The Memphis Grizzlies have endured a plethora of problems in the 2022-2023 NBA season. Comparing it to their surprising ascent last year, the target is now on their backs, and they seem to thrive through adversity.
Despite the early-season absence of Jaren Jackson Jr., current injuries to Steven Adams and Brandon Clarke, and most importantly, the off-court controversies of superstar Ja Morant, the Grizzlies have solidified themselves as a top-three team in the West.
Clarke is out for the season, while Adams is likely to return at some point in the playoffs. The rest of the roster is ready for the stretch run as they embark on a journey in the tumultuous Western Conference. Problems started to percolate when the game slowed down last spring, the Grizzlies relegated to relying heavily on Morant to jumpstart their offense.
With one legitimate playoff run down the drain, there's one matchup Memphis must avoid at all costs to advance deeper in the postseason this time around. must avoid this matchup at all costs if they want to go deeper in the postseason.
Grizzlies' nightmare seeding scenario, playoffs matchup
Memphis falls to No. 3 seed, meet Golden State Warriors in first round
Some pundits favored the Grizzlies to beat the veteran-led Golden State Warriors in last year's Western Conference semifinals, but Golden State prevailed in six games. The Grizzlies were also the higher seed, meaning they had home-court advantage. However, they were outsmarted and outworked by individuals who were used to the grind of the NBA playoffs.
Games 1 and 4 could have easily gone Memphis' way, but Golden State's late-game execution proved the difference. The weakness of the Grizzlies remains the same, as their offensive half-court execution continues to be a major question mark. Guys like Dillon Brooks, Luke Kennard and David Roddy are terrific role players at the wing position, but they are not shot-creators who can supplement Morant at the highest levels.
The offense will rely heavily on Morant and Desmond Bane, similar to how it was in the playoffs last year. When Stephen Curry or Klay Thompson start cooking, Memphis has has had difficulties containing them, like when the Warriors pulled away in Game 3 and Game 6 last May. Grizzlies fans would argue their team has won the last two contests against Golden State and beat the reigning champs in the 2021 play-in tournament, ending their season.
The 2022 Warriors were a different animal, and their nucleus remains intact for the 2023 postseason. There's still one huge asterisk that can change the outlook of another playoff matchup between these rivals, and that would be if Andrew Wiggins is unavailable. Golden State will need his defensive prowess to limit the production of Morant and Bane.
Gary Payton II, who's just returning to the lineup after Golden State re-acquired him at the trade deadline, missed the majority of last year's series because of a dirty foul by Dillon Brooks, so having him as Swiss Army knife will be integral to the Warriors' success defensively. On the Grizzlies' side of things, they also miss versatile big man Brandon Clarke. Clarke and Jackson Jr. gave the Warriors problems on the interior with size and athleticism, but the former is out and Adams' status for the postseason is unknown.
Memphis must push the pace for a slew of possessions and pound on the glass if they want to stand a chance against Golden State in a rematch. The Warriors will likely win the three games at Chase Center, and they are known to win at least one road game in every playoff series, so stealing one at FedEx Forum would spell the difference in a highly anticipated series—one that could even go seven games.