Game 24 Preview: Blazers vs. Grizzlies

A Look at the Grizzlies

As Memphis has battled a host of injuries this season one name has emerged as their main guy:  Hakim Warrick.  He sounds like a football player but he's actually kind of underweight at 6'9" and 219 lbs.  Don't let that fool you though.  This guy is a freaky athlete.  He's learned to harness his explosiveness and is shooting over 50% from the field so far this season.  He can run, he can leap over you, he's dangerous.  For all that he's still only scoring 16 points a game and that makes him the Grizzlies' leading scorer.  Therein lies part of their problem.  They have some serviceable veteran pieces like Mike Miller, Chucky Atkins, Damon Stoudamire, Stromile Swift, and Eddie Jones plus rookie Rudy Gay, but only Atkins and Miller join Warrick in double figures.  Granted Memphis coach Mike Fratello gives 10-11 guys significant minutes so nobody has time to amass eye-popping stats, but still, when 11 of your 14 guys are under 10 ppg and nobody tops 16 that ain't good.  As a team the Grizzlies are shooting 42.9% and they're only averaging 93 points per game.  And just look at these shooting averages:  Atkins 41%, Miller 41%, Gay 37%, Stoudamire 38%, Eddie Jones 30%, Kyle Lowry 37%.

Believe it or not, though, that's not their biggest problem.  They allow an ugly 47.1% shooting average.  That's more than a 4% shooting differential.  That'll get you killed.  Their rebounding is none too keen either.  They're over three to the negative in that stat.  Their leading rebounder is (cough) Mike Miller at 6.7 per game.  After that Warrick has 6 per game and their third leading rebounder, Lawrence Roberts, is out with a knee injury.  If we don't kill them on the boards tonight something is really wrong.  

In short, you're getting outrebounded, you're getting outshot, you can't defend, and you can't score.  Anyone surprised this team has the worst record in the league right now?  They need Pau Gasol back, and quick.  Though he has begun to practice they will not have him back tonight.  Grizzlies Lite should be very good for us.

The only two things this team does well are draw fouls and shoot from the outside.  Atkins and Miller are both legitimate deep shooters and Stoudamire can hit a few as well.  They're going to try and play a nice, clean game with cheap drives and clean shots.  Anything vaguely tough, messy, or even intense will scare these Grizzlies back into their caves.

Things I'd like to see:

  1.  I don't normally say this, but with all of those old guys taking the floor for the other side we ought to make it easy on ourselves and run.  They don't really turn the ball over much but they will miss and they won't rebound.  If the Espresso Kid could get a few minutes in this game I bet we could tack on a couple of 6-8 point runs without trying.
  2.  Against teams this bad defensively we should always look to drive and either finish or kick.  Their guards couldn't stop a brick covered in super-glue from getting into the lane.  Eddie Jones is a grandfather, Chucky Atkins ain't that hot defensively, and we all remember Damon Stoudamire's defensive prowess.  Our backcourt needs to be driving past them all night.  (Also note that they have NO shot blocking...)  I've said this before but it holds true in many games:  there is no reason to take a contested shot tonight.  Somebody will be open every darn play.  Just get it to him and let him score any which way he pleases.  If we don't get predictable and slow we won't be stopped.  Score in the mid-90's and you probably win the game.
  3.  There's only one real rule on the defensive end:  stay reasonably close to, and always in front of, your man.  No dunks, layups, or unopposed threes (especially for Miller).  There's no need to double team anybody.  Just switch a lot on those picks.  Any Grizzly shot that comes over an outstretched hand is a good shot for us.  If we follow this rule they cannot outscore us.  (Note that Stromile Swift has been known to cause problems for us in the past.  There is NO reason for this unless you are lazy and don't move your feet.  He can't hit much more than a dunk, and if he's going to dunk just hammer him because he can't shoot free throws.  If Swift has a big game, shame...SHAME on us!)
  4.  Our problem this year when facing teams like this is that we have played down to the level of competition.  OK, maybe that's a little unfair, because we're not that good ourselves, but you know what I mean.  Against weak teams we tend to come out without energy and let them hang close all night.  If we just come out with even the barest shred of heart, just a little quickness, a smidge or two of intensity on the boards...we might be able to walk away with this game.  Please...I am begging you.  Have some energy from the opening tip!  Don't make us watch Ugly Ball again!
In addition to Sergio, this feels like a night for Travis to excel.  This ought to be a free-wheelin', dunk-dealin', poster-posin', everything-goes-in kind of game.  Let's take it home with a bang!

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)

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