Thursday, November 8, 2007

Pregame: Grizzlies at Portland 11.09.07

Pregame commentary for the 11.09.07 Memphis at Portland game, by ChipC3 and Zack. Leave your predictions for the final score in the comments.

Memphis
began the first road trip of the year with a heart stopping win over Seattle and now journeys to Portland. The slow start of the season (only 3 games in the first 9 days) has allowed the team some much needed extra practice time and it showed in Seattle with their first win of the season. Led by Rudy Gay, who is trying to break out in his 2nd season, the Grizzlies hope to follow their first win of the season with their first winning streak in this game.

Portland however wants the same thing after winning their home opener on Wednesday night. The Blazers have struggled on the road so far this year but that is to be expected when only one or two players can go to a bar without being carded and one of those is only 19 yrs old and not playing because of micro fracture surgery. Seriously this team is young but talented. Once they learn how McMillan wants them to play they are going to be scary good. They are deep with interior players, wing players and really deep at the point. Someone is going to step up and led this team to success. The question is when will they start to learn to win. The upset win over New Orleans (who just blasted the Lakers in LA) shows just how talented a team the Blazers can be. Consistency will be the biggest issue for this team during the season.

Trends

--100 points. The Grizzlies have scored over 100 points in every game this season. The Blazers have yet to eclipse the 100 point threshold this season.
--Rested Opponent. This is the first game of the season where the Grizzlies are not facing a team on the second night of a back-to-back.
--Exactly 10. The Grizzlies have made exactly 10 3-point shots each game this year.

Storylines

--Did you know this is the first year Conley and Oden have not played together since, like, forever? Really...Conley Sr is Oden's agent, the two grew up together, and even played college ball together...and did pretty good.
--Thanks for stealing our freaking draft pick, Portland. May 22nd is still a bitter, bitter memory for this Grizzly Faithful.
--Rudy Gay. I think if there is one storyline that seems to have the most traction from game to game this year, it is the maturation of Rudy Gay. When he is playing bad, there will be talk of how much we need him to develop sooner rather than later. When he is playing good, there will be talk of how he is ready to be a dynamic playmaker and our #2 (or #1b) option that the team has always needed next to Pau. I know Rudy was disappointed being drafted #8, but one gets the feeling that he wouldn't have any larger hype or greater expectations placed on him if he was indeed drafted by the Raptors than he does here in Memphis.

Keys

--Speed up the game. Nate will have his team ready to grind it out and looking to stretch the shot clock on both ends of the court. I like the Griz chances best in an up and down affair.
--Limit the fouls. I've seen it explicitly written in the media and you can tell by just watching the games; Coach Iavaroni does not like his players to foul. Not only does foul trouble seem to fluster a number of our key players, it seems to fluster our coach to a degree. I feel pretty confident saying that how much we foul will have a correlation to if we win or lose.
--Points in the paint. I admit, I don't have much faith in our team winning a jump shooting contest right now. Get the ball closer to the basket.


Matchups

Point Guards: Damon Stoudamire vs Jarret Jack:
Damon is under some pressure to hold onto his starting role already and now he goes home to where he suffered his horrific knee injury. His backup Kyle Lowry has more speed, better defense and a game changing style but Damon has experience and that is a strong point of a point guard. Damon doesn't get rattled easily and doesn't turn the ball over a lot. His outside shot helps spread defenses as well. Jarrett Jack is also trying to hold off competitors for his job. Steve Blake doesn't have the power or the aggressiveness but is headier and scores more. While Damon knows he is just biding time both Jack and Blake feel they are the PG's of the future. How they co-exist could determine how far Portland progresses this season. Still the Blazers are taller and at home.
Advantage: Portland

Shooting Guard: Mike Miller vs Brandon Roy
:
Mike Miller was the 12Th man on the USA team this summer. Not great being the last guy off the bench but he made the team which is more than most players can say. Miller is one of the most dangerous shooters in the game but hasn't forced himself on the offense so far this year. He leads the team in rebounding and assists but is only 5Th in scoring. Expect him to become more aggressive offensively soon. Brandon Roy has battled injuries this season and after the injury problems he had last season that may be a concern for his career. When on his game Roy is smart, deadly off the dribble, a good passer and decent defender. The only question is how sharp will he be coming off the injury.
Advantage: Memphis

Small Forward: Rudy Gay vs Martell Webster

Webster looked to be a big time bust heading into the season. However the former #6 pick has exploded this season after failing to hit the Mendoza line of FG% (40%) the first two seasons. Hitting on 47% of his FG attempts (43% from the arc) Webster is hurting defenses who double down on Portland's big men. Rudy Gay needs to start making a greater impact on the box score and less on opposing defenders. The 5 offensive foul calls in the first two games (4 along against Indiana) has prevented Rudy from having the type of impact he is capable of having in the game. Once he stops trying to fly over defenders teams will have to start worrying how to stop his game. Rudy is far and away the best perimeter defender on the Grizzlies team so they need him on the court. This may raise some eyebrows but right now Webster is playing better (and longer) than Rudy.
Advantage: Portland

Power Forward: Pau Gasol vs LaMarcus Aldridge

A battle of effeminate big men. Who will shy away from contact first? Who will wince in pain without being hit? Who will check for blood. Okay, we know who will check for blood first but the other questions are still valid. Surprisingly these charges of softness really are undeserved. Gasol scores 20 pts a game and grabs around 8-10 boards pretty consistently. You can't do that in the NBA being soft. Aldridge came out of Texas with the soft label but has played hard and actually is able to score late in games (10 pts in the final 5 minutes against Houston). Aldridge looks like he too will be capable of consistently putting up 20 and 10 as well. Gasol is the better shot blocker however. Should be fun to watch. Personally I prefer a go to late in the game scorer to an off-side defender but Aldridge hasn't quite earned the reputation to be favored in the match up...yet.
Advantage: Memphis

