Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Pregame: Grizzlies vs Houston - 11.12.07

ChipC3 and Zack bring you pregame commentary for the 11.10.07 Memphis vs Houston game. Leave your predictions for the final score in the comments.

Memphis
had a chance to really put a bright start on the season this weekend but lost a double digit lead at Portland and then slept walked through the game in Salt Lake City. Now the team is back home against division leader Houston and no one is very excited about things. Memphis' bright spots have been Rudy Gay and Darko Milicic. Gasol may have a bad back, which is better than a broken foot, but disturbing just the same. Mike Miller's lack of offensive production is surprising but he has been extremely efficient being among the team leaders in rebounds and assists as well as shooting well from behind the arc. The Grizzlies need to perform well in Memphis to rebuild the fan support and this would be a nice time to start doing that.

Houston may have trouble focusing on the Grizzlies with games coming up against the Lakers, Spurs and Suns on the immediate horizon. Of course they may view this as a must win game with those teams on the horizon. Yao Ming continues to show that he is the best big man in the game today averaging monster number befitting his size. Tracy McGrady still has an impressive array of offensive skills but one has to wonder how long before his troublesome back acts up again. Houston is nearly unbeatable with Yao and TMac in the lineup but quite human without one and very beatable when both are out. Bonzi Wells should be returning for his first regular season appearance since Mike Fratello banned him from FedEx Forum. That isn't a good thing for Grizzlies fans since Bonzi loves to punish teams that gave up on him.

Trends

--Sweeps. Last year the Rockets swept the Grizzlies in the four meetings between the teams. The year before the Grizzlies swept the Rockets. The Grizzlies squeaked out two wins against the Rockets in the preseason this year (after losing to the Pacers twice in the preseason and losing again to them in the regular season, maybe the same trend can hold here, but don't bet any hard earned money on it). The Grizzlies are also winless in their two regular season home games this year.
--Sneak peak into the future, part 1. Rudy Gay has led the Griz in scoring the last 3 games.
--Sneak peak into the future, part 2. Micheal Conley has seen his minutes increase from 8 to 17 to 23 during the first 3 NBA games of his career.

Storylines

--Free Battier posters for the first 15,000 in attendance. Ok, so the Grizzlies aren't giving out free posters of Shane Battier at the door (but rumor has it the "Impeach Willie" organization is looking to catch up with Shane about running against King Willie in 4 years). Along with Shane, who you might have heard was traded for our future savior Rudy Gay, another ex-player, Bonzi Wells, will try for the 2nd time to sneak past FedEx Forum security to suit up for the visiting Rockets. Bonzi was lucky that the first time was in the preseaon where the security forces were less than at full strength. All entrances, per command of General Fratello, are heavily guarded this time around.
--Spain versus China. In international circles, this game is sure to garner interest. China and Yao want nothing more than to be successful next summer playing on their home turf in the Olympics, while Spain and Pau are looking to defend their 2006 World Gold.
--The Grizzlies suck. Go read the messageboard for a general feeling buzzing around the team right now. It ain't pretty. Certainly the doom and gloom is being over-hyped, although for those of us acting as Grizzlies apologists, we can't deny the fact that the Grizzlies are playing bad.

Keys

--Can I just say every aspect of basketball? At this point I feel foolish for pointing out any one area that the Grizzlies need to focus on. Not only are the Grizzlies struggling right now in a multitude of areas, the Rockets are better than the Grizzlies at almost everything. Maybe it would be most appropriate to just say the Grizzlies need to focus on themselves more than on the Rockets. The Grizzlies biggest challenges right now is playing consistently hard, playing as a team on both ends of the court (regardless of the opponent), and learning to play within Iavaroni's system.

Matchups

Point Guards: Damon Stoudamire vs Rafer Alston
You have to wonder how long both players will remain in the game. Both are being pressed for playing time by their backups Kyle Lowry and Mike James. Rafer is playing about half the game and is second on the team in assists at 4 a game while shooting over 50% from the field. Damon was hot early in the season but cooled off on the road trip and lost his secondary substitution slot to Michael Conley. It is fair to start asking how much longer Damon will be in his current role not just starting but on the team. The real match up will be James vs Lowry. The secondary issue is how long Conley will play. That can't give Damon a big boost of enthusiasm.
Advantage: Houston

Shooting Guards: Mike Miller vs Tracy McGrady

How many teams in the NBA can say their shooting guard leads the team in rebounds? Mike Miller leads the Grizzlies which says a lot about Mike's all-around game and how poorly out interior players are at grabbing boards. Mike is actually shooting better from behind the arc than inside it right now. That isn't good. T-Mac is hitting shots from everywhere and as long as his back holds out should have little trouble in this match up. The only good news for Grizzlies fans is that Shane probably won't be defending Mike so he might get a few extra shots off in this game.
Advantage: Houston

