The Grizzlies, it would appear, are in a tailspin. They swept a West Coast road trip with victories over the Suns, Warriors, and Kings, and then returned to Memphis for an overtime victory over the Spurs.
Since then, well, things aren't going according to plan.
I've been just as shocked as you have by the last three games. In the whole of the Lionel Hollins era, this has been a team that has made up for its (many) deficiencies through sheer force of will and raw, oftentimes ugly, effort. This is a team that may not be as talented as its opponent, but will fight, scratch, and claw every inch of the way to a win. It's supposed to be "All heart, grit, grind," right? Didn't we believe that? Isn't that why Tony Allen is the Grizzlies' spirit animal?
So what do we do now, Grizzlies fans? What are we supposed to expect from this team that started 12–2 and has been .500 ever since, and which appears to be flaming out before our very eyes?
The Grizzlies appear to have found themselves at the center of a perfect storm. Since the new ownership group took over at the beginning of the regular season, we've seen things go from awesome to okay to horrible. The team looks less like the world-beaters we saw in November and more like the hurt-ZBo uglyball practitioners of last season, when they were playing defense so well they only had to score 80-something points to win.
The problem? They're still only scoring 80-something points, but they're not doing anything on defense. And they're not doing anything on offense either. They're not making shots. In Dallas, the Grizzlies' eFG% was .399, or 39.9%. At home against the Clippers, it was 33.7%. The team's raw FG% was 30.3%, which was the worst in franchise history in a home game all the way back to 1995. In Vancouver. With Big Country Reeves. Even they didn't shoot 30%. In San Antonio, same story: eFG% was 42%.
Of course, in San Antonio, it didn't help that the Spurs' eFG% as .638, and they assisted on 75% of their baskets — but that, too, shows you something about the Grizzlies' defensive intensity. This is a team that thrives on turning other teams over. They had a streak of 138 straight games where they forced their opponent into 10+ turnovers, and that streak ended in Dallas on Saturday.
Clearly something is going on. The team can no longer score — something we've seen since December — but now they appear to be incapable of (1) getting stops and (2) being able to get the offense going again when they hit a wall. They seem to lack the wherewithal to adjust their offensive gameplan on the fly — but their effort, at least to the uninformed eye, looks so weak that it's hard to tell whether to blame that on coaching or on the players.
Offense has never been this team's strong suit. So far this season they're 16th in the league in offensive rating with a 104.2, but that number is certainly being boosted by November, in which the Grizzlies were in the top 5 in both offense and defense. In the last three games, the Grizzlies had an ORtg of 97.2, 87.5, and 94.1. Their defensive rating for the season is 2nd out of all 30 teams at 100.5, but in the last three games, it was 121.8, 118.6, and 118.2. So the offensive ratings have been well below season average, and the defensive ratings have been far worse than the season average.
What happened to the Grizzlies' defense? What's going on?
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