KIDS FREE NIGHT! DANCE TEAM POSTER GIVE AWAY!
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Memphis strutted into Toronto on a high after winning their 2nd game on the road this season in New Jersey. After one quarter they had the game being played at a pace that favored the team and even had the lead. Then came the 2nd quarter. 10 points later the Grizzlies walked into the locker room without any shred of confidence and never really mounted a challenge against the Raptors in losing 103-91 which made the game look closer than it really was. How do you explain a team shooting over 50% in the previous two games shooting 3-19 in the 2nd quarter? Mike Miller and Rudy Gay never amounted to much in the game and Gasol seemed to quit in after the first half. Juan Carlos Navarro continued his excellent play but while playing large he wasn't big enough to overcome the total lack of team effort.
Minnesota is tired of being portrayed as the worst team in the NBA. However they are tied for the fewest wins in the league at two with Seattle, another team rebuilding after unloading the face of the franchise. Minnesota is rebuilding with promising talent including Al Jefferson, Randy Foye, Corey Brewer and Rashard McCants. That much youth without any veteran leadership rarely produces good results right away. Minnesota is suffering the growing pains like most teams. This game will be Minnesota's third game in four days after playing at Dallas and San Antonio so it won't be easy for the TWolves against a rested Grizzlies team.
4 Things on Zack's Mind
-- Need a win to get to .500 at home. Right now the Griz are 3-4 at home. IMO, it is a must for a team to have a winning record at home. Against the lowly T-wolves, this win is a must. A repeat of the last Sonics game would be preferred.
-- Defending Al Jefferson. The matchup I am most interested in is Al Jefferson versus the Memphis interior defense, who will likely be missing Darko for an 8th straight game (3-4 in his absence). Although it is likely Pau and Swift guard Jefferson the most tonight, I will not be surprised when Rudy takes his turn. Iavaroni has shown no hesitation in having Rudy guard any post player on the other team. And Al versus Rudy on the block is a matchup I don't think is in the Grizzlies advantage. IMO, Al demands an immediate double team to get the ball out of his hands and back in the hands of his sub-par supporting cast. I will be interested to see how early and how often Iavaroni calls for the Griz to double Jefferson (if at all).
-- How big will the free throw discrepancy be? The Griz average 8 more free throw attempts per game than the Twolves (28 for Griz to 20 for Twolves). But what might make the discrepancy even more tonight is the fact that the Twolves opponents average 32 free throws per game (Grizzlies opponents average 22). After our pathetic shooting display against the Raptors, I expect the Griz to have a concerted effort to attack the rim and hopefully some hometown officiating can get Kyle, Rudy, Pau, and company to the line in bunches.
-- Need our shooters to be shooters. Make no mistake about, Navarro has no hesitation on hoisting up shots. I like his confidence and don't mind him shooting alot. I would like to see Miller be more aggressive in getting his shot off (he is coming off a season low 5 FG attempts against the Raptors, all misses). The Grizzlies have 4 guys (Miller, Navarro, Damon, and Casey) who's best skill is shooting from the outside and worst skill is defense. For those guys to earn the combined 93 minutes they average per game (or roughly 38% of the available playing time) they need to shoot confidently and shoot well. In wins, that group is averaging 14.2 made shots in 29.8 attempts (47%) versus 11.7 for 28.2 (41%) in losses.
Point Guards: Damon Stoudamire vs Marco Jaric
Marco Jaric has size to the nth degree and is dating a Brazilian bombshell (Adriana Lima) so excuse him if his legs are a little too tired to actually use his height advantage by posting up down low. Damon has been consistent as the starter averaging around 6 pts and 4 assists in just under 20 minutes. If anything his minutes have actually seen an increase lately but his shooting is still very suspect despite his 3 pt average. He needs to hit more shots inside the rim to get more PT.
Shooting Guards: Juan Carlos Navarro vs Rashard McCants
Juan Carlos Navarro starts his second month in the NBA most likely destroying my prediction of his winning 6th man of the year not because he isn't playing well but because he has played so well he is starting instead of coming off the bench. Navarro has rapidly become a crowd favorite. His fun loving style of play hopefully will rub off on some other veteran players too. McCants has battled injuries since turning pro after his national championship at UNC and he finally looks to be getting comfortable. His shot is still terrible (41% from the field) but he can get hot from the perimeter (36%). Too offensive minded players but Navarro has the higher basketball IQ.
Small Forwards: Mike Miller vs Ryan Gomes
Mike Miller may be starting his last game at SF for a while with the anticipated return of Darko Milicic. If anyone has seen a decrease in effectiveness from Navarro's development it has to be Mike Miller. Ryan Gomes is a physical SF or an undersized PF depending on your outlook. He looked promising in Boston although unable to get consistent minutes. Minnesota was happy to get him in the KG deal but he hasn't really found his comfort zone yet. His shooting is pathetic inside the arc although his 3 pt shot has really improved. If he can find his range and muscle up Miller, Gomes could be effective in this game. If he struggles keeping up with Miller on the perimeter and can't hit his shot then Miller should go for big numbers. Miller needs a big game as well.
Power Forwards: Rudy Gay vs Mark Madsen
Rudy Gay has been thrust into the Phoenix 4 role and struggled at times to adjust. His range should give Madsen fits and his speed and athletic ability should be difficult for Madsen to keep up with. Madsen is a glorified thug in the NBA. He's willing to throw his body at anyone for any reason and picks up a lot of junk by simple intimidation but he isn't the ideal player for an uptempo game. Rudy should feast on this match up if he stays aggressive and focused.
Centers: Pau Gasol vs Al Jefferson
The only match up than Memphis should fear. Al Jefferson is a space eating, rebound grabbing animal who can score out to 12' with relative ease while absolutely punishing weaker players in the middle. He is intimidating as hell. Gasol shrinks from players such as this. If Darko is even close to healthy the Grizzlies need to consider him as an option in this game. Al Jefferson is the closest thing the NBA has to an answer for Dwight Howard and he is only 22 yrs old. Is Jefferson really that good? Ask Dallas where Jefferson put up 31 and 14 against the Mavs on the road! Boston may win a title with Garnett this year but Minnesota has a great player for the next 10 years to grow around.
Benches: Memphis vs Minnesota
Minnesota has a plethora of big name players on their bench like Antoine Walker, Sebastian Telfair, Gerald Green and Corey Brewer. the problem is they either haven't learned how to handle the NBA (Telfair, Green, Brewer) or they have lost what star power they used to have (Antoine Walker). Minnesota's name recognition is high but their basketball talent is in question. Memphis' bench had been developing nicely until the 2nd quarter of the Toronto game. The complete disgrace of that quarter will do one of two things: Convince Iavaroni to shorten the bench even more or make the bench realize they have to play better if they want to play at all. It is too soon to know exactly which way the bench will turn but it bears intense scrutiny in this game. Warrick, Swift and Lowry have played well most of the season. Jacobsen has struggled and Kinsey is obviously nipping at his heals for playing time. With the anticipated return of Milicic something has to happen because Iavaroni doesn't want to play 10 players and don't forget Conley could be back next week as well. Memphis' speed off the bench may be too much for Minnesota to handle after playing Dallas and San Antonio over 2 of the last 3 days.
Update (11.30.07, 10pm)
I heard on the 6pm news that Darko will be available against the Timberwolves. Good news.
Got a prediction? Leave it in the comments.
Saturday, December 1, 2007
KIDS FREE NIGHT! DANCE TEAM POSTER GIVE AWAY!