For the past several months, it seemed like a foregone conclusion that everyone in the Western Conference was playing for second place behind the Golden State Warriors. Well, Memphis (42-16) is suddenly just four games behind Golden State (46-12), and those two teams square off March 27 and April 13.
Translation? There’s still a long way to go, and anything can happen.
The Grizzlies are 16-5 since acquiring Jeff Green from Boston in mid-January, thus adding another dimension to an already potent lineup. The Grizzlies played eight of their 11 games on the road in February but still managed to go 7-4, beating the Hawks, Clippers and Trail Blazers in the process.
“Just take it one day at a time, one game at a time,” Green said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence, discussing his team’s mindset. “We can’t think ahead . . . (or) think about how . . . you’re going to prepare for a game that’s two weeks from now. We just got to take it one day at a time and make sure we come prepared and do whatever it takes to win the game.”
That might sound cliche, but Green, 28, understands the toll an NBA season can take on you. He understands the grind.
“It wears on you a lot,” he said. “Game after game, so many games during the week, back-to-backs, all the travel – it wears you down. But you just got to find some way to fight through it. I always say that you’re not going to have your best game every night. As long as you give effort and do what it takes to help the team win games, (you’ll be fine). That’s what we have to do at this point. We have to stick together. Other guys have to step up if somebody else isn’t bringing it. That’s where the whole team concept comes into play.”
The Grizzlies are one of the most balanced teams in the league, as five players are averaging double figures. In fact, three players – Marc Gasol, Mike Conley and Zach Randolph – are averaging between 16.5 and 18.2 points per game.
“It’s awesome,” Green said. “It’s awesome having so many weapons to help you through games. We have so many options, and it’s great. Like I said, you’re not always going to have a guy that comes in and gives you 25 every night. It’s a team effort.”
Green was a starter in Boston, became a reserve in Memphis and is now starting again. He said the last six weeks have been “a whirlwind.”
Still, the 6-9 Green gives the Memphis front-court even more size and versatility. He’s also making life easier on the 7-1 Gasol and the 6-9 Randolph.
“My role is to come in and just be aggressive,” Green said. “I know those two guys, they’re going to get the ball. They’re going to get their plays. But I think if I’m aggressive, it takes a lot of pressure off them. Teams can’t double as much as they want to, and then it’s one-on-one and it’s easer for Marc and Z-Bo. So I just be myself: I go out there, be aggressive and just take what the defense gives me.”
Memphis ranks 15th in the league in scoring offense (99.8 points per game) but first in scoring defense (95.7). What makes that defense so effective?
“We’re all on the same page,” Green said. “We’re all together, moving well together. We’re having each other’s backs. That’s what we need to do to be on the same page.”
The Grizzlies open March with four games in five days: They host Utah (23-35) on Tuesday, play at Houston (41-18) on Wednesday, host the Lakers (16-42) on Friday and play at New Orleans (32-28) on Saturday.
Tip-off for the first three games is slated for 8 p.m. ET. The game at New Orleans begins at 7.