Monday, October 22, 2007

Memphis at Houston

Memphis survived the thug squad from Miami on Saturday night to escape with a 104-98 victory. Memphis easily controlled the game in the 1st quarter and basically coasted through the rest of the game trying to avoid serious injuries after it became apparent that Miami's scrubs were long on physicality but short on talent. After Casey Jacobsen was sent to the locker room for stitches after catching an elbow, Rudy Gay was nearly flipped on an undercut move and Juan Carlos Navarro was steam rolled for a loose ball the team it appeared the objective changed from working on attacking the rim to just basic survival. This is pre-season after all and the Grizzlies don't need any more injuries before the real games commence.

Houston made a lot of noise in the off-season by acquiring Steve Francis, Luis Scola and Mike James to strengthen a bench that did little to support the big two stars of the team last season. It should be an interesting team to watch this season with volatile attitudes like Bonzi Wells and Rager Alston coming off the bench. One can only wonder what will happen if the three attitudes of Wells, Alston and Francis can't co-exist in supporting roles. The Rockets are still led by Yao Ming, probably the best true center in the league right now, and Tracy McGrady. Both have suffered through health issues during Jeff Van Gundy's more pedestrian style. If Adelman's more up tempo style leads to more injuries this team could fall far in the standings. If not then this team could be very dangerous come playoff time.

Point Guards: Damon Stoudamire vs Rafer Alston
There is a glut of experienced point guards in Houston but not a lot of point guards known for leading teams. Rafer Alston, the playground legend from NYC, is flashy but a shoot first PG who struggled under Van Gundy's rigid system. Francis is a former Houston star who lost his way after stops in Orlando and NYC. How much game he has left is up in the air. Mike James loved Houston the last time he was there but was shipped out to make room for Alston and then bombed out after signing a FA contract with Minnesota. Memphis on the other hand has three guads who are not considered shoot first guards and have been sharing minutes as closely as possible. Damon is the veteran and a step slower than Kyle Lowry. Lowry is the defensive PG who changes the game's tempo when he gets into games. Conley is the consumate point guard who just needs time to develop.

Shooting Guard: Mike Miller vs Tracy McGrady
A nightmare matchup for Miller as McGrady punishes on defense and plays good enough defense to distract Miller from his offensive game. The key will be for Miller to find his stroke early and hope that McGrady wants to get others involved on the offensive end. Backing up Miller will be Juan Carlos Navarro who is too small to defend TMac or Wells but should be able to stay with Luther Head if he plays. Otherwise expect to see Kinsey's minutes continue to climb in this game. Kinsey had trouble getting off the bench early in the preseason but has been getting more and more minutes of late. Houston also has Kirk Snyder fighting for minutes. With three fine players backing up T-Mac someone is not going to be pleased. If there will be an emotional problem on the team the backcourt is where it will start.

Small Forward: Rudy Gay vs Shane Battier
The once and future mayors of Memphis meet for the 1st of an incredible 6 meetings between the teams this year. Shane Battier is still among the most popular players in Memphis history despite Rudy's good play as a rookie. Battier has completely shut Mike Miller out in the past but he shouldn't be guarding Mike this time around. Rudy has taken that step forward and should be the more important player for Shane to defend. In his last outing Rudy was perfect from the floor including 5-5 from 3 pt land. If there has been anything to criticize with Rudy it has been his rebounding from the 3 spot. Casey Jacobsen backs up Rudy. It will be difficult for him to get open looks against a team that doesn't need to cover for the man in the middle. Former Rebel Justin Reed is fighting for a spot on the team but Wells and Steve Novak have the inside track for the backup SF spot with the Rockets.

Power Forward: Darko Milicic vs Luis Scola
The 27 yr old rookie Scola ought to have his hands full with the 22 yr veteran Darko. I realize that sounds strange to read but it is also true. Isn't international basketball great. Scola has looked good so far doing the dirty work under the basket for Yao. He grabbed 9 boards against Seattle on only 24 minutes in the last game. Darko is getting more starts with Gasol out but will need to take advantage of his size weight superiority. Chuck Hayes backs up Scola and absolutely gave Hakim Warrick fits last season. The rematch will be interesting to see Warrick has learned from his past experiences. Carl Landry and Jackie Butler may also see time at the 4 in this game. Brian Cardinal keeps sneaking into games and making a good play or two but not really having a major impact yet.

Center: Stromile Swift vs Yao Ming
One of the best centers in the league, if not the best, against the comeback kid in this matchup. Yao should have a clear advantage with his size and strength but Stro has made some impressive plays against Yao in the past with his superior speed. If the Grizzlies can make this a running game then Stro might actually have some moments to shine again. Backing up Stro has been Andre Brown who is more physical but less polished than Stro. Yao hasn't looked great in the uptempo style of Adelman but his passing ability should have Adelman very drooling. Incredibly Dikembe Mutambo is back for his 16th season and at age 41 (at least) is a physical marvel on defense but worthless on offense. Jackie Butler may get some minutes here as well.

Coaches: Marc Iavaroni vs Rick Adelman
Some fans in Memphis wanted Adelman to coach the Grizzlies before Iavaroni was hired. The thinking was his uptempo coaching style and use of big men in the passing game would be ideal for Gasol and the Grizzlies. It is more interesting to see how well this works with bad back McGardy and the plodding of Yao. The system should work well with the other players but are the Rockets stars willing to share the spotlight? Iavaroni keeps teaching and experimenting with players and lineups but hasn't really shown a full 48 minute game where the team was totally in control. There have been glimpses however such as the 73 pt+ 2nd half in Indiana and the 40 pt first quarter against Miami.

No comments: