SPANISH NIGHT - Part 2!!!
Or as our friends up north at Raptors Talk call it the Battle for the Naismith Cup! They still see the Grizzlies as Vancouver's team after all. Must be a type of Canadian inferiority complex of some sort.
Memphis plays the Raptors for their 2nd game in two nights and their second time in less than 10 days tonight. The first meeting was one of the low points of the season for the Grizzlies as they managed a mere 89 points against Toronto's defense. Particularly weak was the three point shooting that started 0-10 and finished 4-26 for the game. Memphis dominated in the paint and at the free throw line but Toronto is a jump shooting team and the Grizzlies couldn't overcome their poor perimeter shooting. Rudy Gay and Juan Carlos Navarro have been leading the charge of late and when they are hitting shots the team is very difficult to beat. When they struggle the team struggles which is a far cry from the days when the Grizzlies ran their offense through Pau Gasol and Mike Miller.
Toronto is playing well and at 7-7 is in the logjam for second place in the suddenly tough Atlantic Division. Toronto will be well rested for this game having not played since Sunday night which was a home game. Toronto is playing .500 but has lost some close games to good teams and blown out bad ones so the record is deceiving. Without TJ Ford, the Raptors have slowed down the game a bit but Calderon has filled in well, Chris Bosh has improved on his poor start and Jameiro Moon is another great find bu Colangelo.
The Grizzlies are now enjoying their first winning streak of the year after defeating the Wizards and Nets. Tonight is a great opportunity to keep the Eastern Conference themed winning streak in tact.
Keys to Victory
-- 3-Point shooting.
-- Rudy staying out of foul trouble.
-- Force Bosh and Bargnani to put the ball on floor, as opposed to shooting uncontested jumpers.
Point Guard: Damon Stoudamire vs Jose Calderon
Jose Calderon wasn't supposed to be good enough to start at the point in the NBA. That is why Toronto traded Charlie Villanueva to Milwaukee for TJ Ford. So why is Calderon playing so well while Ford is hurt? Against Chicago and Team USA PG Kirk Hinrick Calderon scored 19 pts and dished out 14 assists with only 1 turnover. Damon Stoudamire is still struggling with his shot but has played well protecting the ball and making the right passes to players. His minutes are already below 20 per game and should continue to decline as Lowry gets comfortable and Conley returns but for now Damon is holding the fort down decently. When hot from outside he is actually
Shooting Guard: Juan Carlos Navarro vs Anthony Parker
Anthony Parker isn't Spanish but he did play at Macabib Tel Aviv for two years and Virtus Roma for one so he was in the neighborhood so to speak. Parker is a solid player who has deadly range (56.7% from the arc) and is not going to be over run by any SG in the league. After a quiet start to the season Parker too is starting to warm up as well. Juan Carlos Navarro is sneaky good. He sneaks around to pick up steals, he sneaks behind screens to nail 3 pt shots and he sneaks into the lane for his patented La Bomba shot. He isn't able to match up physically with anyone in the NBA and Parker is a physical player which could be a problem for Navarro.
Small Forward: Mike Miller vs Jamario Moon
By now you should know who Jamario Moon is? The Cinderella story from Mississippi Community College player came out of nowhere to earn a starting role over high priced free agent signee Jason Kapono and has put up some incredible performances including a 15 pt, 9 rebound, 6 block effort against Chicago. Moon is playing major minutes and the slipper hasn't come off his foot yet. Mike Miller is starting to get back into his aggressive role with the Grizzlies and out of the passive role that we saw emerge on the USA team. It's about time to say the least. Mike's aggressive play is needed for the Grizzlies as is his long range shooting.
Power Forwards: Rudy Gay vs Andrea Bargnani
Andrea Bargnani threw the daggers in Memphis' heart last week with two huge three point bombs down the stretch. At 7-0 and deadly from the arc is is a difficult shot to stop and once Bargnani gets comfortable with the NBA game he could become one of the most dangerous players in the league. He isn't there yet but offensively he is a nightmare. Rudy Gay has stopped committing two silly fouls in the first quarter. Now he just commits one in the first 2 minutes of the first quarter. The team leader in training still seems a bit immature to take the reigns but the talent is unquestionable. Rudy has shown consistent NBA 3 pt range, power inside and improving defense but he has to avoid the silly early fouls to really make a statement. What has been most encouraging has been the sudden increase in rebounds. Whichever player is most aggressive should win this match up.
Centers: Pau Gasol vs Chris Bosh
The battle of two team leaders. Gasol has struggled to overcome injuries to his ankle, back and finger while Bosh has struggled being the focus without any interior support. Gasol appears on the road to recovery and Bosh has already broken out thanks in no small part to the Game in Memphis. Bosh has raised his shooting percentage in one week from 40% to 46% and his rebounding is back near his career average. Gasol is still behind his career averages but is also improving as he gets more comfortable in the Iavaroni system.
Benches: The problem for Toronto right now is a lack of quality power players off the bench. Carlos Delfino is more comfortable on the wing although I have been told he is a tough perimeter player. What else would you expect from a former Piston? Jason Kapono is paid to hit three pt shots and not much else. About the only player willing to mix it up underneath is Kris Humphries who is an undersized PF. Memphis' bench has come back from the dead with Kyle Lowry getting plenty of support Stromile Swift and Hakim Warrick. Tarence Kinsey is also taking minutes in the rotation. Iavaroni keeps insisting he only wants an 8 man rotation but the way these players are performing that is hard to believe without a trade. That doesn't mean the Grizzlies will make any moves right away but the future has to include a deal involving Damon Stoudamire and someone else for future picks or a lock down wing defender. That is the only weakness the Grizz seem to have right now.
Other Game Previews
Got a prediction for the final score? Leave it in the comments.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
SPANISH NIGHT - Part 2!!!