesn't an opponent take hold in the late stages of the game. Save Monday's fourth-quarter comeback against the Cavs, the Grizzlies have kept the opposing team from holding the upper hand heading into the final frame, as Chris Herrington of the Memphis Flyer tweeted.
Further, Memphis has mostly managed to keep teams at arms length in second half, entering the final frame with a double-digit lead in seven of 12 games.
Holding that edge in the second half is a big reason why the Grizz have the second-best margin of victory in the league.
If the team in the three shades of blue continues to build big leads by the third quarter, it will be difficult to rule out as a contender.
Home, Sweet Home
The Grizzlies have had the benefit of playing most of their November games in the friendly confines of the FedEx Forum. Nine of their 13 games this month are at home. Seven of their first 12 games were on the home floor.
Memphis has dominated in comfort of the complex on Beale Street. In 2010-11, the Grizzlies went 30-11 (.732) at home. Last season, they were 25-8 (.758) in front of their faithful.
This season, they’ve started 6-1 in their city-owned forum.
While one can hardly detract from the work that Grizzlies players have done to make this happen, it's worth acknowledging that the ball has been in their court.