Cue in Arrested Development:
“[…] the answers to all which are in front of me
The ultimate truth started to get blurry
For some strange reason it had to be
It was all a dream about Tennessee”
Three years after the Pau Gasol trade, it seems as though the Memphis Grizzlies (41-33) fans have waited an eternity for their team to have a realistic shot at making the playoffs. This season they are battling to hang on to the eighth seed in the Western Conference standings. The Golden State Warriors (32-43) on the other hand seem headed in the opposite direction, but nonetheless will be looking to put a small dent in the Grizzlies’ playoff aspirations when the teams face off tonight in Memphis.
On the season, Memphis is averaging 100.0 points per game (12th in the NBA) on 46.9 percent field goal shooting (seventh in the league). To borrow a phrase from Clark Kellogg, the Grizzlies put up points thanks to a relentless and punishing interior attack. Indeed, aided by players such as Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol and Darrell Arthur, Lionel Hollins’ team scores a staggering 50.8 points in the paint per game (best in the association).
Memphis does such a phenomenal job of pounding the ball inside that they also manage to gather their misses to the tune of 11.8 offensive rebounds per game (seventh in the NBA) and also get themselves to the line 24.3 times per game (14th in the league).
Mind you, as good as their interior play is, their perimeter shooting is just as bad as evidenced by their 32.7 percent shooting from three-point range (28th in the NBA). The Grizzlies at least understand what kind of team they are; only firing away 11.4 three-point field goal attempts per game (last in the league).
Golden State and Memphis have already met twice this season, with each team winning on their respective home court. The Grizzlies averaged 112.5 points per game on 51.9 percent shooting in those two contests. Also, they generated 27.0 free throw attempts per game as well as 46.0 points in the paint on average in both contests.
Lionel Hollins’ team scored a few points less than usual in the paint, but that came as a result of Golden State sagging into the lane and daring Memphis players to shoot from long range where they selectively obliged. Indeed, in the two contests, the Grizzlies shot 16-for-33 (48.5%) from long range.
Memphis’ offense has been good throughout the season and so has their defense. The Grizzlies are surrendering 98.1 points per game (14th in the NBA) on 45.8 percent field goal shooting (15th in the NBA) on the season.
Their success on that side of the ball hinges on their ability to defend the paint. The Grizzlies give special attention to the interior, which in turn results in them yielding a mere 40.0 points in the paint per game (11th best in the association).
Also, no team in the NBA is better at forcing miscues. Indeed, Memphis forces 16.7 turnovers per game which helps them get out in transition where they score 16.6 fast break points per game (fourth in the NBA).
On the flip side, Memphis’ is slow to get back on defense, and thus allow 15.1 fast break points per game (24th in the league). In addition, the Grizzlies put a huge emphasis on defending the interior; consequently they allow opponents to shoot 19.7 three-point field attempts per game (seventh most in the association) and to convert them at a 37.3 percent rate (25th in the NBA).
In their previous contests with the Warriors this season, the Grizzlies have surrendered 113.0 points per game on 44.9 percent field goal shooting. Memphis has struggled to defend Golden State’s lethal perimeter players once they have gotten into the paint, but they also have had issues with limiting their perimeter shooting.
The Dubs are averaging a surprising 47.0 points in the paint per game against the Grizzlies this season, but they are also 22-for-50 (44.0 %) from three-point range against them.
Needless to say, the Warriors should be able to get their points against Memphis but the degree of difficulty will probably decide the outcome. In their lone win against the Grizzlies, the Dubs forced 19 turnovers, which helped them score 28 fast break points. In that same game, Golden State shot 34 free throws.
If the Warriors defense can replicate that same ball pressure, they should be able to force some miscues and get out in transition for some easy and possibly spectaculars baskets courtesy of Curry, Ellis and Wright.
Memphis game notes: In two games against the Warriors this season, Mike Conley is averaging 16.0 points, 9.0 assists and 5.0 rebounds on 47.6% field goal shooting.
Golden State game notes: In two games against the Grizzlies this season, Dorell Wright is averaging 17.5 points, 6.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists on 35.7% field goal shooting.