3 keys to the Grizzlies’ impressive 6-game win streak
The Memphis Grizzlies are on a six-game win streak that includes three victories against Western Conference playoff contenders and three overtime games. Here’s why they’re winning.
Most fans knew Memphis would be good this year. A few tweaks to the past blueprint unsurprisingly has the Grizzlies (21-4) a half-game back of the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference. But they wouldn’t be there without having beaten the Dubs on Tuesday before having the legs to drop the San Antonio Spurs in three overtimes one night later.
Memphis finds itself on a six-game winning streak and as the second hottest team in the NBA behind the Oklahoma City Thunder. Coach Dave Joerger’s squad has beaten three West powers, won three overtime games and survived a number of close calls over the past 11 days.
The grit and grind mentality remains, but there are some intriguing reasons for how this version of the Grizzlies is getting things done. Here are three items to note about the winning streak.
The Grizzlies lock down without fouling
Our Mike Prada gave us another great example of Memphis’ defense and why it’s so effective on Tuesday after it beat the Warriors. The Grizzlies took the ball out of the hands of Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry, and that was enough to hold the duo to reasonable numbers.
Most people know about that great defense, but here’s something that goes along with it.
The Grizzlies allow 15.1 free throw makes per 100 possessions, the fewest in the league. (That’s also a league-low 14.6 per game.) During their current win streak, they have allowed 13.8 points at the foul stripe a night even though three games went into overtime. It’s helped that pure luck has had a hand in the few makes. Opponents are shooting 83-of-122 from the foul stripe, or 68 percent, during this winning stretch. The season-long data shows teams just can’t knock their free throws down against Memphis.
On Wednesday, San Antonio shot 4-10 at the free throw line in the final 39 minutes of the triple overtime game. And it wasn’t like the Spurs weren’t getting into the lane. When they did, the Grizzlies weren’t fouling but they were contesting, keeping the Spurs from making shots.
Here’s that defense in the form of a shot chart covering the second half and overtimes against San Antonio.
The Spurs just couldn’t score in the paint, and it’s mighty hard to pull out a win without easy buckets at the rim or free throws.
The offense is quietly humming
Memphis most often gets its credit on the defensive side of the ball and Joerger’s squad is again in the top-10 in defensive rating. But this season, Memphis has added an improved offense.
The Grizzlies rank eighth in the league in offensive rating to this point and are fourth since its six-game streak began 11 days ago. They are scoring 109 points per 100 possessions, per NBA.com, and that has coincided with ranking fourth in True Shooting Percentage, which accounts for threes and free throws.
Floor-spacing has led to the biggest offensive boon this year, and the addition of Vince Carter along with the increased role of Courtney Lee helped greatly. Though Memphis sits in the bottom five in terms of three-point attempts, it is the fifth most accurate team by knocking down 37.7 percent on the year. Memphis is shooting 44 percent from deep during the six-game streak.
They can win in overtime (and close games)
This isn’t a surprise for a halfcourt-oriented team with plenty of experience with one another, but it’s comforting that Memphis pulled out three overtime games in its past six outings. While two came against inferior Eastern Conference teams in Charlotte and Philadelphia, the point is the Grizzlies are winning every close game.
Throw in two wins over Dallas and Golden State that were within a possession in the final five minutes, and it’s more impressive.
The Grizzlies are holding opponents to 39 percent shooting in fourth quarters and overtimes combined over their last six, and just 26 percent in six overtime periods (or 30 minutes). For the year, Memphis ranks No. 6 in net offensive and defensive ratings in games within five or less points in the final five minutes.
The end result: Winning.