Grizzlies Coach Impressed With Magic's Hot Start

By John Denton
Nov. 1, 2017

MEMPHIS – In a recent ESPN roundtable discussion of the most surprising teams in the NBA thus far, the only argument centered around whether it is the Orlando Magic or the Memphis Grizzlies that have most caught the league off guard.

Orlando, 5-2 and tied atop the East, and Memphis, 5-2 and alone in first in the West, will get to decide that debate tonight on the court at the FedEx Forum (tipoff: 8 p.m. ET, TV: Fox Sports Florida).

Memphis coach David Fizdale has been able to weather the losses of veterans Zach Randolph, Vince Carter and Tony Allen and has the precise and methodical Grizzlies playing well again. They have impressively beaten Golden State and Houston (twice) while also edging New Orleans and Dallas. However, Memphis is coming off a 104-99 loss to Charlotte on Monday.

The Magic also lost to Charlotte (on Sunday), but they rebounded in impressive fashion on Monday with a stellar 115-99 defeat of the Pelicans. Orlando owns dominant victories over Cleveland and San Antonio – games in which they held leads of 37 and 36 points – and it has been atop the NBA much of the season because of a super-charged offense that is scoring points at a high rate.

Fizdale said both the Magic and his Grizzlies should take the talk of their teams being ``surprise’’ squads as tremendous compliments.

``I don’t think (ESPN) was trying to be down on us because if I looked at our team before the season I don’t know where I would have picked us either. There are a lot of unknowns on this team,’’ he said. ``And I don’t know if people knew how good Orlando can be.

``I’m super impressed (with the Magic),’’ he added. ``Frank (Vogel), in seven games, to me he’s already the coach of the month. Their wins are so impressive and they’re not just close wins; they’ve blown some people out of the building and he’s really got these (Orlando) guys buying into their style of play. Nothing surprises me when it comes to Frank Vogel and him being a heck of a coach and getting his teams to play at a high level.’’

Orlando, which will be without starting point guard Elfrid Payton for a sixth straight game, is at the end of a five-day, three-game road trip to Charlotte, New Orleans and Memphis. The Grizzlies could very well be extremely shorthanded tonight if point guard Mike Conley (sore heel) and center Marc Gasol (ankle sprain) can’t play. Both are considered game-time decisions.

Orlando and Memphis bring contrasting styles into tonight’s game. The Magic want to push the pace, swing the ball from side to side and get uncontested 3-pointers, while the Grizzlies prefer to slow the game down and utilize the pick-and-roll exploits of Conley and Gasol. The Magic rank first in the NBA in 3-point shooting (44.1), second in scoring (116.9 ppg.) and second in overall field goal accuracy (48.7 percent). Meanwhile, the Grizzlies have been able to win despite ranking just 24th in scoring (100.6 ppg.), 26th in field goal percentage (42.7 percent) and 24th in 3-point accuracy (33.2 percent). Memphis, instead, thrives defensively, ranking first in overall field goal percentage allowed (39.9 percent), third in points allowed (95.6 ppg.) and eighth in 3-point field goal percentage allowed (32.4 percent).

``(The Grizzlies) are actually running more than they have in the past, being fifth in the league in fast break points, but defensively they work really hard, they grind you down, force misses and flood the paint,’’ Vogel said. ``Nothing is going to be easy on the offensive end, so we have to make sure that we execute the way we’ve been executing, play with pace, get early strikes and be smart with our shot selection.’’

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