Memphis Grizzlies: What’s happening in the second half?

Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images
Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images /

The Memphis Grizzlies are having a rough time in the second half this year. What’s going on after halftime?

The Memphis Grizzlies lost a road game against the Denver Nuggets on Monday night, 104-99. With six minutes left in the game, the Grizzlies were ahead by four points, before the offense starting falling apart.

Over the next minute and a half, there was an Omri Casspi miss and turnover, a fading 10-footer by Mike Conley (miss), and finally a double-teamed, one-handed “shot” by Kyle Anderson (miss).

During this time, Denver stormed back and scored eight unanswered points to push the lead to 96-92, a lead they would never relinquish. The Grizzlies would score just seven points over those last six minutes, with three coming from the line. The shot 5-for-19 in the fourth quarter, a ghastly 26.3 percent.

Unfortunately, this has been a common theme for Memphis not only in the fourth quarter, but in the second half all season long. Over the last 10 years, the Grizzlies have never had a high-powered, run-n-gun, blow them off the floor kind of offense, so it’s no surprise they are last in the NBA in pace at 96.4 possessions per game and fourth-to-last in scoring offense, putting up just 103.3 points a game.

But that’s all okay when you have the league’s sixth-best defensive rating. The Grit-N-Grind mentality is the wave they’ve ridden (well, not many waves in Memphis, maybe the Peabody Hotel ducks they’ve followed?) to success in a small-market town. They were never going to be a top-tiered offense.

Even so, these second half offensive woes are something to worry about. Their offensive rating slips almost 3.0 points per 100 possessions in the second half, from 105.4 to 102.7. In turn, their net rating also falls 3.0 points from +0.8 to -2.7.

This is largely because the Grizzlies are last in the league in second half scoring and (naturally) last in both third and fourth quarter scoring. To add onto the woes, their field goal percentage also ranks 28th in the league, where they shoot just 42.7 percent from the field. This is a significant drop from their field goal percentage in the first half, when they’re shooting 48.4 percent — the sixth-best mark in the league.

So what gives? There’s a few things to point to their struggles. One, this team is terrible at rebounding. They are 27th in the league in rebound rate at 47 percent, barely squeaking out the Chicago Bulls, Phoenix Suns, and the drama lord Washington Wizards. They rarely battle for offensive rebounds, save Jaren Jackson Jr. or JaMychal Green challenging for an offensive rebound.

Instead, they run back and set up on defense, ready to slow the game down. Once again, this is fine and it’s their identity. But it also really hurts them, especially in close games, where they have almost no one going for second chance points. In the Nuggets game, they had two total. For the year, they are dead last again, getting only 9.5 second chance points per game.

The second big issue is the shot selection and lack of reliable scorers. Outside of Marc Gasol and Conley, the team lacks strong offensive options. Jackson has shown flashes, but that kind of consistency can’t be expected all year long.

Going back to that Nuggets game, the Grizzlies ran the Conley-Gasol two-man game seemingly every time down the floor, but it rarely resulted in good shots, providing a Garrett Temple missed 3, a Gasol contested missed 3 and a pass to Green in traffic where he was stuffed by Mason Plumlee.

On two other possessions, Kyle Anderson and Gasol passed up wide open 3s in a play that eventually resulted in a Mike Conley contested runner. The next play down, Temple passed up a semi-open 3 before his pass to Gasol was stolen, effectively ending the game.

The Grizzlies like to score inside and draw fouls. They score 46.7 points in the paint per game and have the eighth-highest free throw rate in the league at 0.281. Near the end of games, the paint clogs up as teams know that’s what the Grizzlies want, and anyone not named Marc Gasol or Mike Conley really lacks the ability and confidence to score from anywhere else.

Additionally, they’re relying a lot more on mid-range, contested jumpers. In the second half, the Grizzlies’ shot attempts in the restricted area and in the paint plummet. Their attempts from mid-range remain relatively the same (156 to 142). In turn, their mid-range efficiency also plummets from 44.2 percent to 35.2 percent.

What should the Grizzlies do? They should look to pass the ball around more and find the open shots. Too often, the ball is stuck in one position and players look for Gasol or Conley to take it out of their hands.

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They can’t be afraid to shoot the 3-ball either. Memphis is shooting 35.7 percent from deep on the year, and that’s the one area that doesn’t slip in the second half. Too often the Grizzlies wait until the end of the shot clock to take a contested 2-pointer or are unsure of themselves. If this team has playoff aspirations, it will need to solve these second half woes.