Role Players in the Spotlight with Mike Recovering

Posted on May 27, 2015



Entering these 2015 NBA Playoffs, the Grizzlies knew their key players would need to perform at a high level if their dreams of playing in June were to come to fruition. In the wake of Mike Conley’s injury, the need for an effective supporting cast has multiplied exponentially.

Courtney Lee and Beno Udrih started the Portland series with efficient offensive play. This was a much welcomed sight as Lee had lost his form late in the regular season due to a wrist injury. Beno sparked the Grizz in game 1 by scoring a playoff and career-high 20 points along with 7 rebounds and 7 assists. In doing so, Beno became the first bench player since Nick Van Exel (2003) to register a stat line of 20-7-7 in a playoff game. Unfortunately, he sprained his right ankle in game 2, leaving him at less than 100%.

In the immediate aftermath of Conley’s injury in game 3, Nick Calathes seized his opportunity to perform by scoring 13 points. Dave Joerger rewarded him with a starting position in game 4, and Calathes picked up where he left off, making 4/5 three point attempts. Despite the early success, however, the offense became stagnant late in the game. A 10 point advantage quickly dissolved in the fourth quarter. Granted, and with all due respect to Jonny Badger, the Leuer line up didn’t help matters and swung momentum in Portland’s favor.
Lamarcus Aldrige and professional clown Robin Lopez have played Marc and Zach tough in the paint, shifting the focus to guard play and perimeter shooting. Up until game 4, the Grizzlies had outplayed the Trailblazers in that respect. With Conley out, Damian Lillard finally started hitting outside shots and Portland earned a win to extend their season.

The Grizzlies have done an excellent job of securing the ball as they have not reached double digit turnovers in any of the first four games. We are still waiting on a Jeff Green game, as he has resorted to Rudy Gay jump shots instead of attacking the rim. In Green’s defense, he may be dealing with back spasms that began to affect him in the last week of the regular season. Regardless, there have been opportunities against Portland to drive and attack, and he has settled for two dribbles and a pull-up instead.

Vince Carter had his best performance in game 2, going 3/5 from three to score 9 points. This performance felt long overdue and is hopefully a sign of things to come, but yet remains one of the few bright spots during Vince’s time in Memphis.

All negativity aside, the Grizzlies have dominated the Portland series. The Trailblazers played with desperation and heart to stave off elimination in game 4. Splitting games 3 and 4 was the most likely outcome when the series shifted to the Pacific Northwest, and fans should be happy to take that outcome, especially given Conley’s injury. To finish off the Trailblazers, all of the aforementioned players must step up. Courtney has to remain aggressive by attacking the paint and working his midrange game before stepping out to hit threes. For Calathes, it is imperative that he not settle for threes and instead drive to the basket. Although his shots fell in game 4, Calathes is not a consistent three point threat. He is more dangerous penetrating the lane and finding his teammates or finishing at the rim with his 6’6” frame.

Fans know that eventually Zach and Marc will start to hit their shots. Portland’s frontline is much longer than Golden State’s. While Andrew Bogut is a legitimate defender, the Grizzlies should hold an advantage in the paint if and when they play the Warriors. Thus, it is the supporting guards and wings, the Courtney Lees, Beno Udrihs, and Jeff Greens of the team, on which the rest of this Grizzlies playoff run will hinge.

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