Saturday, November 17, 2007

Pregame: Memphis at Dallas - 11.17.07

ChipC3 and Zack bring you pregame commentary for the 11.17.07 Memphis vs Dallas game. Leave your predictions for the final score in the comments

Memphis ends a difficult week in a difficult place to play. The 4th game in 5 days makes the game difficult to get up for. The good news for the player fans is that the team should be using their bench depth in this game. You know it will be a tough game when you think the bright spot is that Dallas just destroyed San Antonio two nights earlier at home so maybe they will be over-confident or looking past the Grizzlies. Rudy Gay has become a serious challenger to Pau Gasol's streak of seasons as the Grizzlies leading scorer. Mike Miller and Pau Gasol give the Grizzlies three players capable of scoring significant points at any time. Throw in Darko Milicic who, while focusing on defense, is a significant offensive player in his own right and the Grizzlies should be able to score points. The problem will be containment of Dallas' scorers.

Dallas closed into a virtual tie in the Southwestern Division with a dismantling of San Antonio Thursday night in Dallas 105-92. The game wasn't that close. Dallas took a double digit lead in the first 7 minutes of the game and extended that to 33-18 at the end of the first quarter. Former Grizz Eddie Jones is injured (so it isn't something that only happens to him in Memphis) and Maurice Agar got the surprise start but that didn't slow down the Mavericks. Devin Harris out-Parkered Tony Parker (except in the wife department) and the big three of Nowitzki, Josh Howard and Jason Terry led the team in scoring. The Mavs look like they want a second chance at the league best record.

Trends

-- Wish we had their record. Dallas is 6-2, Grizzlies are 2-6. Dallas also hasn't lost at home yet this year.
-- Navarro is 'sul fuoco'. JC broke out last night and shot lights out from beyond the arc. His 8 of 9 performance tied him for most 3-pointers made for an NBA rookie.
-- I want my free chicken. The Grizzles are one of 10 teams in the NBA averaging over 100 points per game. Dallas also belongs to that group. We will now just ignore that column in the standings in between 'Points For' and 'Differential'.

Storylines

-- Dallas misses the free throw, it's tipped back, Dirk catches, shoots for 3, it's in. Yes, I am still bitter over that Game 3 loss in the playoffs. Every game we play them is revenge for that night, for all I care.
-- Eddie returns. Many fans are mad at Steady Eddie for dogging it last year before getting bought out and heading back to Miami to chase a ring. Some still respect what he brought to Memphis. Personally, I think Darko was a great use of the money freed up by his expiring contract.
-- New Game. This year is certainly a new game in Memphis. On any given night, who might step up and play well is an unknown, and so far the 2 guys we all know so well (Pau and Miller) have not been out in the forefront as dominantly as expected. Last night, JC decided that the basket was 5 feet wide. Darko has been a force downlow. Lowry is making an impact almost every night. Rudy looks nothing like that lost and tentative rookie getting chewed out by Fratello and actually resembles a potential reserve All-star. Conley has looked good in limited minutes. The new faces and the new game they bring have given a fresh and unpredictable aspect to the Griz.

Keys

-- Slow down the JET. Jason Terry has been playing well off the bench and really giving the team a huge boost. Lowry has a tough assignment ahead of him.
-- Make Dirk drive. We aren't that great defending the ball screen. We get killed by big guys that can shoot the mid-range shot. Thus, I would like to see us get up on Dirk and either make him pass or try to put the ball on the floor and drive. I'd also like to be physical with Dirk, but right now I don't know if our Serbian Enforcer will be playing. (Bonus key...use Hak in limited minutes, he has shown the ability to score against Dallas)
-- Reward Navarro. I'd like to see Iavaroni stick with Navarro for big minutes off the bench against Dallas. I have a feeling that JC's hot hand is just getting warmed up.

Matchups

Point Guards: Damon Stoudamire vs Devon Harris
Devon Harris was a former #5 draft pick who took a few years to really get comfortable running the Mavericks offense but he apparently has figured it out moving Jason Terry to the bench. While not the scorer that Terry is Harris is a leader who does the things a point guard is suppposed to do. He gets the offense set up and running properly, his size and speed makes him a good defender and he understands his role. Damon also understands his role too. He is to teach the rookies behind him how to beat him out of his job. That has to be a bit unnerving for a professional athlete but so far it seems he is doing his job. Damon has been the most effective point guard despite his defensive weaknesses. Still the future is coming fast for Damon and he knows it.
Advantage: Dallas

Shooting Guards: Mike Miller vs Maurice Agar

Mike Miller has been the subject of numerous trade rumors in some circles but it is highly unlikely that the team will make a move anytime soon with their best long-range threat. Miller is also leading the team in rebounding and has the most assists on the team this season. So why are people not happy with Mike Miller? He isn't great defensively and he hasn't imposed himself on the offensive end. Maybe that is changing after a great 4th quarter in Milwaukee however. Agar is starting for the injured Eddie Jones who is starting for Jason Terry because Avery Johnson wants Terry's production coming off the bench. The 6-5 2nd yr player from Michigan St is getting his first exposure to the NBA after only playing 214 minutes last year.
Advantage: Memphis

