Feb 9, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; Memphis Grizzlies small forward Mike Miller (13) and center Marc Gasol (33) celebrate in the fourth quarter against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Memphis Grizzlies: Three is the Key

 

When you look at the Memphis Grizzlies, the first things that come to mind are their imposing frontcourt of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph and their always impressive team team defense. When we think about their 3-point shooting ability, we usually equate it with a huge weakness. That’s just not the case anymore and it’s spurring their rise in the Western Conference.

Over their last five games (3-2 record), the Grizzlies are shooting the exact same amount of 3-pointers as their season average (14.2), but they’ve improved their makes from 5.0 to 7.2 (35.6 percent up to 50.7 percent). Can we expect them to continue that torrid pace? No, but it does prove a point that the improved inside-out game with a healthy Randolph and Gasol is paying huge dividends for the shooters.

It’s not just something that’s come up recently, either. Over their last 10 games, they are shooting 41.3 percent from distance. While their bread and butter will continue to be their inside presence, they need to continue to incorporate that outside shot so opponents don’t just sag and clog up the lane.

Sharpshooter extraordinaire Mike Miller has been a big reason for the improvement this season, as the 6-foot-8 wing from the University of Florida is shooting 44.6 percent from deep in 2013-14, his second-best average of his career (.453, 2011-12). Over his last nine games, he’s shooting 60.6 percent from the 3-point line, scoring 10.2 points in just 19.4 minutes per game.

While Miller’s prowess isn’t surprising, Jon Leuer‘s is a bit of a shocker. In his first two years in the league, the 6-foot-10 power forward out of the University of Wisconsin was 3-for-12 (25 percent) in his 3-point attempts. Suddenly, he’s shooting 51.2 percent (22-for-43) and has given the Grizzlies another weapon off the bench.

Leuer has had some injuries combined with some sporadic playing time, but he was healthy (and given minutes) for a stretch earlier in the season. In a nine-game stretch in December, Leuer played 28.2 minutes per game off the bench and rewarded the club with 15.3 points and 7.2 rebounds, while making 55 percent of his 3-pointers (11-for-20). After a seven-game stretch in which he played a total of 6.1 minutes per game (taking NO threes), he’s made four of his last five.

If Memphis can get Mike Conley back on track, they’d have to be considered favorites to make the playoffs in the Western Conference. Since Conley’s latest return from injury, the team is 6-3 but it’s got very little to do with Conley’s play. Mike is averaging just 12.9 points, 3.0 rebounds, 5.6 assists and 1.2 steals in 30.5 minutes per game. He’s shooting just 33.6 percent from the field and 25.9 percent from the 3-point line.

Don’t forget — this was the guy who averaged 19.5 points, 3.1 rebounds, 6.5 assists and 1.6 steals during the 15 games he played in January. He shot 47.5 percent from the field, 43.9 percent from the 3-point line and 86.9 percent from the foul stripe. He’s a terrific point guard when he’s healthy.

This is a dangerous team when the inside-out game is clicking. As of late, it has been. If they continue that 3-point barrage by Miller and Leuer and get Conley right, they’ll be a team nobody wants to face in the NBA playoffs.


Tags: Memphis Grizzlies

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