Mike Conley unleashes a deadly crossover in the Grizzlies’ 107-95 win over the Washington Wizards. Now, the team takes its 4-2 record on a three-game West Coast road trip where Utah and Phoenix will try to get revenge for early season Grizz victories. On Monday, they take on the NBA Champion Golden State Warriors. For a look at the season so far and a preview of the road trip, check out Lee Eric Smith’s GritGrindGrizz column on Friday at TSDMemphis.com! (Photo: Warren Roseborough)


With the Grizzlies 107-95 win over the Washington Wizards on Tuesday, the team now head out west with a 4-2 record. Let’s put that in context:

As of Oct. 31, the Oklahoma City Thunder are 2-4; the LeBron James Lakers are at 2-5; and last season’s Western Conference finalist Houston Rockets are sitting at 1-5. No one is expecting any of those teams to stay bad for an entire season.

And lest we forget, the Grizzlies were at 5-2 on this date last season — then Mike Conley went down for the season and the wheels popped off.

All of that is to say that it’s WAAAY too early to get too excited about a 4-2 record, especially when three of those wins were against bad basketball teams (Phoenix, Atlanta, Washington).

What has been encouraging is that the team seems to be playing more consistent defense and rebounding better. And they’ll definitely need that on this upcoming road trip. Utah will try to make up for a loss on Nov. 2; and then Memphis faces Phoenix and Golden State on a Sunday/Monday back-to-back.

Here are a few things to watch for if you’re going to be staying up late to watch these games:

Defense: To show you how times change, the Grizzlies have held their opponents to 45.5 percent shooting, and 35 percent from the arc. Remember when you could count on the Grizzlies to hold teams to 39 or 40 percent?

But we are now in the run, gun & fun NBA. Every team is racing down court, and jacking up three-pointers, including the Grizzlies (more on that in a moment). The Grizzlies have shown their usual tendency to go ice-cold on offense, and that is almost certain to happen on this road trip, probably against a tough Utah team playing at home.

The scoring will come and go, but for the Grizzlies to steal at least one game on this trip, the defense will need to travel.

Scoring: Thus we run up against the problem the Grizzlies had during its Core Four heyday: Even if you play stellar defense, when you’re trading twos for threes, can you score enough to keep up?

The Grizzlies are averaging 103.7 points per game – which sounds great until I tell you it’s 26th in the league right now. Sounds even worse when I tell you that Utah averages 114 ppg and Golden State is tops at 125 ppg. Even Phoenix is scoring 103.4 points a game.

Of course, the Grizz will need big performances from Mike Conley and Marc Gasol. After that, though, it’ll be random role players who will have to step up to fill the scoring gap.

Bench: Early in the season, J.B. Bickerstaff described his deep roster of versatile and interchangeable wing players as a weapon. So far, he’s been right. He routinely goes deep into his bench and generally gets a breakout game from one or two players (18 points from Marshon Brooks vs. Phoenix) and solid contributions from the rest – 10 points here, three rebounds there . . .  it adds up.

But will it travel?

Scheduled Loss: Most people wouldn’t give the Grizzlies a chance to win against a super-hot Golden State team in any game, let alone the second night of a back-to-back. The basketball gods will not be on the Grizzlies side on Monday night. Honestly, I’m fine with that. But it will change what I’m looking for out of the Grizzlies in that game. This game will be something of a character test for the team.

They’ll be tired after the Phoenix game. They’ll get in at some unreasoable hour and have jet lag. And they’ll be playing the defending NBA champs in their own gym. The Grizzlies will have every reason to mail in a performance so they can get on home. Maybe they’ll do just that.

But I’m hoping that the depth and pride will kick in. I’m hoping to see hustle and hard work on the defensive end. I’m hoping to see a team that won’t give up, regardless of the long odds against them.

We’re about to find out either way. . . .