Don’t listen to the folks that tell you this is a “must win” game for the Memphis Grizzlies. What it really should be called is a “must compete” game. The pressure in the 4/5 matchup is 100% on the Clippers for the first two games. They are expected to win both and send the series to Memphis with a 2-0 advantage. If that happens, then the pressure shifts 100% to the Grizzlies who must hold serve or face a quick elimination.

 

What really must happen in Game 2 is the Grizzlies have to play their style of basketball and have a chance to win. If it is a one or two possession game in the last 60 seconds, the Clippers momentum will be neutralized enough that we can be excited about getting the series back to Memphis with an eye on winning Game 5 in LA. In order to do that, a few very simple things have to happen.

 

The team clearly made a decision that the number one priority for the series was to get back in transition and deny the Clippers their beloved lob. They did a great job doing that in game one, holding the Clippers to 10 fast break points. Unfortunately, it is difficult to make a concerted effort to get back in transition and work the offensive glass. As a result, the Grizzlies only pulled down 4 offensive rebounds. In G2, the Grizzlies are going to have to trust their wings to get back in transition to deny easy baskets while letting the big guys continue to work the offensive glass.

 

While the above helps explain the lack of offensive rebounding, it does nothing to explain how we let the Clippers get fourteen offensive rebounds. When we are working the defensive glass, there is no reason that we should be breaking back down the court, since there is no reason to worry about them getting on the break. It is not like we’re a team that lives in our transition offense. We might have been a little over-eager to try to run out thinking that 4-5 easy transition buckets would help supplement our sometimes stagnant half-court scoring. At the end of the day, however, the answer to this problem is simply: toughness. We were soft in game one – perhaps a little timid due to the way the whistles were being blown – and soft ain’t our game.

 

The saying is “dance with the one that brought you” and that is exactly what the Grizzlies are going to have to do if they want a chance to steal game two (or at least be competitive). The Grizzlies know who they are and looked like they weren’t willing to trust that in game one. Here are the keys:

 

  • Mike Conley has to score 16+ to go along with 7+ assists;
  • ZBo has to grab 13+ rebounds. Scoring of 18+ would also be nice;
  • Gasol has to hit 15+ points, 4+ assists and 9+ rebounds;
  • Grizzlies bench needs to score 30+ (from whomever, but most likely from Bayless and Davis);
  • The Grizzlies must out rebound the Clippers, in offensive and total rebounds;
  • Grizzlies need to force 15+ turnovers; and
  • Play “Grizzlies defense” – deflect passes, force tough shots and make the Clippers uncomfortable.

 

If those things happen, it won’t matter what the Clippers do. They can run out in transition, throw some Top-10 dunks, etc. The beauty of the Grizzlies style is that if we play it as designed, the other team almost cannot run away from us. They won’t have enough possessions, even if they shoot 50%.

 

So in the first quarter of G2 tonight, look for two things that will tell you where this team is mentally: is Conley being 2013-Mike or is he being 2009-Mike and are Zach and Marc battling for rebounds. If we get good early returns on those two questions, the game should play out to our favor.

 

Either way, the pressure remains primarily on the Clippers to handle their business at home. If we steal one that would obviously be amazing. But we don’t have to. We just have to be competitive. I suspect we will be.

 

Grind on, Memphis.

 

@jmay11