Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Pregame: Memphis at Seattle - 11.7.07

Pregame commentary for the 11.07.07 Memphis at Seattle game, by ChipC3 and Zack. Leave your predictions for the final score in the comments.

Memphis
has started the season with back to back home losses. Not an encouraging beginning to the season but the Grizzlies were in contention in both games and both the Spurs (3-0) and Indiana (3-0) are undefeated this season so the losses aren't as catastrophic as they could be. A few bounces going the other way or a few less offensive charging fouls and the record could be very different. The Seattle game opens a tough 3 games in 4 days road trip. It is not critical yet for the team to get a win but it would make everyone feel better.

Seattle has struggled so far this season as well. Their 0-4 mark includes strong efforts against Phoenix (who is struggling right now as well) and Sacramento, but were blown out at Denver and at the Clippers. Kevin Durant seems to be the real deal despite the losses as he is averaging 22.5 ppg and 5 rpg. However he is shooting only 40% from the field and 30% from the arc so he isn't very efficient in getting his points. Chris Wilcox is coming into his own as he is averaging 18.5 ppg and 9.5 rpg so far. Seattle is playing at home on Tuesday night against Sacramento so fatigue may be an issue. With a possible move lingering over the franchise it will be interesting to see if the fans are supportive or bitter at this game.

Trends:

--Small ball. It's no secret that Iavaroni has not hesitated to go small so far this season. Two examples of pushing the use of the small lineups; Mike Miller playing PF against the Pacers and a Lowry-Damon backcourt to close out the first half of each game.
--Damien Wilkins is excited. Manu scored 30, had 5 boards and 7 dimes. Dunleavy had 27, 8, and 4. Needless to say, opposing SG's are playing well against the Griz this season.
--Careless basketball. The Grizzlies and Sonics are last and second-to-last, respectively, in the NBA in turnovers committed. In 5 games, they have combined to commit a total of 100 turnovers, compared to 72 for the opposition.

Storylines:

--Iavaroni looking for his first win. On paper at least, this game is Coach Iavaroni's best chance to collect his first every regular season NBA win.
--Griz fans get to watch what could have been. May 22nd, 2007 will haunt Griz fans everytime they see Kevin Durant play.
--Will the Sonics follow the Grizzlies lead in leaving the Pacific Northwest? New owner Clay Bennett wants to move the Sonics to Oklahoma City. With the ex-Vancouver Grizzlies coming to town less than a week since the official announcement of intent to move, you can be sure the similarities between the two teams will be written/talked about plenty.

Keys:

--Get Pau more involved. Although Pau is leading the team in field goals attempted, he hasn't necessarily been the focal point on offense like in the past. Normally, I'm all for a balance when it comes to offensive focus, but Gasol has historically killed the Sonics and it may be a good time to let Gasol do his thing more often this game.
--Keep teams from shooting a high percentage from the outside. Although sometimes I don't act like it, I'm not an official basketball coach. So however Iavaroni goes about it, something has to be done to keep the opposing teams from shooting so well from the outside. My suggestion... Quit being so passive against the pick-and-roll. But what do I know?
--Continue to learn how to play together as a team. Ok, this might not be a key to victory in this particular game, but for the Griz to have more victories in the future, the team must continue to improve the on court chemistry. Win or lose, it needs to be within the umbrella of playing as a one unit, not a collection of individuals.

Matchups:

Damon Stoudamire vs Earl Watson: Memphis should have interest in this match up as former Grizzly Earl Watson matches up against Damon. Earl is not a super fast PG nor will he have a size advantage which means Damon should have a chance to shine. So far this season Damon has been erratic with his shot and has not been impressive defensively or as an assist man. His leadership may be greater at this stage than Lowry's but obviously Lowry is the main man. Likewise, Watson may be starting but Delonte West, in only 19 mpg, is averaging more points while shooting more efficiently. His assists lag Watson's but one has to wonder how long West will remain behind Watson.
Advantage: Memphis

Mike Miller vs Damien Wilkins
: Damien Wilkins realizes his time as a starter is not going to be long. With Kevin Durant and Jeff Green waiting to take over the team Wilkins's role is to teach the rookies professionalism and the NBA game. In the meantime, Wilkins seems very interested in showing the rest of the league he belongs on a team in a prominent role. The son of Gerald and nephew of Dominique Wilkins, Damien is averaging 16.5 ppg and hitting an amazing 62% from the arc. Miller took a back seat to superstars on the Team USA this summer. He has yet to reclaim that role of dominant scorer since returning. Memphis needs Miller to look for his shot and stretch defenses with his range. So far Miller is leading the team in assists (6.0 per game) and rebounds (10 per game) but is only scoring 12.5 per game and he needs to be more aggressive.
Advantage: Memphis

