Grizzlies failing to meet expectations as well?
Memphis comes into tonight's game with a record of 2-2, but in the early goings, they haven't fully resembled the team from years past. Notably, their team defense hasn't been up to snuff, ranking 21st in defensive rating (105.7). They've allowed 108 points to Detroit, 111 to Dallas, and, except for a good 4th quarter, hapless Boston was on pace to break the century mark too.
The key to the game will be containing Marc Gasol. Jason Smith and Greg Stiemsma will have their hands full trying to stop one of the best skilled big men in the league. He can pass, shoot, rebound and play defense with the best of them.
Naturally, should the Pelicans come out with a performance similar to last night, slowing down Gasol will be just one of many items on the to-do list. Which leads us to...
Should Monty Williams be on the hot seat?
Many fans have taken note of the early team struggles and a lot of it sadly points to the coaching staff:
- Despite the increased athleticism, the defensive strategy remains a mess. For instance, against the Suns last night, the Pelicans not only defended the 3-point line poorly, but also allowed Eric Bledsoe to get AND make all 8 looks at the rim. It was as though defensive basics and the scouting report were thrown out the window.
- The Pelicans rank dead last in the association in 3PTA a game (13.5 attempts). That's 2.5 shots less than the next closest teams! The no-Ryan Anderson argument makes little sense -- four Pelicans (Gordon, Holiday, Morrow and Roberts) are shooting over 50% from deep. Either the coaching staff's strategy is at fault or they're unable to get their message across to the players.
- Monty seems to be struggling with personnel issues again:
- In the 2nd quarter, Smith picked up his second foul with 3:27 remaining, the Pels up 45-36. In comes Stiemsma and the offense grinds to a halt. We can understand Monty's concern with foul-prone Smith, but considering the momentum shifted substantially, he could have attempted to stem the damage by re-inserting Smitty.
- In the fourth quarter, with 6:30 remaining, Monty went small, in an attempt to boost the offense and probably add a little more team speed. All it did was make it easier for the Suns to maintain their lead. Also, helter-skelter ball resulted in 2 FTA/0 FGA for Anthony Davis.
Undoubtedly, there were a lot of poor performances by individual players: Evans still struggles with his form, Holiday was too error prone, and Davis had problems putting the ball through the hoop. However, we'd be remiss to ignore that some of this play could have been mitigated by proper adjustments by the coaching staff.
Tonight, let's hope the entire team can dig deep and find the resolve to pull out a much needed win against Memphis. It's a tall order, but it would certainly be nice to finally cash in on some of those preseason expectations. Before they're fully deleted from memory.