Small Forwards: Rudy Gay vs Shane Battier

Rudy has had a nice run of offensive production. Shane loves to stop guys having a nice run. Miller can testify to that. This match up of players traded for each other two years ago is still in Battier's favor but not by much and the gap is shrinking. Rudy needs to work harder on rebounding and assists but he is definitely getting the scoring down. Defensively Rudy is our best perimeter defender and has the ability to guard just about anyone (ask Durant) if he stays out of foul trouble. Battier is still Battier. He is a tough, in your face defender who can hit the clutch shot, tip the big rebound to someone his team and basically do everything coaches love but fans don't catch.
Advantage: Houston

Power Forwards: Pau Gasol vs Chucky Hayes

If Gasol isn't hurt this is a match up he absolutely has to exploit for the Grizzlies to have any chance. Darko has been brought here to handle the big guys so Gasol can use his length and talent to overwhelm players like Chucky. Hayes is an undersized PF who exists in this league by outworking his opponents to the rebound, losse ball or prefered spot on the court. He survives by doing what other PF's in the league don't want to do. That makes this matchup interesting. Gasol's reputation is that he doesn't do enough of what people expect of him. If Hayes isn't abused early and often then the game won't be close. If Gasol handles Hayes early then the Rockets will be forced to play Scola and the rookie hasn't shown much yet.
Advantage: Memphis

Centers: Yao Ming vs Darko Milicic

There was a time when Yao could be pushed around. There was a time when Yao could be intimidated. There was a time when Yao could be posterized. Those days are gone. Right now there isn't a better big man in the game. Yao averages 24 ppg, 10.4 ropg, 3.1 apg and 2.71 bpg while shooting 55.3% from the field and 89.4% from the line. Other than that he really isn't playing that well. Darko has been playing well above his cynics expectations, about where his supporters thought he might and is now being mentioned as the best center to ever play in Memphis for the Grizzlies. Unfortunately that isn't enough. If nothing else it will be fun to hear the announcers proclaim "It the Great Wall of China against the Ivory Towers of Memphis!"
Advantage: Houston

Benches
: Houston's bench sounds like a who's who of the NBA from 5 years ago. Everyone remembers Bonzi Wells but they also have Mike James, Steve Francis and Dikembe Mutambo. For youth they have Aaron "summer Camp hero" Brooks, Steve Novak and Carl Landry. However the big names doesn't mean there aren't chinks in the armor. Houston is weak in the interior if Yao is out. Scola has not been the immediate impact player at PF Houston expected, Mutambo is as old as me (and that is OLD) and can't log big minutes. Yao and T-Mac are both averaging 38 mpg right now and their bodies haven't been able to handle logging those minutes in the past. Houston has only played 10 players all season. Memphis played 11 in the first quarter of the first game to put this in perspective. Memphis' bench has been a lot thinner than expected heading into the season with only Lowry consistently producing good numbers. Casey Jacobsen and Juan Carlos Navarro have not contributed the long range shooting expected and Stromile Swift has lived up to his reputation of not living up to expectations. The real surprise has to be the disappearance of Hakim Warrick. Michael Conley is starting to make a dent in the lineup and Tarence Kinsey has only played two minutes all season.
Advantage: Houston

UPDATE: Steve Francis is expected back for the game on Tuesday night. He hasn't played all season so there is no reason to expect Tuesday to be any different.

Coaches: Marc Iavaroni vs Rick Adelman

Rick Adelman has been successful everywhere he has coached. Known around the league as a basketball teacher with an ability to mold a team’s style of play around the strengths of his players, Adelman’s coaching highlights include a pair of NBA Finals appearances (1990 and 1992 with Portland), four trips to the Western Conference Finals (1990-92 with Portland and 2002 with Sacramento) and four division titles (1990-91 and 1991-92 with Portland; 2001-02 and 2002-03 with Sacramento). Adelman has been runner-up for NBA Coach of the Year honors three times (1990-91 with Portland; 2000-01 and 2001-02 with Sacramento). Iavaroni's pedigree comes from who he has assisted not as a head coach. While distinguished enough to be considered the top coaching prospect last summer who hadn't already been a head coach, Iavaroni is finding the limelight a bit more difficult after his team blew a big lead at Portland. Still it is far too early to criticize his style since he is experimenting with lineups while teaching his system. It is also too early to give him an advantage over the coach with the 6th most victories among active coaches.
Advantage: Houston

UPDATE II: We were unable to find a blogger to write a pre-game commentary for the Rockets game but if anyone knows a good blogger please leave a link to their site in the comments and we will make sure to include them in the next Rockets game thread. Thanks.

4 comments:

ChipC3 said...

"Certainly the doom and gloom is being over-hyped, although for those of us acting as Grizzlies apologists, we can't deny the fact that the Grizzlies are playing bad."

DENY, DENY, DENY

I didn't think the Grizz would win a single game until Seattle came to town so already having a win against them and being in contention against the Spurs and Blazers is actually making me feel better not worse about the team.

Only the fools who conned themselves into thinking the Grizzlies would win 40+ games and compete for the playoffs should be feeling let down right now and only then because they haven't a clue how difficult it is to build a team.

ChipC3 said...

Prediction:

Grizzlies - 94
Rockets - 102

Sorry

Anonymous said...

With the way things are going right now.

Rockets-110
Grizzlies-92

Ryan Schwan said...

Gratz on the win, guys. Nice to see Pau Gasol finally looking like himself.