Another week has come and gone, and let me say that I have thoroughly enjoyed this week more than the previous three weeks of the New Year. We have a rematch of Super Bowl XLII, the President gave his annual State of the Union, and we saw the season premiere of American Idol. What do all of these television events have in common? Commercials. I find that commercials are as much a part of television shows as the actual show itself. A good commercial can stop me from turning the channel (my new favorite commercial is this. I have no clue what she is saying, but I want a Fiat now). And what do all good commercials have in common? Slogans. From Visa’s “It’s everywhere you want to be” to Adidas’ “Impossible is nothing”, slogans are an integral part of our daily lives. And if it is good enough, a slogan can permeate into songs, movies, and all aspects of our culture.
The Grizzlies have two great slogans already with “made in Memphis” and “grit and grind”, but Rudy Gay introduced a new slogan this week after the Grizzlies’ furious comeback win against the Warriors on Monday. “Make your own luck.” This has everything a great slogan needs. It is short, simple, and to the point. There is a sense of confidence and it represents the Memphis Grizzlies brand all too well. With their best perimeter player gone for most of last season, Memphis made their own luck and got within one game of the Western Conference Finals. This year with their biggest low post scoring threat out 6-8 weeks (Zach Randolph) the Grizzlies are still a playoff caliber team and are only 1.5 games out of first place in the division. However, they are still struggling to beat playoff caliber opponents which makes them the odd man out of the playoff picture sitting a half game out of the 7th spot in the West. Gay and his teammates will have to continue making their own luck if they want to do like Ford and “go further” than they have every gone before. It is time for our weekly Grizzlies 3-pointer, three things the Grizzlies are doing, need to do, and will be doing to improve upon their success as a team on a weekly basis.
1) What are the Grizzlies doing?
The Grizzlies defense is “finger licking good” thanks to quick hands and great reflexes. Coach Hollins has the team focused in on the defensive side of the ball as they are 10th in points allowed in the NBA and first in steals per game. In the last 10 games Memphis has only allowed 1 team to score 100 or more points, and that was the best team in the Western Conference, Oklahoma City. The Grizzlies are getting stellar defensive play out of everyone, but they have some standouts who, should they continue their prowess on the defensive end, will certainly make the NBA All-Defensive Team. Marc Gasol has been “M’m! M’m! Good!” around the rim, as he is locking down the paint and allowing his teammates to get out into the passing lanes to force turnovers. He is 4th in the NBA in defensive rebounds per game (8.4) and 5th in blocks per game (2.2). Mike Conley is also asserting himself on the defensive end, and he looks like the best defender at his position in the NBA. He has the league lead in steals per game and is 2nd in the NBA in total steals with 43, behind Ricky Rubio’s 46. Not too far behind him sits Mr. Grit and Grind himself, Tony Allen, with 34 steals on the year, making the Grizzlies the only team in the NBA with two players who have over 30 steals on the season so far. Rudy Gay has even gotten in on the fun as he is 17th in the NBA in steals with 28. They will need to continue to get this type of defensive production so that they can get easy buckets and points in the paint.
2) What do the Grizzlies need to do?
Perform better against upper echelon teams. Memphis took full advantage in playing lesser competition last week going 3-2 on the week, but in order to make it deep into the playoffs you have to beat good teams something the Grizzlies have struggled with so far this season. In fact, Memphis is a woeful 2-8 this season against teams with a winning record. They are only averaging 89.3 points per game against teams over .500, which is nearly six points less than their season average. Last week they played two teams with winning records (Clippers and the Trail Blazers) and lost to both teams. The Grizzlies need to find a way to “just do it” and beat teams over .500. Otherwise, their chances of making the playoffs will be slimmer than a frog hair split three ways.
3) What will the Grizzlies do?
“Buckle up” and get ready for another tough stretch in their schedule. The Grizzlies’ defense will be tested this week with three of their opponent ranking in the top 10 in both points per game and assists per game. Needless to say all three of those teams (Spurs, Nuggets, and Hawks) are over .500. The combined record of this week’s opponents for the Grizzlies is an impressive 42-29. The division leading Spurs come to FedExForum on the 30th and the very next night the Grizzlies will welcome the Nuggets, who lead the NBA in both points per game and assists per game. Memphis will close out the week with a difficult road trip to Atlanta to face the Hawks. The Grizzlies are going to have to “be all that they can be” if they are going to avoid falling further out of the playoff picture.
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C.J. Hurt covers the Grizzlies for MemphiSport. Follow him @churtj09 for live tweets from FedExForum.
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