Small Forwards: Rudy Gay vs Josh Howard

Is this the new marguee matchup in the Mavs-Grizzlies series? Both Rudy Gay and Josh Howard are making strong charges to be considered the best player on their teams. Rudy is pretty close averaging over 20 pts a game and being the go-to player down the stretch in close games. Howard is playing great but still defers to Big Dirk as the team leader. Rudy is still young and has a lot to learn on being a complete player (3.7 rpg and 1.0 apg) but defensively he averages a block and steal a game while shooting over 50% from the field. Howard is averaging 22 pts a game (on 54% FG shooting), 5.7 rpg and 2.2 apg but fewer steals and blocks. Both are some of the best young SF's in the league and their battle should be fun to watch if Rudy can avoid foul trouble.
Advantage: Dallas

Power Forwards: Pau Gasol vs Dirk Nowizki

This match up is still the main one. Gasol has been battling ankle, back and now a finget injury but is playing through the aches and pains to put up respectable numbers for most players. His 17.6 ppg, 6.3 rpg and 2.3 apg are respectable but not up to the standards that he has set in the past. Dirk Nowitzki is also not averaging the numbers you expect from a player of his stature. His 18.6 ppg, 8.6 rpg and 5.5 apg are excellent but not up to his standard either. Most surprising is Nowitzki's lack of shooting accuracy. Dirk is only shooting 44% from the fiels and a shocking 28% from 3 pt range compared to 52% from Gasol. One area of Pau's game that has dramatically improved is his FT shooting but he isn't getting to the line nearly as often as last season. Two seasons ago Gasol demolished Dirk in a head to head matchup with 36 pts and 15 boards. How effectively he can get to the line in this game could decide the outcome. However his injuries seem to cast a shadow on that ability.
Advantage: Dallas

Centers: Darko Milicic vs Desagna Diop

Dallas has a serious hole in their lineup and that same hole has been shored up by Memphis. Eric Dampier is out while recovering from off-season surgery while Memphis signed Darko to a free agent contract. This means Dallas can no longer protect Dirk by putting their centers on Gasol on defense while Gasol doesn't have to pound so much down low. Darko has been a huge positive for the Grizzlies giving the team a banger to match up against other big men and allowing Gasol to handle less strenous defensive assignments. Diop is a decent rebounder and great shot blocker but Darko has shown already he knows how to attack shot blockers himself.
Advantage: Memphis

Benches
: Dallas has one of the most productive benches in the NBA with Jason Terry, Jerry Stackhouse and with the return of Erick Dampier a legitimate big man off the bench. Brandon Bass and Jose Barea round out the substitution pattern and both have prodided quality minutes when on the court. Dallas isn't afraid of going to their bench which allows the starters to put out maximum effort without having to hold something back for extended minutes. Memphis' bench was supposed to be a strength of the team going into the season but that hasn't been the case so far. Kyle Lowry has been exciting but erratic. Michael Conley is the supposed point guard of the future but is still learning his way. Casey Jacobsen and Juan Carlos Navarro are supposed to be the scorers off the bench but neither have found their shots yet (although both are showing signs) and JCN especially needs to improve his defense. Stromile Swift has been inconsistent which shouldn't be a surprise but Hakim Warrick losing playing time to Brian Cardinal and Tarence Kinsey's inability to get more than token minutes should be.
Advantage: Dallas

Coaches: Marc Iavaroni vs Avery Johnson

Avery Johnson took the league by storm after replacing Don Nelson as head coach in Dallas. It seemed no one had an answer for the combination of defense and offense Dallas threw at teams in their racing to first an NBA Finals and then the best record in the NBA the next season. Then Don Nelson showed Avery that while he may have taught Avery everything Avery knows, he didn't show him everything Nelson knew. Johnson entered the season under some suspicion and early losses on the road to Atlanta and Portland raised more eyebrows but his complete team effort against San Antonio should silence critics for the time being. Marc Iavaroni is still in his honeymoon period but his rotations are raising eyebrows as well with Casey Jacobsen, Brian Cardinal and Juan Carlos Navarro getting minutes that TK and Hak had last year. Also the sporatic playing of Michael Conley is making people wonder.
Advantage: Dallas

Other Previews:
Grizzlies.com
Mavericks.com

The Sports Network
6abc.com Preview

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Darko apparently isn't playing tonight due to his injury from last night's game against the Hornets. It might be the StroShow who may take Darko's place in the lineup.

Mavericks-107
Grizzlies-89

ChipC3 said...

Well to be honest if I had known when I wrote this that Darko wasn't playing I still wouldn't have put Juan Carlos in the starting lineup.

I am glad I was wrong. Navarro still got abused by Jason Terry in the 4th but he has definately improved his overall defense and man can that boy shoot! I don't care if he did miss back to back 3's at the end of the game. He wasn't afraid to shoot them and Memphis needs that attitude on this team.

Great game and one more step on the way to respectability. The young guys still have some growing to do and the refs have to start respecting the team but the future is looking brighter every day.

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