Center: Darko Milicic vs Joel Pryzbilla

Darko has settled into the starting role rather well since the surprise announcement on opening night. Matching up against Tim Duncan and Jermaine O'Neal isn't the ideal way to start his career in Memphis but he held his own and has looked very good at times. It will be a building process and there will be ups and downs but this matchup is one which ought to be an up for Darko as long as he doesn't get too anxious on defense. In both games he has picked up 2 fouls in the opening quarter. That trend needs to end. Joel was a highly desired Center as a free agent two years ago. Now he is biding time until Greg Oden heals. Still Joel is an efficient defender, good rebounder and excellent shot blocker who can step out and hit a jump shot. His minutes are limited to protect him from injury. He will struggle stopping Darko's baby hook and getting position underneath with Darko's agility and power.
Advantage: Memphis

Benches
: Memphis' bench has been up and down this season. Up on offense and down on defense mostly. Kyle Lowry has been the mover and shaker off the bench but the other subs (Casey Jacobsen, Juan Carlos Navarro, Stromile Swift and Hakim Warrick) have been wildly inconsistent. Kyle usually draws the toughest backcourt defensive assignment leaving Navarro with the weaker player but somehow that player inevitably gets hot when JCN is on him. Casey Jacobsen works hard but hasn't found his long-range shot which is the only reason he is playing ahead of Tarence Kinsey. Stro hasn't changed and Hakim can score but won't pass and doesn't defend. Portland's bench is superb. Steve Blake and Sergio Rodriquez are both capable PGs. Travis Outlaw and James Jones can both light it up and Channing Frye can play underneath. The problem for Portland isn't talent but chemistry. All of these players want to show the coach they can start and sometimes that prevents the team from functioning at it's best.
Advantage: Portland

Coaches
: Nate McMillan spent his entire adult life prior to coming to Portland working for Seattle. As a player, assistant coach and head coach McMillan represented the city with class. It would be interesting to hear his thoughts about the Sonics situation right now but he is probably too classy to say anything controversial. For some reason two years ago Seattle decided they no longer wanted McMillan despite his success in Seattle (3 playoff appearances in 3 seasons). Nate McMillan was known as a hustle player, a defensive player and a smart offensive player. His teams reflect that brand of ball. Marc Iavaroni has worked with Pat Riley, Mike Fratello and Mike D'Antoni as well as having a long time association with the Pete Newell big man camp. Now in his first head coaching job Iavaroni must put the pieces of talent together into a picture of teamwork and chemistry. He has the pedigree to get it done but it won't happen overnight.
Advantage: Portland

Other Game Previews:

--
Go read the great game preview on Blazer's Edge for an opposing viewpoint. I like the fact that Dave seems to have more respect for our outside shooting than I would after three games.

-- Chris Herrington's Pre-Game Three-Pointer on Beyond the Arc.

-- Mike Barrett's Blog; Barrett is the play-by-play voice of the Portland TrailBlazers.

-- The Sports Network and SBR Forum both weigh in as well.

8 comments:

JD said...

Good preview. As a Portland fan, here are my thoughts:

1: Steve Blake will likely start in place of Jarrett Jack. He's slightly better defensively and passing, and slightly worse scoring than Jack. Advantage: Memphis

2: Brandon Roy has shown that he is very much back from injury (throwing down a sick dunk in traffic last night) - but Mike Miller is such a good shooter he might keep the advantage. However, Roy is a "glue guy" in that his contributions are often intangible and/or show up in other stats, such as his 17p 6r 7a game last night. Advantage: Portland

3: No argument

4: It will be fun to watch. I agree with your assessment--LA isn't afraid to bang inside, and is just as capable as Gasol as an outside shooter and effective FT. I'd give a slight advantage to Memphis for Gasol's experience.

5: Przybilla, much as I like him, isn't going to step out and hit an outside J if his life depended on it. Despite a revamped (and much more effective) FT shot, he's still not much of an offensive threat. However, most likely Channing Frye will be starting again as he did last night. Watch out for Przybilla (note that the Z comes before the Y, Pryzbilla being a common misspelling) coming off the bench. Advantage: still Memphis

Bench: Portland's bench will be strengthened with Jarrett Jack and Przybilla. As for the rest...it really hinges on how well Outlaw plays--if Outlaw shoots 1-7 and settles for long jumpers, don't expect a lot of offense from the bench.

zack said...

my prediction

Grizzlies 92
Blazers 95

I hope I'm wrong...

MemphisX said...

Another story line is the Spaniards. Old school vs. New School.

I will go with Rudy and Dark leading us again:

GRIZZLIES 111
blazers 103

Rudy Gay 30pts, 8 Rebs
Darko Milicic 13 points, 15 boards
Mike Miller 6 3 ptrs made

Carl said...

Grizzlies win in a close contest but pull away in the 4th. 118-99

webted said...

Great game guys, we needed the confidence boost out in Portland, but it'll be great watching Oden, Aldridge and Roy slugging it out with Milicic, Gasol and Gay for years to come!

Jacob said...

Great first half by you guys. Great 2nd half by the Blazers. Rudy Gay is an absolute stud and Lowry and Conley have great futures in front of them. Memphis can be a pretty good team this year if they get some more consistency from Miller and Gasol, but there is also a nice future to look forward to for you guys.

Thanks to Zach for adding to the discussion on Blazer's Edge and doing so in a classy way.

zack said...

thanks for checking in with us, guys....

look forward to our next meeting...

only with the griz coming out on top? :)

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