The Memphis Grizzlies have found themselves in a situation that they have not been in during the regular season in quite a while. During the last few seasons, the Grizzlies have been able to pace themselves in the Western Conference and still grab one of the middle seeds for the playoffs. This time, the team is far enough behind in the standings to have to treat every game from here on out as a “must-win” game.
Tonight’s affair against the Miami Heat falls under that category, but not just to keep up in the standings. The Grizzlies have been on a little bit of a slide recently, losing four of their last six games, which gives the team a record of 45-32 at this point in the season. In the Eastern Conference, this record would mean a surefire playoff berth. In the Western Conference? This may not even get them the eighth seed.
As of right now, the Grizzlies are a game out of the final seed behind the Phoenix Suns, and they are two games out of the seventh seed behind the Dallas Mavericks. Yes, the Grizzlies need to look at tonight’s game as important for the standings, but they also need to prove something tonight on the court. The Grizzlies need to prove that they can beat a top team at this point in the season.
Since the end of March, Memphis has lost to the Golden State Warriors, Portland Trail Blazers and the San Antonio Spurs. While these are playoff-caliber teams ready to mix it up in the playoffs, the Grizzlies should have won at least one of those games to show that they can hang with the best of the conference right now.
If the Grizzlies lose tonight, not only will they potentially not make the playoffs, but even if they do, the other teams already in the playoff hunt most likely will not fear Memphis due to their decline and inability to hang with the big guys at this point in the season.
So how can the Grizzlies get a win against Miami tonight? The two things that the Grizzlies have to do is to rebound the ball exceptionally well like they are capable of doing, and to shoot the deep ball well enough to keep them in the game and keep the Heat defense off-balance.
The Grizzlies can certainly rebound the ball, especially on the Miami frontcourt, where their largest threat rebounding the ball is Chris Bosh, who is only averaging 6.7 rebounds per game this season. Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol can control the glass by themselves, but to match Chris Anderson and Greg Oden off the bench, Memphis can throw more big bodies onto the court such as Kosta Koufos, Ed Davis and James Johnson. There is no reason why the Grizzlies should lose the battle on the boards tonight, and if they can take advantage and get a good amount of easy second-chance points, then the Grizzlies will take one more step towards knocking off the Heat.
As for shooting, the Grizzlies are already a bad shooting team from deep (35.2 percent, 20th in the NBA), so if the team cannot hit deep shots with some consistency tonight, then it will make it much easier for Miami to crowd the paint and make life much harder for Gasol and Randolph. If the Grizzlies can keep the Heat honest and hit some 3-point shots, then they have a chance to make the game interesting and potentially pull out the win.
The Grizzlies need this win much more than Miami does. If they cannot win and hang with the big boys, then the Grizzlies better hope that the Suns and Mavericks run into some deep trouble over these next few games.