The Memphis Grizzlies came into the season as a title contender after making it to the Western Conference Finals last season. They brought back the same starting five from a season ago and added some bench depth, with Mike Miller and James Johnson coming to the team.
They have struggled at the start of the season after losing center Marc Gasol to an injury early on. Going into Monday night’s game against the Utah Jazz, the Grizzlies record in December was 3-7, including losing five of their last six. They entered the game 4-9 in the 13 games since Gasol got hurt and their depth has been a concern. They have had to start Kosta Koufos, which has forced Jon Leuer in the rotation.
On Monday against Utah, the Grizzlies’ starters were outscored 76-53, with Gasol and Tayshaun Prince out of the lineup. Only Zach Randolph and Koufos scored in double figures in the starting lineup, and the starters shot a combined 21-for-51 from the field. However, the Grizzlies’ bench outscored the Jazz bench 51-18 and they had three double figure scoring reserves.
The bench was led by 17 from Jerryd Bayless, 15 from Miller, and 11 from Leuer. The Grizzlies’ bench shot a combined 18-for-32, including 8-for-10 from the three-point line. The starers for Memphis shot 3-for-11 from the three-point line and accounted for all six turnovers by the team.
Memphis is currently 12th in the east, but are only two games out of the last spot. If they can stay close until Gasol and Prince come back, they could make a run at the last playoff spot. The valuable experience the bench is getting in big minutes will benefit them down the line and allow them to rest players if needed down the stretch.