There’s a common saying that goes “There’s no place like home” and this has been especially true for the Memphis Grizzlies this season.
Memphis has gone 21-3 at the FedExForum so far this year which is the best home record in the NBA at the moment.
The Grizzlies have limited their opponents to a league-best 44.9% field goal shooting through their first 49 outings and this improves to 43.3% when only home games are taken into account. Their suffocating defense has allowed them to outscore their opponents by 11.2 points per game when they are home–the best among all teams–and their NBA-leading 110.0 defensive rating is proof of the quality of their play on that end of the floor.
However, Memphis’ defense seems to abandon them when they hit the road this season. The Grizzlies allow 115.8 points per game in their away games, up from 108.8 at home, and it has led to a dismal 11-15 record this year.
Memphis recently went on an 11-game winning streak that tied a franchise record, but their fortunes suddenly turned south when they embarked on their longest road trip scheduled for this season. The Grizzlies kicked off their five-game Western Conference jaunt with a one-point loss, 122-121, to the Los Angeles Lakers and things only got worse from that point on.
They lost two of their next four games by just two points and lost the other two, including a 33-point blowout at the hands of the Sacramento Kings, by double digits. Memphis wound up finishing its excursion with zero wins and five losses and their next contest, a showdown at home against the struggling Indiana Pacers, gives them a golden opportunity to snap their losing skid.
This is not the first time that the Grizzlies have gone on a poor stretch away from home though. In their two prior four-game road trips, they went 2-2 and 1-3, respectively. While their excellent home record has allowed them to maintain second place in the West and a three-game edge over the third place Kings, their poor play away from Memphis does not bode well for their championship aspirations.
In last year’s Western Conference Semifinals, they dropped all three matches against the Warriors that were held at the Chase Center on their way to losing the series in six games.
Although the Grizzlies have been able to rely on their superstar guard Ja Morant for consistent production regardless of where they are playing, the same cannot be said for the rest of his teammates.
One player whose dip in production is quite evident is 2022 NBA All-Defensive First Team member Jaren Jackson Jr. whose defensive numbers take a nosedive whenever he plays out of the state of Tennessee. In home games, Jackson averages 1.4 steals and 4.1 blocks and these numbers dip to 0.6 and 2.2, respectively, when they hit the road.
Jackson, who stands at 6’11 and has a 7’5 wingspan, is the heart and soul of the Memphis defense. The stops that they generate directly feed into their transition game and it has allowed them to rack up the second most fastbreak points per game this season.
Unsurprisingly, the home-and-away trend holds true for their transition opportunities as well as the Grizzlies lead the league in fastbreak points at home and slide down to fifth on the road.
Heading into the second half of this regular season and the playoffs, Memphis will have to find a way to carryover their strong play at the FedExForum to their away games if they want to be regarded as legitimate contenders.
In what has become typical Grizzlies fashion, they snapped their five-game losing streak in their first home game following their road trip. Memphis beat the Indiana Pacers, 112-100, and Jackson unsurprisingly had a strong bounceback performance with 28 points, eight rebounds, an assist, a steal, and five blocks.
The Grizzlies have one more four-game road trip this season in March and it will provide them with one last opportunity to regain their confidence before the games begin to truly matter come April.