A Look at the Grizzlies
The Grizzlies come into this game with the worst record in the league at 18-54. However they did beat the Lakers last night, which gives us all the warm fuzzies. As has been the case all year they have much less trouble scoring than in stopping their opponents from scoring. They have allowed their opponents to score over 100 in 20 of their last 25 games. They have scored over 100 themselves in 16 of those games and stand as living proof that a high-octane offense is not enough to win in this league. Overall they allow a cringe-inducing 106.3 points per game. When your points allowed doubles as the frequency of several "Z" radio stations around the country you're in trouble.
It's not like the Grizzlies are bereft of talent. They are quite banged up at the moment though. You're familiar with Pau Gasol. He's scored 25+ in three of their last five outings and will be a concern to us tonight. Sweet shooting forward (and former Sixth Man of the Year) Mike Miller is capable of putting up those numbers also but he's out with knee tendonitis. Chucky Atkins is another decent scorer but he's suffering from a groin injury and didn't play in their last game. Damon Stoudamire is also out. Hakim Warrick and Rudy Gay are great athletes, are quite healthy, and can make life miserable on you if you don't want to hustle. The same goes for guard Dahntay Jones. One guy to watch tonight might be 6'6" guard Tarence Kinsey. With the other backcourt injuries he's been seeing considerable playing time and he's been lighting it up. He went for 24 against the Jazz and 20 against the Lakers.
Memphis is one of those teams that will try to speed up the game by letting you get any shot you want as long as it's quick. They hope to get it back even quicker. They have any number of good shooters, inside and out. Their 46% field goal average and 37% three-point clip are both impressive. The problem is they allow their opponents 48.5% and 39%. This might not be so bad if they didn't also get spanked on the boards, in steals, and in overall turnovers. If you're going to encourage the opponent to hoist you've got to win the transitional aspects of the game. Otherwise they're going to take everything you give them and more, which is exactly what's happening to Memphis on a nightly basis.
On the bright side, the Grizzlies currently have my favorite non-Nate coach in the league in Tony Barone. The guy looks so much like a mob movie caricature that you can't help but envision his arguments with the refs. (And apologies in advance to all of the fine Italian-Americans out there and probably Mr. Barone himself.)
Ref: Tweet! Offensive foul!
Barone: Eh ref! What's the matter with you? His feet were movin'!
Ref: No way! I saw it. He was still.
Barone: Fuggetaboutit. Here's something for your trouble. Go find a nice lady, take her for a nice dinner, have a couple of drinks, dance the night away. A guy like you...you run up and down that court all night twisting and turning...you must be a good dancer. But you need new shoes. A guy like you has to have dancin' shoes. Here, take this too. Get yourself some shoes.
Ref: Coach, are you trying to bribe me?
Barone: Hey, hey, hey! No need for such hostile language. Why do you wish to disrespect me like that when I was only trying to show friendship to you?
Ref: I can't take any bribes, coach.
Barone: Come here for a minute. Come here! You see that nice looking lady up in section 203?
Ref: That's my mother!
Barone: Yeah...that's your mother. A couple of my guys invited her to the game. Wasn't that nice of them? That's them sitting on either side of her right now. Hey Vinny! Wave to the nice ref!
Ref: Tweet! My bad! That was a blocking foul!
What I'd Like To See:
- This game will only be hard if you make it hard. The shots will be there for everyone for the taking. Two passes on any offensive possession should get you wide open either at the rim or for a nice jumper. Don't hold the ball and make it easy for them to defend and don't go one-on-one all night long and you'll score tons.
- Transition defense will be the key to holding them to a reasonable number. Gasol will score in the halfcourt and maybe he'll have a partner or two, but together they won't score near enough to win. But if you let their young, athletic players run free they can put 110 or more on you real quick. If you don't let them run you neutralize the best of the supporting cast.
- I think it's OK to double Gasol early and often tonight. Normally I'd say you could let Lamarcus try to single-cover him but we need Lamarcus to run the floor. If he gets in early foul trouble Zach and Jamaal will have difficulty keeping up with the Grizzlies. Our nightmare would be watching Randolph or Magloire take 15 seconds to pound it in the post, having them miss 3 of 5 of those shots, and watching Memphis make three fast break buckets for every two we put in. Lamarcus' speed solves that problem so keeping him in the game will be important. Put him on Gasol to start with but give him enough help that he doesn't have to hack.
- With their top point guards out this should be a night for Jarrett and Sergio to exploit matchups and make hay. They're not going to be interfered with or pressured too much on the defensive end.
- Unless you totally botch the rebounding or fumble the ball away repeatedly, the above should be enough to win you the game.