Rudy Gay vs Kevin Durant
: This is the marquee match up of the game. Kevin Durant was the #2 pick in last summer's draft and has shown no intention of holding back his shooting despite his early season ineffectiveness. At 6-10 and capable of hitting any shot on the floor he will be a defensive nightmare for any player in the league. Rudy is the Grizzlies best perimeter defender and at 6-9 he has the ability to alter his shot. Durant and Rudy should be fascinating to watch if the referees stay out of the way. Against Indiana Rudy was given 4 offensive fouls and was called for a questionable charging foul in the Spurs game as well. This time the rookie will be guarding Rudy. The big difference is Durant seems to realize he is the best option on the team while Rudy seems hesitant to take that role.
Advantage: Seattle

Pau Gasol vs Chris Wilcox
: The battle of the bigs matches brute force against coached skill. Wilcox is a beast willing to use any intimidation factor he can call on to gain an advantage. A ferocious dunker and determined rebounder, Wilcox embodies everything people want more of from Gasol. So far Gasol has seemed tentative and while putting up acceptable numbers he hasn't been the focal point of the offense yet. Perhaps this has to do with Iavaroni's style or being unsure of his role in the new system but Memphis needs more from Gasol if the team wants to win games. I thought about giving Wilcox the edge because of his physical nature but Damon Agnos at Seattle Weekly reminded me of how often Gasol dominates Seattle.
Advantage: Memphis

Darko Milicic vs Nick Collison
: Darko is a stronger and bigger center than Memphis has ever had. Collison is more of what Memphis was used to seeing in the middle when Lorenzen Wright manned the post. He works hard and is willing to sacrifice himself for the team. He is just outmatched physically under the basket. Darko is starting to get comfortable in the post with his new team and has been very effective when avoiding foul calls. Neither players will be expected to score a lot for their team. This match up will come down to who get the most rebounds. Darko's height should give him the edge but Collison is at home and Darko has yet to avoid early foul trouble.
Advantage: Seattle

Benches
: Memphis was probably surprised to see back to back teams come in with benches every bit as capable as their own. Memphis' depth is supposed to be one of their strengths but so far new players Juan Carlos Navarro and Casey Jacobsen have struggled with their shots and being terrible on defense while Stro and Hak haven't found their rhythm. The one true bright spot off the bench has been Kyle Lowry who's defense and attacking style have helped elevate the backups to perform better as a unit than individually. Seattle's bench is a combination of developmental players like Johan Petro and Jeff Green with veterans like Wally Szczerbiak and Luke Ridnour. Delonte West has emulated Kyle Lowry providing a spark off the bench as well. Szczerbiak hasn't found his shot yet and Ridnour has been battling an injury
Advantage: Memphis

Coaches
: PJ Carlisimo doesn't have a stranglehold on this team yet (I am sorry I couldn't resist saying that). His team couldn't get their breath in Denver (bad pun) and choked against Phoenix (I promise to quit now) before the weak effort against the Clippers. Carlisimo is experienced as a bench coach but struggled in the head coaches chair in the past. This team will try his patience after year's on San Antonio's bench but he does get players respect for what he has accomplished. Iavaroni seems to be playing favorites with his signees getting PT (Darko, Navarro and Jacobsen) while holdovers Tarence Kinsey and Brian Cardinal have yet to be activated for a game. Eventually Iavaroni will either have to improve his players performances or activate these former good role players. He's a rookie Head Coach but he seems to have already fallen into a trap with the players.
Advantage: Seattle

Other Game Previews:

--Check out the game preview written by Damon Agnos at the Buzzer Beater blog in the Seattle Weekly. Particularly you should read his take on the epic Wally vs Miller matchup.
--As always, go read Chris Herrington's Pre-Game Three-Pointer.
--To prepare Sonics fans for tonight's game, Kevin Pelton, at Sonics Beat, has 5 questions for Chris Herrington about the Griz in his Opposing View column. Great stuff, go read it.
--Grizzlies.com game preview.
--USA Today's game preview.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Durant has shot 50% from the floor the last two games and is actually shooting 44% on the season, and 37% from three. I can see he's already getting a reputation as a "volume scorer", but I don't think reality will match that.

ChipC3 said...

http://www.nba.com/playerfile/kevin_durant/index.html

That is the link to Durant's current numbers. Please understand that I write these comments days in advance and rookies especially are to keep up current information on.

zack said...

we got this one....

griz 119, sonics 101

Pau goes for a triple-double...

ChipC3 said...

124-119 Memphis Wins!!!

Durant scores a lot but Rudy gets a big steal late in the game.

Maybe I should move away from the flames now. I think there is some strange smoke coming of the fire.

ChipC3 said...

Only missed it by two points for the 2nd game in a row. Oh and where is anonymous with his follow up retort about my assertion that Durant gets his points but doesn't shoot efficiently?

scott_7713 said...

Zack, where was Lowry in this one?