Key Adjustments the Memphis Grizzlies Need to Make to Win
The Memphis Grizzlies hold many problems in their hands after losing the first two games of the Western Conference finals to the San Antonio Spurs. Whether they adjust in those areas will determine whether they come back to win the series.
Two key Grizz players started shakily. Zach Randolph couldn't hit shots in the first game-and-a-half. Mike Conley struggled to control the ball in Game 1.
Also, Memphis failed to stop the Spurs in a key area.
Here's a look at these issues and how the Grizzlies can address them:
Defend the Three-Ball
The Grizzlies had shut the Los Angeles Clippers and Oklahoma City Thunder down beyond the arc in the first two rounds. They held the Clippers to 30.4 percent and the Thunder to 33.3 percent. In Game 4, the Grizz allowed the Thunder to reach a high of 45 percent. Against Los Angeles, the most they allowed was 36.8 percent in Game 1.
The Spurs quickly put a dent in Memphis' three-point defense. San Antonio went 14-of-29 (48.3 percent) in Game 1. Kawhi Leonard was 4-of-5 from downtown. Matt Bonner hit four of six three-point attempts in 16 minutes, triggering this tweet from Josh Coleman of the Three Shades of Blue blog.
The Grizz cooled the Spurs' hand in Game 2, limiting them to 36 percent. However, the Spurs were 9-of-21 (42.8 percent) before missing their last four. Mostly, the Spurs maintained their laser aim from deep. While Bonner and Tony Parker each went 1-of-4, Danny Green drilled three of four long-range shots.
Indeed, the Thunder were third in three-point field-goal percentage in the regular season, one place ahead of the Spurs. However, the Spurs are more disciplined and make smarter passes than Kevin Durant's crew.
Mike Conley told Matt Moore of CBSSports.com that the Grizzlies "overhelped" on outside shots on Game 1. The Memphis Flyer's Chris Herrington explained that it was more complicated than that, saying that they didn't show good awareness on pick-and-roll sets.
The difference between the two teams' three-point aptitudes is vast. The Grizz were No. 24 in three-point field-goal percentage. Quincy Pondexter is the only Memphis player to shoot better than 37 percent. San Antonio had six.
Letting the Spurs run away in this area would be unaffordable.
Get Zach Randolph on Even Ground
Randolph's shot was horrifically off during the first six quarters of this series. In that time, he shot 2-of-18 from the field, including 1-of-8 for two points in Game 1.
The Commercial Appeal's Peter Edmiston noted via Twitter how rare Randolph's funk in the series opener was.
The 31-year-old finished 5-of-8 to salvage his Game 2 figure.
Still, Randolph needs to find his stroke for an entire game. The Grizzlies won eight of the 10 games in which he's scored 15 points.
Part of the solution is opening angles for Randolph. The Spurs collapsed on him in Game 1. Thus, they limited him to 11 offensive touches, according to ESPN.
Also, he should take stronger attempts. Many of his shots during the first two games were either weak tosses or the result of a sloppy approach.
The 12-year pro shouldered the load for both of the Grizzlies' significant playoff runs in the last three years. If they are to recover, his return to form is a must.
What's the most important issue the Grizzlies need to address?
Steadier Point Guard Play
Conley had played outstanding ball through two rounds. He had three 20-point games and an assist-to-turnover ratio of five against the Clippers. Against the Thunder, he had a 3.1 assist-to-turnover rate and scored 26 and 24 in Games 2 and 4, respectively.
In this series, Conley has taken time to load up. He had 14 points on 5-of-12 shooting while turning it over a playoff-high-tying four times in Game 1.
Conley played hero toward the end of Game 2, hitting a game-tying shot to send it to overtime. However, he missed all three shots in overtime. He also had three fouls in the first 19 minutes of action.
His absence was felt as the Spurs went on a 13-1 run to enter the half with a 15-point lead.
Meanwhile, Jerryd Bayless has had an unimpressive postseason. He averaged 14.7 points per 36 minutes in the conference semifinals after scoring 19.3 per 36 in the opening round. He's shooting 37.1 percent in the playoffs.
To his credit, he's turning it over just 1.1 times per game.
Bayless shot 7-of-18 in Game 2, even though he and Conley shared the team lead with 18 points.
He missed two three-pointers in the final minute of overtime.
The efficient play that helped the Grizz reach this point is due in large part to the guile of Bayless and Conley. That efficiency is imperative in order to match the well-heeled Spurs.
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