All Heart Blog Panel: Playoffs Edition

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The NBA playoffs are finally here. The Grizzlies finished the season 55-27 and are ranked as the 5th seed in the West. The ladies of All Heart came together to give our thoughts and analysis on the Grizzlies regular season and the playoffs.

1. Briefly give your thoughts on the Grizzlies regular season. Were your expectations met?

Jennifer Conroy: The regular season started off the best in franchise history. Winning the opener, and going on a winning tear. Training camp went well, and the Grizzlies were more ready than ever.

The ball movement was tight, chemistry was cohesive. The energy in the Forum was already at play-off height. There was much speculation of All Star contenders, culminating in Marc Gasol being elected as a Western Conference starter.

And then the All Star break…down. The schedule got tougher after the long break, multiple back to backs and a grueling travel itinerary begin to show cracks. Injuries that had been held at bay reared their heads as players dropped to the sideline. Injuries to one player can be overcome; but, when more than one player drops at a time, major changes in the lineup effect production.

This is exactly what happens to the Grizzlies. Tensions run high, both in fandom and the locker room. Grumbles rumble through Grizz Nation and there is much speculation and discussion over the state of affairs. Playoff panic set in as a seeding scramble took place, and player evaluation, lineup rotation, and coaching efficiency rose to an all time high.

Now we have arrived at the 5th seed against the Portland Trail Blazers at home. I’m proud of our team, teams that do not have the strength to weather the storm of a grueling season fall by the wayside. The Grizzlies have risen like a beast awoken from hibernation.

Carmen Patton: Before the season started, I had the team winning 50-52 games this season. Once the season started, I changed and said that 56-60 was more likely. The team ended the season with 55 wins. The highest number of wins for the franchise is 56.

It certainly would have been nice to top that, but having a coach come that close to the franchise record in his second season is nothing to frown at. The team was in the 1st spot of the Southwest Division for most of the season; they ended in 2nd. Sure, that’s disappointing, but again, nothing to frown upon when you consider that every team in the division is playing in the playoffs.

Five of the eight Western Conference spots are held by the Southwest Division. That speaks volumes of the division that the Grizzlies play in; the teams that they play most.

The team held the 2nd spot in the Western Conference up until the last few games of the season. Coming out of the All Star Break the Grizzlies played 10 back to back games. I’m not an athlete, but I’d venture to say that’s difficult on the body and the mind.

The team finished in the 5th spot (with the 4th best record; Portland holds the 4th spot because of their division title). Last year, making the playoffs literally came down to the last games.

The Grizzlies finished 5th in the league this year. I can remember during preseason seeing Grant Hill say that the Grizzlies would finish in the top five. He was scoffed. If I’m honest, I said myself, we’ll be top 10 Grant, but not top 5. So, that’s 1 for Grant and 0 for Carmen.

Were my expectations met? I’d say yes.  There were times during the season that I was terribly disappointed in how the team looked. There are games that I know the team could have and should have won. There are also games, however, that I sit back and think…I didn’t expect that win.

All in all it was a great season. It had its highs and its lows, but yes, my expectations were met. I STILL BELIEVE!

Sarah Smith: The regular season exceeded my expectations through the All-Star break. We had some minor injuries here and there, but overall having all of our players consistent throughout the year made the team dominate in the Western Conference behind Golden State for much of the season. It was such an exciting time to be a Grizzlies fan.

Since the All-Star break, there were definitely some games where the Grizzlies did not meet their own standards. Several unexpected losses in March and April really hurt the team in the standings while teams like San Antonio were rising and consistently winning.

Tabitha Richard: The regular season lived up to all my initial expectations and delivered quite the ride. We exceeded my 53 win hopes.

Marc Gasol not only stepped up on our floor but got the recognition he deserved throughout the entire NBA with an All-Start start. We also found a way to make an offensive splash that led to the Grizzlies being the team with the best over-all record in the NBA for the 2014 calendar year.

The Grizzlies took advantage of the trade deadline and landed a solid forward in Jeff Green. We have seen the real development of our bench players, especially in the previously lacking point guard position.

Finishing the season in the 2 seed would have truly exceeded my expectations but with the injury bug biting when it did, I say that we finished strong. It speaks to the depth that exists with our bench. We lost two of our starters for a significant amount of time and still landed home court advantage heading into Round 1.

There is a cohesiveness that I can appreciate, since it’s something we really haven’t had to this level in the past. This team has been entertaining to watch this year and I can’t wait for the playoffs!

Sharon Brown: Before the season started, I predicted that the Grizzlies would win 60 games. I came up 5 games short. A 55 win season is awesome.

The team started off great and then a few roadblocks and injuries happened a long the way. No team is perfect and sometimes, there are ups and downs. It’s not the question of a fall, it’s how you get up.

