The Memphis Grizzlies are in the middle of an intense and hard-fought playoff race with the Dallas Mavericks, Golden State Warriors and Phoenix Suns for the final three spots in the Western Conference. This is a place that Memphis never envisioned on being when the season started, but after a slew of injuries, this is where they are. The Grizzlies are currently half a game out of the last spot and have won six of their last nine games, but they have also developed a new flaw in their game that is not going to help them down the stretch.
In the last nine games, the Grizzlies have surrendered 8.1 made three-pointers to their opponents and have allowed 37.6 percent shooting from behind the arc. Memphis ranked as the third worst defensive three-point team in 2010-11, but improved to 13th best in 2011-12, and third best last season. This season, the Grizzlies have taken a step back and are 13th again. Part of this fall can be blamed on Defensive Player of the Year Marc Gasol and First Team All Defense Tony Allen missing over 20 games each this season. However, Gasol has been back since the middle of January, and in the three games that Allen has played since returning, the Grizzlies have allowed 30 made threes.
On Thursday, the Grizzlies needed a late save from timely free throws by Courtney Lee to lock up a 108-103 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers, despite the Lakers connecting on 15 of their 28 three-point attempts. Memphis once held a 22-point lead in the third quarter before watching it evaporate, as the Lakers made one three-point shot after another.
After dropping a game to the Charlotte Bobcats on Saturday evening, the Grizzlies had three days to let that loss settle in and fester. When they jumped out to a big lead on the Lakers, it looked as if they would get their first double-digit win in 28 days. Instead, Memphis couldn’t run Los Angeles off the three-point line, and a game that should have been an easy win became a tight game.
With so many injuries throughout this season, the Grizzlies could really use a few blowout wins. Getting Gasol, Mike Conley and Zach Randolph rest down the stretch is going to be hard considering Grizzlies head coach Dave Joerger has already dubbed every game for the remainder of the season a must-win, playoff-type game. Having a win locked up with time to spare is going to be the only way the Memphis starters get a break down this stretch run, but if they cannot stop giving up double-digit three-point totals, no game will be out of reach, and the starters will continue to log big minutes.
Gasol is still playing at about 80 percent of his normal ability, and Allen has been back for less than a week; it’s not like this is a problem that can’t be solved once everyone is back at full capacity. Once Allen gets back in the swing of things and Gasol is completely rehabilitated, the Grizzlies can regain their three-point defense dominance. The only issue is that they need to get it in check quickly; there are only 26 games left, and the Grizzlies are on the outside looking in at the playoffs.