With a 109-99 win on Tuesday, March 12 against the Portland Trail Blazers, the Memphis Grizzlies continued their outstanding winning streak and demonstrated why they are a team that needs to be taken seriously in the Western Conference.
The Grizzlies played to the weaknesses of the Trail Blazers by taking advantage of their lackluster defense. Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph were able to make strong shots in the paint, and Courtney Lee lit up the Trail Blazers from midrange, all factors that helped the Grizzlies average 56% shooting from the field. They also kept up with the Trail Blazers in rebounding, grabbing 41 rebounds in comparison to the Trail Blazers’ 40. The Grizzlies were also able to combine for 27 assists, 9 more than the Trail Blazers could put up, and this ability to move the ball well led to five players on the Grizzlies putting up at least 10 points.
In addition to their improved offensive play, the Grizzles continued to play lock down defense, holding the Trail Blazers to a measly field goal percentage of 40.9%. LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard, the Trail Blazers’ two leading scorers, only combined to make 16 out of a total of 44 field goal attempts.
However, the Grizzlies’ reasons for success were not as simple as them scoring more points than their opponent could. The main reason the Grizzlies were able to beat the Trail Blazers and, ultimately, the reason they’re on a winning streak, is because that the team as a whole has a ton of versatility. They have a player that is able to step up and perform any role necessary on any given night. If a guard is getting through the defense, the Grizzlies can bring in Tony Allen to make sure that said guard slows down. If the team needs some points beyond the arc, then it’s time to bring in Mike Miller. If the team needs to be grabbing a lot more rebounds, Kosta Koufos can come in and help grab some boards. This versatility helps by making sure that any problems the team has during a game can be dealt with during the game rather than after the game.
It is easy to assume that this is the type of team the Grizzlies were capable of being at the beginning of the year, but the multitude of injuries earlier in the season prevented them from reaching their full potential until now. The big problem the Grizzlies have had throughout the season has been staying healthy, as some of the team’s most valuable players, such as Marc Gasol and Tony Allen, missed multiple games due to injury.
But it seems more likely that the injuries have made this current streak possible. Players on any given team will improve their skill and chemistry as the season goes on, and this is no different for the Grizzlies. However, the injuries the team had made it so that every player on the team had to step up and fill the voids that were created. While the results were mixed, there is no denying that when the injured players started returning, the bench starting playing better than they were before the injuries occurred. So, while the Grizzlies as a whole would of rather not had problems staying healthy to begin with, there has to be some consolation that the team has improved because of the injuries, especially since everyone who was injured seems to be back at full strength.
The Grizzlies have won 8 of their last 11 games since the All-Star break. Because of this, the Grizzlies currently hold the 8th seed in the Western Conference. Heading into the last 2o games of the season, the team will look to successfully defend their current position in the playoffs. However, in order to do this, the team will need to continue to play to the level of their opponents on offense while maintaining their impressive play on defense.
If the team truly has grown as much from the beginning of the season as it seems, then this level of play can be expected to continue for the rest of the season. And if that’s the case, then the Grizzlies should be able to safely make the postseason.