The Memphis Grizzlies opened their season yesterday in a sour way.
They lost to the Los Angeles Clippers, 101-92, in what was a closely contested game that gave an identical feel to the playoff series these rivals played last season.
Its safe to say that these two teams are rivals and that they’ll be battling each other like this for years to come–well, if Chris Paul chooses to stay in Los Angeles.
The Grizzlies were right in the game until the very end where their offense just seemed to stall on them. There’s no way that they should’ve lost that game after a subpar effort from Paul who finished with only 11 points and 12 assists.
Seven of Paul’s 11 points were scored in the second half of play. Memphis endured 29 points from Jamal Crawford for most of the game, and then it just slipped away.
They didn’t lose the game because of defensive lapses, they lost because of their unbalanced lineup.
They already struggle because of their lack of shooting–which is addressed in the second unit. They just don’t have any shooting on the floor with their best talent. That’s a problem.
Memphis is known for their big three of Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph, and Rudy Gay. Last night their star studded front court combined for 60 points, 30 rebounds, and 11 assists.
They weren’t very efficient on these shots. It took them 49 attempts to get 60 points, and they shot 48% as a collective group. That should be much higher for a front court trio.
The problem is that they aren’t getting inside the paint. Everyone was trying to stretch the floor because of how the Clippers were stacking the paint on the defensive end last night.
In forty minutes of play, Zach Randolph attempted eight shots inside the restricted area. He only made three of them.
Randolph seems highly uncomfortable inside the paint at times. He struggles to play against height and when playing with Gay on the floor he isn’t able to get to the spots in the high post that he likes.
The Grizzlies struggle to balance the floor with both of these two playing at the same time. Rudy isn’t a consistent enough outside shooter to create some space for Randolph to work in.
To solve this issue, they need to get more floor spacers on the floor. The additions of Wayne Ellington and Jared Bayless help the Grizzlies tremendously in this area.
Those are two guys who have been consistent shooters in their career. They’re playing on the second unit, though. So it doesn’t really aid Randolph or Gay immediately.
There are two solutions that I have come up with that I’d like to see Lionel Hollins try.
He should either allow Randolph or Gay to be the sixth man on this team, first. I know–egos won’t allow this. But sometimes this can work out the best when you have a lot of talent on your team.
Having that scoring option along with shooting is going to be pivotal for this team, though. There obviously is not enough space created for each of these guys to thrive. Its been going on for a while now.
To create a balanced effort between the two, one should be relegated to that sixth man role while playing starter minutes. We’ve seen this be a successful tactic in the past on this team.
Last season when coming back from injury, Randolph played this role. Either player is a great talent, so I don’t think that you can go wrong.
Another possible solution that I’ve come up with is benching Tony Allen in favor of Ellington. Of course, you’ll lose something defensively in your starting lineup, but I think that Marc Gasol has grown enough in that area to cover it up somewhat.
Teams too frequently are playing off of Tony Allen knowing that his jumper isn’t a threat. He isn’t skilled enough of a player like Rajon Rondo is to cover that up. He’s mainly a defensive stopper.
Allen is giving teams some extra help on the perimeter to bother Randolph and Gay. One or the other isn’t going to have a good game because of this help. Instead of moving one to the bench, you can bring the floor spacing to the starting lineup.
It’s going to be interesting to see how the Grizzlies play this. I doubt anything will be done soon–after all we’re only one game in. Its safe to say that any move now would be an overreaction.
But as we get deeper into the season, maybe we’ll start to see instances where these strategies are implemented. Not only in the starting lineups and the direct second unit, but maybe some different mixtures of guys on the floor will get more minutes than others.
Until then, I think the Grizzlies will continue to struggle to get these guys going. That isn’t going to be a pretty sight for anyone.