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Game 18 Preview: Blazers at Grizzlies

The 6-10 Grizzlies have been experiencing a resurgence of sorts, winning three of their last four games behind the play of a couple of unlikely heroes.  The first is a Memphis mainstay, sweet-shooting swingman Mike Miller.  Miller has scored in double figures in 10 of the last 11 games, usually topping 50% shooting.  He's also been grabbing rebounds, including 14 in the Grizzlies' last victory against Minnesota.  The second is 6'3" guard Juan Carlos Navarro who has scored in double figures the last five games straight himself, including posting 28 against Washington last week.  The Grizzlies' main attack of Rudy Gay and Pau Gasol isn't half bad but that duo needs support.  When they get a couple guys to step up the scoring goes into the stratosphere and Memphis wins.

Another interesting late development has been the benching of rookie Mike Conley in favor of veteran Damon Stoudamire.  Stoudamire doesn't play major minutes but he keeps the store open for the scorers and then hands the reins to Kyle Lowry, who can also score himself.  It looks like Coach Iavaroni has figured out that a young team of hotshots needs a steady hand at the wheel, not necessarily just a talented one.  Damon is found wanting in a lot of areas but he knows how to play the game by now.

Memphis is still a poor defensive team by any measure but they compensate by getting up more shots than you do and notching extra points from the foul line and the three-point arc.  Nobody on their team averages more than three full trips to the line per game but they still average over 6 more free throw attempts than their opponents.  They also shoot 40% from the arc.  It's a blend of 90's ball with a nouveau twist:  get plenty of shots up close and way far away like you lived in the Jordan era but instead of grinding it in isolation sets, just run, slash, and pass.  If they had a stopper or two in there it might even work.  As it is they give up a slightly better overall percentage, slightly more rebounds, and slightly more assists than they get themselves plus they commit a few more turnovers than they cause.  What that adds up to is a slight overall point deficit which over the course of time causes them to lose more than they win.

One thing remains true of the Grizzlies:  they never win when the score under 100.  If we can continue our streak of ugly ball we just might have a chance tonight.

What I'd Like to See

  1.  Keep that fire you showed early against the Spurs and apply it to a team you might actually be able to beat.
  2.  Hey Travis and Martell, can you play as well today as you did yesterday?  Memphis is nowhere near the defensive team the Spurs are and if we can get even a little pressure from our secondary scorers our main guys should be able to have a field day.
  3.  Speaking of...Brandon, just drive your little heart out all day.  Don't hang your head or slump your shoulders, don't try to help the team in other ways (you do enough of that already), and don't rely on fickle jump shots.  Just drive the lane all night long and rack up 25 points on foul attempts and twisting layups.
  4.  If Lamarcus can match Gasol's output we have a chance.
  5.  As was the case before, the guys to beware of for us are Gay and Lowry, with the possible addition of Miller and his deft touch now.  Rudy Gay could take this game all by himself and Lowry is the kind of guard who gives us trouble.  Add them to Gasol and it could be a long night.
  6.  If we want to win we better win the rebounding battle and we better be able to do it without Joel, who will likely see reduced playing time tonight because of the Grizzlies' potent small lineup.  Unlike the last game this is not the game to get into a running contest.  Gang rebound the ball and let your scorers work against them off of motion in the halfcourt.
  7.  If we want to lose all we have to do is give up 8-10 more points off of turnovers than we take in.  Take care of the ball, stay in the game.
The first road win of the season would be a nice bonus tonight.  I am just praying we contest this game.  The soul-searching otherwise will be nigh unbearable.

--Dave (