The Memphis Grizzlies, last season’s Western Conference runners-up, took their time to find their footing early on in a new season with a new Head Coach. But they are currently in the middle of a red hot mid-season push for the Playoffs which includes a 12-3 record in January, better than any other team in the league for the month.
Not many were shocked when they were swept by the San Antonio Spurs in the Conference Finals last season, but often a loss at one of the biggest stages of the game can act as a catalyst for future positive results, and that is precisely what the Grizzlies have been producing after their initial battle with injuries – positive results, or in other words, wins.
Despite more or less having the same roster as last season, with Mike Miller being the only notable addition, the Grizzlies struggled in the first two months of the season. A change in the head coaching level coupled with injuries to multiple important players put them on the back-foot right at the start of a season in which they expected to make it back to the Playoffs.
However, over the last two months, the Grizzlies have made hay when the sun has shone on them. With smart trades made by the front office during the mid-season transfer window and key players returning from injuries, the players and coaching staff have finally been able to come to an agreement on the system of play with which the team can flourish.
The agreement and compromise by both the players and the coaching staff on the system of practice and execution is bringing fruit and rewarding the team with much-needed wins in their pursuit of making the post-season.
Here’s a look at the secrets behind the Grizzlies’ success this calendar year:
The Grizzlies Big 3
Marc Gasol, Mike Conley and Zach Randolph are all invaluable to the Grizzlies’ organization. Conley has been the most impressive of the three this season; he has elevated his game to such a level that many felt he deserved an All-Star spot.
Conley averages 17.9 points and 6.2 assists and is the only player on the Grizzlies roster with a PER (Player Efficiency Rate) of more than 20. When Gasol was out indefinitely with a torn MCL, Conley’s game went up by more than just a notch. He took over the team and its scoring with his playmaking abilities.
While Conley stole the limelight in the absence of Gasol with his 4th quarter abilities, Randolph quietly went about his business on the boards. A beast off the boards, Randolph has registered 33 double doubles with averages of 17.3 points and 10.3 rebounds in 53 games played this season.
Neither his shot-making nor his play might be something which would get you out of your seat, but Randolph’s work on the boards and its importance are well understood by his team-mates, especially his front court starting partner Marc Gasol.
Before Conley’s rise, the Grizzlies relied immensely on the front court duo of Gasol and Randolph to carry them over the line. Although Randolph had been an All-Star even prior to Gasol arriving in Memphis, it is the Spaniard’s rare play-making abilities which allow him to play freely. Gasol’s importance to the team can be seen in their record this season without him.
Gasol is the focal point of this team on both ends of the floor. His passing ability allows the Grizzlies to run plays with him positioned at the elbow area, and at the same time he can work his own shot in the post. His defence doesn’t show as much on the stat sheet but he is one of the best players in the league when the ball lies with the opponents.