Monday, April 25, 2005

First Round Misery

That was nothing if not predictable. The Grizzlies fell last night in Phoenix 114-103 to a Suns team that hit a franchise playoff-record 15 three-point shots. Here's the thing that gets me--Mike Miller was red-hot going into the playoffs, and he continued to shoot the ball exceptionally well. Look at the boxscore and you'll see that he was the Grizzlies' leading scorer. However, somehow he only gets 10 shots in the entire game. 10 freaking shots. Suns backup center (and mediocre NBA player) Steven Hunter took 11 shots last night. Incredible. It is entirely unacceptable for a player as locked in as Mike Miller, a player who can be devastating with the outside shot (and who is penetrating more often than usual), to get less shots than Jason Williams, and only one more shot than Shane Battier. Here's another problem: Miller played just 32 minutes on a night when he was 5-7 from beyond the arc. Like it or not, Mike Miller is the best weapon the Grizzlies have right now, and, after Game One, he's still sitting squarely in the holster.

If the Grizzlies are going to win any games in this series, they will have to get the Suns' big men in foul trouble. You can only achieve that goal through effective and constant dribble penetration, and by posting up when mismatches occur. The Grizzlies took far too many jump shots yesterday, and it cost them--look at the boxscore again: Amare Stoudemire had 5 fouls, and Shawn Marion had 4, and the Grizzlies barely went after them on the inside. Stromile Swift and Lorenzen Wright should not shoot from farther than 8 feet out. They've got to work inside. Imagine what might have happened if the Grizzlies really did attack the interior aggressively. They'll need to do that to win.

Also, feel free to stop Steven Hunter. The Phoenix center position (Hunter and Stoudemire combined) went for 25 points and 15 rebounds last night. Interior defense has to improve--too many easy dunks for Steven Hunter.

For those of you who thought the Suns were the best matchup, I present Game One as evidence that the Suns are not a good matchup for anyone. When you have 5 starters, any of whom could go for 30 on a given night, you will be hard to stop. Hell, the Grizzlies held Nash and Stoudemire to a combined 20 points and still lost by 11. Shawn Marion was a beast last night (26 points, 13 rebounds), and if Pau Gasol is going to be that ineffective defensively against Marion, he has to give you more on the offensive end. A max money player should bring it stronger than that in the postseason.

The Grizzlies must improve in Game 2--much more Mike Miller, more Bonzi (I can't believe I just typed that), and less Earl and Stro.

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