The Memphis Grizzlies may have won against the Bucks, securing a play-in game, but there’s still a big hurdle for a playoff series.
With everything on the line, and a game against the Milwaukee Bucks potentially being their last, the Memphis Grizzlies have managed to overcome a staggering 2-6 bubble record, the third worst of the teams invited, and have landed a spot against the Portland Trail Blazers in a crucial play-in game for the final spot in the Western Conference playoffs. And, while the win was nice, there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done.
Dillon Brooks stepped up in this game, scoring the first seven points for the Grizzlies and ending with 31 points on 12-18 shooting. When Ja Morant, who went 5-17 and had just 12 points, began to struggle, Brooks carried the load. However, Memphis needs him to do that game in and game out. It’s likely that Tyus Jones will be out for these play-in games, and relying on someone who’s averaged 20.1 points on 44.1 percent shooting from the field and 28.3 percent shooting from 3-point range while in the bubble to be our second best player isn’t going to work every night.
Turnovers also need to be limited. In this game, Memphis had 18 turnovers, which led to 14 points for the Bucks. Over the course of the bubble, the Grizzlies have averaged 15.1 turnovers that generated 14.3 points for their opponents. Obviously you can’t eliminate points off turnovers entirely, but of every game the Grizzlies lost in the bubble, just one of them was by more than 14 points. In fact, that one of their six loses was also the only time Memphis lost by more than 10. And, in the bubble opener against Portland, if Memphis had been able to keep just one of the 13 turnovers from leading to just one of their 12 opponent points off turnover, they would have won.
Finally, Memphis as a whole needs to make sure their offensive game is in top form. Portland is 27th in the league in defense, but considering Memphis has the eighth worst field goal percentage of bubble teams and the second worst 3-point percentage, they’re going to need to eliminate poor shots from the shot chart, and work to find the open man.
Yes, a win is always nice. And yes, there are signs that Memphis is starting to rally into their unstoppable form we saw earlier in the season. But it was clear from watching the game that the Bucks were looking past Memphis into the first round of the playoffs, and that’s not a luxury the Grizzlies have. Every game counts this weekend, and the team needs to play like everything is on the line, because guess what? It is.