Miami HEAT at Memphis Grizzlies Game Preview

Photo Credit: Joe Murphy

The Miami HEAT face the Memphis Grizzlies Monday night at FedExForum. The HEAT fell to the Grizzlies 110-107 in their last meeting on Nov. 26, 2016. Tip-off is set for 8:00 PM. Television coverage on FOX Sports Sun begins at 7:30 PM. You can also listen to the action live on 790 The Ticket.

1: Did the Brooklyn game leave any lasting impression on you?

Couper Moorhead: As far as it being a victory, not particularly. Brooklyn, with all their injuries and them uniquely being mid-trade as far as having sent players out but not having their acquisitions on the team yet, is a team Miami should beat. There aren’t any awards being given out after this one. But wins like that matter in the sense that they don’t all have to contain some larger meaning. If your goal is to be a playoff team, that means your goal is to have around half the league below you in the standings and as such, you should beat the teams below you in the standings. One of the most important aspects to the second half of last season was that Miami regularly (with a couple exceptions) beat the teams they should beat, on paper, with the tried-and-true formula of defending and creating open three point looks. The jumpers won’t always fall – oddly, Miami had trouble from deep in Mexico City but hit a ton of mid-range looks that they generally don’t take – but as long as you defend and prevent teams from having performances above their offensive averages, you’ll be in good shape to keep yourself above a good portion of the league.

Joe Beguiristain: It was noteworthy in the sense that many guys contributed in the victory. Tyler Johnson picked up where he left off against San Antonio, Goran Dragić got going in the second half and Justise Winslow looked very comfortable shooting from beyond the arc. When you sprinkle in Kelly Olynyk’s nine points in the fourth and James Johnson’s dunk over Jarrett Allen that sealed the deal late, you realize it truly was a team effort. While the HEAT played quite well on the offensive end, they also accumulated eight blocks and held the Nets to just 40.7 percent shooting on the night.

Now, as Coup mentioned above, Brooklyn came into the contest down a few guys due to injury and trade, but Miami was able to take care of business and compartmentalize after a unique trip to Mexico City. We’ll see if the HEAT can keep it up and come away with a winning record on this road trip.

2: How is this Memphis team different from last year?

Couper: This was the year that the Grizzlies officially moved on from the Grit N Grind era, even as they attempt to maintain the rugged identity of those teams. Zach Randolph signed with Sacramento and Tony Allen is with New Orleans, leaving Mike Conley and Marc Gasol remaining of the former core four. Under coach David Fizdale (let go in recent weeks) the Grizzlies had moved toward a less post-focused, more modern offense with a greater emphasis on threes (even Gasol has been taking them the past two seasons) and has even been a Top 5 team in Shot Quality all season long. But like Miami, also firmly among the leaders in Shot Quality, those good shots haven’t always gone in.

The Grizzlies also haven’t been the same defensive team that we’re used to seeing, currently sitting No. 16 in Defensive Rating (105.3 points allowed per 100 possessions) while playing at the slowest pace in the league. Though a big piece of that, and Memphis’ 8-18 record overall, has been the fact that Mike Conley has been out since mid-November. Outside of the most elite teams that have elite depth, when teams lose their best players they tend to struggle, plain and simple.

We would be remiss if we did not mention the addition of Tyreke Evans, who is having something of a career renaissance coming off the bench. Evans is scoring 18 points per game with 58.5 percent true-shooting and is tied for the highest usage rate on the team. Much of that increased efficiency is coming from a 63.4 effective field-goal percentage on 101 pull-up jumpers – far and away a career best.

Joe: The Grizzlies have gone through a lot of changes since the HEAT last saw them in November of 2016. As Coup chronicled above, Marc Gasol is really the only guy left from those past squads since Zach Randolph and Tony Allen are elsewhere and Mike Conley is hurt at the moment. Memphis also parted ways with David Fizdale a few weeks ago.

With the Grizzlies trying to create a new identity and Conley out, the team has struggled mightily. In fact, Memphis has dropped 14 of its last 15 games and is just 8-18 on the year. While Gasol has played pretty well this season, he hasn’t received consistent help from his teammates outside of Tyreke Evans.

That said, Ben McLemore has taken advantage with a slight uptick in minutes recently. The 24-year-old has scored in double-figures in four of his last seven games, including a season-high 17 points on 6-of-10 shooting against the Thunder on Saturday.

3: What is going to be Miami’s best answer for Marc Gasol?

Couper: A better question is whether Miami should be more concerned with Gasol’s scoring (a team high but much of it coming from the perimeter these days) or his playmaking. If it’s the scoring, then it clearly puts the onus on Kelly Olynyk, Bam Adebayo and James Johnson to contain him in the post while rotating back in pick-and-roll to contest jumpers. But if it’s the passing – and it’s probably the passing – then it’s more of a team-wide task. Especially with Conley out, Memphis wants to score off movement whenever possible and Gasol is the hub around which everything operates. That means Gasol’s man has to pressure the pass when appropriate but that everyone else on the floor has to be aware of off-ball movement, not allowing cutters to easily get into the middle of the floor. If those outlets aren’t there, Memphis becomes increasingly more dependent on Gasol to create for himself. 

Joe: With Gasol being the focal point on offense, I think Miami’s best bet would be to play up on him and force him into contested shots and tough passes. If the HEAT can slow him down, that should trickle down to the rest of the Grizzlies.

Bam Adebayo certainly has the length and athleticism to keep up with Gasol, but he has to make sure he doesn’t fall for any fakes. Olynyk, meanwhile, will likely get the start and thus the first crack at the 32-year-old vet. Olynyk did well against LaMarcus Aldridge on Wednesday, so he should be able to do the same when matched up with Gasol.

Although the Spaniard can do a little bit of everything, the HEAT have to especially pay attention to him in the mid-range game. Gasol is shooting 44-of-93 (47.3 percent) from that area this season.  

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Highlights:

Nov. 26, 2016 – Grizzlies at HEAT

Nov. 25, 2016 – HEAT at Grizzlies

Game Notes:

  • The HEAT are 12-13, while the Grizzlies enter the contest at 8-18.
  • Tyler Johnson is averaging 16.6 points per game on 60.8 percent shooting over his last five.
  • Marc Gasol leads Memphis in points (19.0), rebounds (8.7), assists (4.3) and blocks (1.5) per game.

 

Efficiencies (Rank):

  • HEAT Offense: 101.5 (27)
  • HEAT Defense: 104.9 (14)
  • Grizzlies Offense: 102.3 (23)
  • Grizzlies Defense: 105.3 (16)