The Grizzlies are a team who will not accept a fall; they will get up and fight. Yes, there was inconsistency and ineffectiveness at times but they made adjustments.

Sure, it would have been nice to win the division title. But what team just have focus on the division title? I hope none.

The ultimate goal is to win a championship. I’d rather sip champagne on Beale at the championship parade than to have a division title.

All I wanted was for the team to compete. I didn’t expect them to win every game; I just wanted them to put forth and effort to win.

Last season, the Grizzlies were fighting to get in the playoffs, this season they were fighting for seeding. What a difference a year makes!!

Jill Kong: Yes. Although lots of fans would argue that Grizzlies could’ve finished the last 3 months better, I believe that there are ample reasons to give them a break.

One most determining reason being that Grizzlies are a team that need to tighten up the game to certain level of intensity and grind it all out to win almost every game, no matter what the strength of opponent is.

They are not a team that hit abundant shots quickly to build leads, move the ball in a mechanical fashion to get easy baskets, or let iso scorers to run the show and make things easier.

They are built in a way that they can only pound the ball inside or start offense through their bigs to secure most wins; they have to slow the game down to certain pace to be in their familiar rhythm. That’s the kind of basketball built for playoffs, not as much for regular season.

In December, fatigue started getting to them. After settling down to their normal game late January and enduring having to integrate new acquisition Jeff Green, along with non-stop injury bugs, they hadn’t regained consistent performance to keep their place in the standings.

But that’s what you get from a team like Grizzlies. They won’t treat every opponent as if they are playing OKC or San Antonio in mid May, especially with back to backs, 4 in 5 nights, and old veteran legs dragging along. So long as they wake themselves up in the middle of April and get ready for the real battle, I won’t be disappointed.

And hey, 55 wins and home court advantage in first round? That ain’t bad.

Aimee Stiegemeyer: If I had to sum it up in one sentence, it would be “What a long, strange trip it has been.” That seems like a pretty accurate description for the journey this team has been on over the course of the season.

The early part of the season exceeded my wildest expectations, and I know I am not alone in that feeling. After the struggles we saw at the beginning of 2013-14 season, it was refreshing to see the dominance being exerted straight out of the proverbial gate this year, especially from Marc Gasol.

Have I mentioned lately just how much I LOVE to see Marc dominating and being selfish and taking shots instead of passing as much? We saw that version of Gasol Wednesday night against the Pacers, and if that is the Gasol we get in the postseason, this team will truly be a force to be reckoned with.

The struggles that we encountered down the stretch were disappointing, no two ways about it, but I feel like injuries and exhaustion really played a part in that decline. We had one of the toughest schedules in the league after the All-Star break, lots of back to back games on the road. Losing Tony Allen for the last 9 games of the season and Mike Conley the last 4 also contributed to that downhill slide, in my opinion.

Sure it was a little disappointing to see our playoff rank drop so fast when we had been sitting pretty in the number 2 seed for so long, but I think it actually worked out in the Grizzlies favor, in terms of first round match ups.

While it would have been nice to hang a division banner, I would MUCH rather see us hang a championship one.

2. What is your analysis on the upcoming series against Portland? What’s your predicted outcome?

Jennifer Conroy: While the regular season series has indicated that the Blazers are perchance the best draw for the Grizzlies, that doesn’t mean it will be easy.

The Grizzlies swept the Blazers in 4 meeting this season, but the playoffs are a different beast. Injuries plague both sides. Much has been made about the Grizzlies being built for the play-offs, and I believe that’s true.

When Grit and Grind are in full force, there’s not a team that can withstand the execution game after game. If the Grizz were operating at full health, I’d say we sweep; but, that’s not the case. I think it will take a minute to find rhythm. The Grizzlies in five.

Carmen Patton: Towards the end of the season, the seeding discussion was almost nerve wrecking.

Who should the Grizzlies play? Who do they have a better chance against? Let’s play this team and not that team. Are they purposely losing games so they don’t have to play this or that particular team? If they keep losing, they’re going to mess up our home court advantage. And so on. It was aggravating and irritating.

So here we are, with home court advantage against Portland. It isn’t 2nd, it isn’t 3rd. We’ve still got home court advantage, and we’re playing a team that we swept this season and have dominated since the 2010-11 season (winning about 70% of the match-ups).

Add to that, we’re playing a banged up Portland. Sure, we’ve got our own injury issues right now with Mike Conley and Tony Allen, but Portland is arguably in a position worse than the Grizzlies.

The West is tough no matter who you play. I certainly don’t expect Portland to just lie down and give Memphis the series, but I don’t expect them to be able to battle the Grizzlies through 7 games either. I’d love to say the Grizzlies sweep and get some rest before the next round, but I’ll say Grizzlies in 5.

