Fact or Fiction from Memphis Grizzlies' Playoff Performance so Far
Zach Randolph and the Memphis Grizzlies have fought through seven playoff games, with both the player and the team showing some characteristic play and some strange stuff. Since seven games is a small sample size, one can't take too much stock in particular eye-popping figures.
Randolph has struggled on the boards. One of the most dominant forces on the glass, he's pulled down misses at a pedestrian rate.
Meanwhile, Mike Conley is dishing out assists at a rate never seen before from the Ohio State product.
Both are figures that are sure to change.
On the other hand, the Grizzlies' clean offensive play and minutes given to bench players will stay the same.
Follow along for a breakdown of why each is occurring and how every typical or unseemly figure will play out.
Statistics are current through May 5 games.
Advanced metrics come from basketball-reference.com.
Fact: Offensive Efficiency
The Grizzlies have notified the league that their rise in offensive efficiency in the post-Rudy Gay era is here to stay. They averaged just 9.8 turnovers per game in the first round. Four times they had 10 or fewer turnovers. Mike Conley had an assist-to-turnover ratio of five.
Memphis surprised fans by posting the second-best offensive rating in the first round. They also shot 45.9 percent from the field, which was on par with their clip after trading Gay.
In their initial match with the Thunder, the Grizz kept turnovers reasonably low, with 11, but shot 3.2 percent below that new standard.
With the Grizz showing greater control and more accurate shooting without Gay, their field-goal clip will rebound.
Fiction: Mike Conley's Assist Rate
Mike Conley isn't often a presence on the assist leaderboard. In fact, he's never been in the top 10 in assists per game or assist rate.
That's no fault to his ability as a floor general. Conley runs a fairly efficient offense, but the Grizz had relied mostly on isolation plays and transition offense before the Rudy Gay trade. Scoring wasn't directed solely through his hands. This explains why he's never had an assist rate better than 30 percent.
This postseason has seen much more control through his hands, leading to his 35.1 percent assist rate. Against the Clippers, he had a 38.9 percent rate. He and Chris Paul kept the games slow, allowing more half-court scoring to occur through Conley's passes.
Also, Marc Gasol only had 3.3 assists per game in the series, 0.7 less than his season average and 1.2 less than his average after the Rudy Gay trade. With Clippers defenders doubling down on him, he didn't facilitate as much as usual.
The series opener against the Thunder saw a different side of the Grizzlies' offense. Conley had just three assists and a 13.2 assist rate. Of the 35 field goals made by Memphis, only 13 were assisted. Partly, that's due to the Grizzlies shooting only 42.7 percent from the field.
While it was on the other end of the spectrum in terms of the 25-year-old's passing numbers, it shows that he won't always exercise tight-fisted control of the offense.
Fact: Bench Minutes
The Memphis Grizzlies' bench didn't see much action against the Clippers. Jerryd Bayless and Quincy Pondexter were the only Grizz reserves to play 13 or more minutes per game. Just two others—Darrell Arthur and Keyon Dooling—saw 10 minutes per game.
With Arthur having averaged 12.3 minutes per game thus far and standing as the only backup big man putting in even six minutes per game, Lionel Hollins has made it clear that he'll lean heavily on Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol.
Indeed, this isn't much different from the regular season. Bayless and Pondexter played 22.1 and 21.1 minutes, respectively. Arthur was the leading big man off the bench with 16.4 minutes per game, although he saw just 14.5 per game in the last three months.
Generally, the Grizzlies will lean heavily on their starters. After only Bayless, Pondexter and Arthur punched out after putting in double-digit minutes off the bench in Game 1 against the Thunder, Memphis will often be seen going eight deep.
Fiction: Zach Randolph's Rebounding
Zach Randolph has been less than profound to this point in the rebounding department. He averaged just eight rebounds per game in the first round, 3.4 less than his regular-season average. His rebounding rate was 15.2 percent, 4.1 percent below his season rate.
A typically dominant presence on the offensive glass, Randolph is averaging 3.1 offensive boards per game—one less than his regular-season average. He failed to grab one in Game 1 against the Clippers and one in Game 7.
While his pair in the series opener in Oklahoma City showed a bit more promise, he still needs to be a greater presence protecting his team's glass.
Further troubles for the league-leader in offensive rebounds would be surprising. Besides, he's been in the top two in his last three full seasons.
Fact: Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol's Scoring
Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol have taken their scoring presence to another level in these playoffs. After averaging a combined 29.5 points per game in the regular season, they're teaming up for 38.1 points per game.
Randolph is putting up 20.4 points per game while shooting 54.8 percent from the field, 8.6 percent better than he did before entering the playoffs. He scored at least 23 points in the last four games of the series with L.A., harkening back to his 2011 playoff form.
Gasol is averaging 17.7 per game, having scored at least 20 in three of the last four.
Randolph and Gasol create a greater variety of looks than any other frontcourt pair and play off each other like no other. They'll continue to wreak havoc on opposing frontcourt defenders.
Fiction: Opponent Turnovers
The Grizzlies have yet to raise their team trademark—their ability to force turnovers. They're averaging 5.1 steals per game and forcing 11.7 turnovers per game.
Chris Paul had a much easier time in the prior round than he did in last year's showdown. He had a 4.2 assist-to-turnover ratio and coughed it up just 1.5 times per game, compared with 3.7 per game and a ratio of two.
The Thunder skated by with just 10 turnovers and a breezy 9.8 percent turnover rate in the series opener.
This is a strange turn for a team that was second in opponents' turnover rate and steals this season and first in both categories the previous two years.
Fans of the "grit 'n' grind" shouldn't despair. The Grizz will begin to enforce their schemes of theft once again.