Mar 18, 2017; Memphis, TN, USA; Memphis Grizzlies guard Mike Conley (11) gestures from the bench late in the fourth quarter against the San Antonio Spurs at FedExForum. Memphis defeated San Antonio 104-96. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Grizzlies Combine the New with the Old, Take Down Spurs 104-96


MEMPHIS | What a difference a week makes. 

Last Saturday night at FedExForum, the Memphis Grizzlies gave one of their least inspired efforts of the season and were booed off the floor in their own building after getting routed 107-90 by the Atlanta Hawks, who played without Dwight Howard. 

This Saturday Night however, could not have been more different as the Grizzlies (40-30) put together their best collective effort of this calendar year and defeated the team with NBA’s second-best record, the San Antonio Spurs (52-16), 104-96 in front of an announced crowd of 18,119 at FedExForum.

“I didn’t have many answers a week ago because I was just stressing fundamental stuff, and I just couldn't get ti out of them for whatever reason.” Grizzlies Head Coach David Fizdale said. “We just kept drilling. I know you remember me saying we continued to have really good practices. They put in the time. Through my experience, when you stay with the fundamentals and the drill work and the film — you really keep hammering the right message of staying connected and fighting through adversity — a lot of times what comes out on the backside is something better. Where we’re sitting right now is how we weathered through the adversity, and by staying together, good things will happen to us.”

One of the dominating narratives that has followed the 2016-17 Memphis Grizzlies has been the efforts of Fizdale to modernize the Grizzlies offense, emphasizing shooting more threes and guarding the perimeter more closely, in an effort to raise the ceiling of expectations for the franchise. 

Tonight the Grizzlies executed Fizdale’s vision extremely well as seven different Grizzlies hit at least one three pointer and the Spurs made just 9-of-28 from behind the arc, well below their season average of 39.6 percent, the best mark in the NBA. Through the first three quarters, the Spurs made just 5-of-18 shots from three-point range.

“You don’t get to just trade twos for threes,” Fizdale said. “The three ball is critical for us. We may not outshoot people from three, but if we can just keep it close, that gives us a chance…Shooting less threes and not guarding the three-point line is not a recipe for success in today’s NBA. I’m never going to budge on that. They can call me stubborn or whatever. I just know that’s going to get us out (of the playoffs) quick.”

Fizdale’s vision of blending new ideas — emphasis on the importance of the three ball on both ends and opening the offense up for both Mike Conley and Marc Gasol — while not abandoning the mentality that has defined this franchise for the past seven seasons has really started to takes shape during the Grizzlies’ four-game winning streak. The Grizzlies eclipsed the 100-point total in three-of-the-four games while holding opponents to under 100 points in each game.

“Even though we were not making man shots offensively, we were so unselfish defensively and so connected that it carried on into our offense,” Gasol said. “Even though we weren’t making shots, we were unselfish. We held the ball, we got better movement, and we won the game.”

Though the Grizzlies never trailed during the fourth quarter, the game was still hanging in the balance when the Grizzlies got a key defensive stop. After allowing Pau Gasol to grab two offensive rebounds, Tony Parker and Danny Green were both unable to hit open threes, and Vince Carter secured a tough rebound. Following a favorable call on the ensuing runout when Zach Randolph appeared to lose the handle. the officials ruled that the ball was tipped and the Grizzlies would keep possession. They would make the most of that opportunity when Conley drilled a 26 footer after a beautiful pass from Gasol.

“When we’re defending and making shots, that’s when we’re at our best,” Conley said. “We’ve got to continue to shoot with confidence. I think our ability to move the ball side to side, get guys easier looks, pass up a good look for a great one has been the key for us in these past four games.”

The Grizzlies would then get stops on the next five defensive possessions before Gasol would put the game away with a tough drive to the basket, making the shot while drawing the foul. He would hit the free throw, and the Grizzlies would never look back.

“Our mentality has changed defensively,” Conley said. “We’re a group that’s kind of let the game slow down a bit for us. I think that we were kind of pressing too much. We were trying to make the right play too much instead of just being free and having fun, but I think we’ve got back to that now. We’ve just continued to grow, continued to build, and get better as we go into April and May.”

Last Saturday night was the lowest point of the seasons according to Fizdale. The Grizzlies were in the midst of a five-game-losing streak that included blowout losses to the Brooklyn Nets and Atlanta Hawks. However, after tonight, the mood couldn’t be more different. The Grizzlies have returned to their familiar ways while also adopting new ideas that were sparked by Fizdale and put together the team’s most impressive win of the 2017 portion of the season, and the Grizzlies now have their longest winning streak since December.

My what a difference a week makes.