Sarah Smith: I am glad to be up against Portland. As fun as our big rivalries are, it is nice to be up against a team other than the Thunder, Spurs, or Clippers.

Portland had a strong start to the season, but they have been wavering throughout the second half. I believe we have won our last 7 match-ups straight.

They are a tough team, but I believe our defensive production can shut them down. My predicted outcome is 4-1.  I think we will win the first two games at home, lose in Portland, win in Portland, and then close it out at home in Game 5.

So long as we have a healthy team (and the hopeful return of Mike & Tony), I think we have this series on lock. The Grizz have their first home court advantage, and I think the energy in the Grindhouse is going to be huge for this team.

Tabitha Richard: The upcoming series is going to be tough, just like any playoff series is. There are no easy wins in the playoffs. Teams play at a different level, which is why the NBA playoffs are some of the best games to watch all year.

I think that we match up well against Portland. We have an entirely different offense than they do, focused mostly on our paint play. Marc and Zach will have to come up big. I know that they will.

We took the season series against Portland 4-0. Portland does not perform well against the Grizzlies. They see most of their starters take a nose dive in efficiency and record stat lines below their season averages.

I wish we could sweep them in the playoffs but I don’t think that will happen. I do believe that we will win this series. I want us to win in 5 and I think that we can do it. Most reports point to the return of Mike and Tony for the playoffs. With their return I believe that we will have all of the tools we need to move forward to the second round swiftly, giving us more time for rest before heading to the Warriors or Pelicans.

Sharon Brown: This series by no means will be easy. It’s going to be a battle. Even though the Grizzlies swept the season series, that means nothing. At this point, both teams have the same record 0-0. The playoffs is a different animal from the regular season. In the playoffs, the best team in the league can fall.

It’s a matter of who wants it more. The Grizzlies should not enter this series underestimating the Trail Blazers. That would be a horrible mistake to make. Never underestimate an opponent.

I believe the Grizzlies will win this series. All this depends on how much Mike and Tony can contribute while dealing with nagging injuries that caused them to miss games at the end of the regular season.

It will take an team effort to win this series, every man called upon must be ready to contribute. They win as a team and lose as a team. One team, one goal!

Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph must be the Smash Brothers and dominate. The Grizzlies defense must show up every game! Jeff Green is the X-factor; he could very well determine the outcome. It won’t be easy. Grizzlies in 6.

Jill Kong: 4-0. I felt some relief this Wednesday when Grizzlies closed out their regular season with a convincing win and drew the match up against the Trail Blazers.

To me, Portland is no match for this Grizzlies team, especially when Grizzlies play grind it out style of game and lock in. Injury concerns remain on both teams, but from a pure match up perspective, Portland has very little answer for Marc & Zach and the Grizzlies seem capable of disrupting the Trail Blazers’ offensive rhythm every time these two teams square off.

Consider the fact that Grizzlies have way more playoff experience than the Blazers and their style of play is generally considered more suitable for playoffs; it’s really hard to find any factor that actually favors Portland in this first round series.

If Conley’s & Allen’s status are still in the cloud, or if Grizzlies aren’t that ready to start the playoffs, I might be a little hesitant to call it a sweep. But since Conley’s and Allen’s status have both been upgraded to “likely”, according to Ronald Tillery from Commercial Appeal, and given that Grizzlies showed playoff intensity in their last regular season game days ago, I’m ready to shout out “8-0”  on the season against Trail Blazers.

Aimee Stiegemeyer: Honestly, I don’t think we could have gotten a better first round opponent. This Memphis team has matched up well with Portland for the last couple of seasons, the current one being no exception. We swept the season series this year with ease.

Lots of people say that regular season performance doesn’t mean much once the postseason starts, and it is true the playoffs are a different animal entirely. But I do think the Grizzlies will get a bit of a confidence boost due to how they’ve played against the Trailblazers all season. Not enough to get careless and full of themselves, mind you, but not the same feeling of dread that might have come with facing the Spurs in the first round.

Since this is the first time these two teams have met in the postseason, all we can really go on is how the regular season games have played out, and Memphis has the advantage there by a wide margin. Based on that, I predict Memphis wins the series in 5 games.

3. Do you think Jordan Adams and JaMychal Green have earned playoffs minutes?

Jennifer Conroy: Jordan Adams is free y’all. The rook has been released.

Adams saw limited floor minutes, and was shuffled between NBA development league the Iowa Energy, and the regular season roster. He was in development, and what a development it’s been. Adams was instrumental in closing a thirty point gap with the Warriors.

He set college records in steals, he can both find the rim from the perimeter, and take it to the glass. I firmly believe that Dave Joerger will use Adams to spell ailing veteran Vince Carter, and to rest Courtney Lee.

