Ride or Die: Grizz vs Pacers

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Hotel, motel, whatcha gonna do today? If you’re a Grizz fan you’re headed to the FedEx Forum for the final game of the regular season. Tip off for tonight’s game against the Indiana Pacers is a late 8:30 due to national coverage provided by ESPN.

Tonight is ride or die for the Pacers, who are fighting to secure the number 8 spot in the eastern conference. If the Brooklyn Nets, coached by former Grizz head coach Lionel Hollins, win out over the Orlando Magic, and the Pacers drop to Memphis, then Indiana is out of play off contention.

For the Memphis Grizzlies tonight is also integral to play off seeding. If Memphis picks up the win tonight, there is potential to move up the ladder to the 5 spot. With a loss, the Grizzlies secure spot six. The Western Conference is currently a blood bath with each team seeking the ultimate prize. If the Grizzlies can manage to get back up to 5, the first round would be played against the TrailBlazers. If we retain our current 6 standing the match would most likely be the Clippers. While I’d rather see the Blazers and home court advantage, the fighter in me wants redemption and revenge on Blake Griffin. Either way, we go through the Pacers tonight.

The Grizzlies are still fighting through injuries that leave the starting line-up short. Marc Gasol is nursing a left ankle sprain. While he suited up against the Warriors on Monday, Gasol was largely ineffective. He is listed as questionable for this evening. Given the importance of tonight’s game, I’m betting Gasol will suit up again. Mike Conley is still nursing a right foot sprain that has kept him out of competition for the last three games. Conley reports that the injury feels like he’s “walking on golf balls”.  Conley is listed as questionable. Look to see him at shoot around, but remain on the bench come tip. Tony Allen’s status remains out due to hamstring strain. Allen missed 27 games last season due to hamstring sprain. I’m hoping there’s some voodoo going on in his rehab that will have him ready come play off time. Jeff Green who has been fighting lower back spasms has been removed from the injury list completely.

After a nasty injury last summer Paul George is back. He is being worked back into the game slowly, but in his absence George Hill and CJ Miles have stepped up to the basket. The Pacers withstood double overtime to overcome a push from the Wizards. CJ Miles comes into the Forum hot, shooting 47.5% from beyond the arc. George Hill came in shy 1 rebound from a triple triple last night with 24 pts, 10 assists, and 9 rebounds. The Pacers are on a streak, and their 38-43 record should not be taken as a team to neglect.

Memphis flourishes as the hunter, and less so as the hunted. We rise when faced with adversity of teams that are respected. However, we tend to lose focus, and play down to teams that are viewed as negligible. Memphis has to be wary and avoid the pitfall of playing to the opposition.

In order to avoid falling into the trap, even plagued by injury, Memphis has several strategies at their employ. We must contain the Pacers back court. We have had difficulty defending the perimeter all season. Part of containment means staying on your man. Seriously. Stay. On. Your. Man. Period. Memphis has been over helping leaving players grossly out of position. This error leaves the perimeter wide open. The ball moves faster than you do. Stay on your man. If CJ Miles and George Hill can be controlled, the rest will fall into place.

Turnovers are another factor that can be controlled. Up until recently Memphis is a team that took good care of the ball. Recently, not so much. Turnovers lead to fast break points. Controlling the basketball helps dictate pace, and cuts down on unnecessary, uncontested points.

Pace, Memphis plays at one of the slowest tempos of the NBA. Controlling the pace allows the Grizzlies to implement grit and grind signature play. The Grizzlies also need to quit abandoning the ball offensively, and actively participate in the scuffle at the glass. In an environment where shots are not falling, second chance points under the basket count. Every possession counts. With teams that play a faster tempo, the Grizzlies abandon the net in an effort to return to defense. We must fight. Zach Randolph has been pulled out of the lane offensively, and while I love to see Z shooting a jumper, I prefer him in the paint.

Jordan Adams has been freed y’all, and how sweet it is! After a tremendous effort by the Grizzlies rookies Monday against the Warriors, we should see our rooks return to play tonight. JaMychal Green and Jordan Adams will see minutes. It is possible that Adams will help relieve a faltering Vince Carter.

We are All Heart in Hoop City, and we’ll see you at the Forum at 8:30

Jennifer Conroy
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