JaMychal Green was a late addition to the roster, spending most of the regular season on the Spurs development team. He has performed well in the minutes he’s seen on the NBA stage. I think that JaMychal will see time, but it may be because of Joerger’s habit of inserting rookies with .43 left to play. His time will be determined by performance of the line-up, and what happens to be on the scoreboard.

Carmen Patton: Ahhh…the rookies, the youngbloods, the baby grinders…

I’d love to see Adams and Green get some grind time.  I certainly think it’s dependent upon match-ups though.

While I certainly learned that experience isn’t everything, there is something to be said about experience in the playoffs.  The playoffs are a different animal; they require a different mindset.  I’m not saying that they’re not ready, but I’d certainly run them with experienced players on the court.

Honestly, given the current state of Portland’s health, I wouldn’t cringe to see them on the floor getting their feet wet.  They bring energy to our slow grind it out style of play.  So, I guess I’m saying yes.  Yes, I think Jordan Adams and JaMychal Green should get playoff minutes under the right circumstances.

Sarah Smith: YES.  Especially Adams.  He has shown some toughness and confidence in these last three regular-season games while Mike and Tony have been out.  He adds some grit to the team, and has had decedent offensive production.

I don’t believe JaMychal or Jordan should be getting too many minutes, but they will both contribute a lot to certain rotations while some of the big guys rest.

Particularly if Mike needs a few more games to rest or less minutes, I think the rookies can contribute well to the team.

Tabitha Richard: I do not think we will see playing time for JaMychal Green, unless he’s filling in for 30 seconds to a minute just to give guys a breather. The playoffs always see a shortened roster and I just don’t see that there will really be a place for him to find minutes.

Jordan Adams does have the opportunity to find some time. If Vince Carter continues to cost the Grizzlies offensively, giving the young guy minutes could provide an aggressive spark of the bench. If Tony returns you could put him in at the 3 and give Adams the chance to score.

While Vince’s performance headed into the playoffs has not been where I would like to see it, he still has veteran experience that proves invaluable during playoff games. This could mean that between Tony and Courtney there just won’t be many minutes available for Adams. I personally hope he finds a way into the rotation.

Sharon Brown: Yes! I think both players can contribute to this team in the playoffs.

I love the tenacity of JaMychal Green. He fits in with the grit and grind mantra. His energy is off the charts.

Jordan Adams should have been playing in more games during the regular season. This kid has confidence in his game and he’s going to be the future of this Grizzlies team. Adams has the ability to get to the basket and the foul line.

I don’t know if Joerger will trust JaMychal or Jordan in this series. He trusts the veterans more. But, if Vince Carter and Nick Calathes continue to struggle, Jordan Adams should see the floor and have his time to shine in this series. I don’t know how exactly JaMychal Green can be fitted into the rotation.

Jill Kong: They probably won’t get much playing time, but I would be excited to see Jordan Adams get on the floor if injury bug inconveniently catches up to Grizzlies again.

Looking at Grizzlies young prospects as a whole, I have more faith in Grizzlies future talent right now than several months ago, given that Dave has granted our rookies some minutes lately and they’ve been playing well.

Jordan Adams has really stepped up in recent games as someone who can come off the bench and provide energy, get steals and make transition plays.

JaMychal Green, Jarnell Stokes and Russ Smith all showed flashes recently and they can all become regular contributor for this team in the future. Even though JaMychal Green is 24 years old, he can still be considered as a young prospect and Grizzlies will have him on minimum deal for 2 more years.

As to playing them in the playoffs, I don’t think there’s any necessity to put any of them in the short playoffs rotation just yet, since it’s usually better to have a 8 man short rotation for playoffs and there are guys ahead of them in rotation. With starting 5 set and Jeff Green being the sixth man, Koufos will be clear choice for first big off bench and Udrih will handle backup point guard spot.

But with that said, Jordan Adams still has a chance to edge Carter and Calathes to steal some minutes off the bench as the 9th man.

Aimee Stiegemeyer: Now this is a tough one, it is hard for me to say definitively one way or another, it is really going to depend on what the situation requires in the moment.

Jordan Adams has really stepped up when called on as of late, but his complete lack of NBA playoff experience gives me pause, same for JaMychal Green. I don’t anticipate either of them getting a lot of minutes in any scenario, but the possibility to get some time on the floor should not be ruled out either.

If Vince Carter and Courtney Lee can find their respective shots again, I think it would be wise to utilize them in whatever way we need. But if either of them continue to struggle the way they have in the last few weeks, I would be okay with easing Jordan Adams into some of the minutes initially intended for Vince.

Obviously these choices are all at Coach Joerger’s discretion, but I hope he’ll show a willingness to mix it up a bit in terms of lineups if something is just clearly not working.

Sharon Brown
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