Monday, November 19, 2007

Pregame: Memphis vs Seattle - 11.19.07

Hoops for the Hungry Night - bring a can of food for the hungry!

ChipC3 and Zack bring you pregame commentary for the 11.19.07 Memphis vs Seattle game. Leave your predictions for the final score in the comments.

Memphis returns home to play their third game in 4 days...again. If it seems like the Grizzlies have been playing a lot lately it is because they have. The Seattle game will be the 5th game in 7 days for the Grizzlies and the biggest margin in any of those games has been the Houston victory last week when the Grizzlies won by 6 points. Since the Houston win the Grizzlies lost to Milwaukee by three, lost to New Orleans in OT by two and finally lost to Dallas by three when Navarro had not one but two excellent looks at the basket. Both shots were on target but unfortunately didn't fall. Iavaroni is pleased with the team's effort but realizes that the team can't continue to dig themselves out of deficits if they want to start winning games. The Grizzlies juggled the lineup already with Darko's injury but once the big guy is back don't be surprised to see a more permanent change in the starting line up.

Seattle has struggled as well this season as one would expect of any team that traded away Ray Allen for youth and then traded Rashard Lewis for cap space and draft picks. Seattle won the lottery this summer with the 2nd pick. I know that sounds strange but with Oden out for the season Seattle got the best rookie playing this season. Kevin Durant has already shown the ability to hit the game winning shot and he is only going to get better and he has some motivation in this game. After shooting 3-17 against the Grizzlies in their first match up he is anxious to show it was just an off night and not the Grizzlies defense.

Trends

-- Crunch time execution. In the last 4 games, the score has essentially been even with 2 minutes to play. The Griz are 1-3 in those 4 games, losing the last 3.
-- Charity stripe. Tonight the Griz are asking fans to be charitable. Tonight I am asking the refs to be more charitable in return. After the Rockets win, the Grizzlies were going to the line 33 times compared to 22 for the opponent. In the 3 games since, that trend has reversed with Grizzlies shooting a combined 58 FT's to 83 for the opponents.
-- Sonics on the road. This is the 5th and final game of the Sonics first long road trip of the year. They are 2-2 so far, which they have to be pleased with.

Storylines

-- Infirmary report. Darko's thumb X-rays were negative, but I'd still be surprised to see him play tonight. Micheal Conley injured his shoulder last game and I would also be surprised to see him play tonight. Pau seemly has a laundry list of nagging injuries, though the Spaniard is playing through the pain. And I can't resist mentioning Stromile's name when talking about Grizzly injuries, although I think he is physically healthy.
-- La Bomba. JC got the start in place of Darko against Dallas, as Iavaroni moved Rudy to the 4. JC earned the starting spot by hitting 8 of 9 3-point attempts against the Hornets. Against Dallas, JC had 2 open attempts from beyond the arc to tie the game, missing both. Still, I'm sure the hometown crowd tonight will let JC know how much they appreciate his efforts of late.
-- Playing better than our record indicates. I know that phrase may have lost meaning after last year, but indeed, this year the Griz are playing better than a 2-7 record indicates. The Griz have played the 4th hardest schedule so far in the NBA and played all 4 Southwest Division foes to the wire.

Keys

-- Crunch time execution. Notice a trend here? In crunch time, the Grizzlies are 2-4, being able to get the best of Houston and Seattle. If the Griz can't put this one away early, they will need to buckle down in the 4th, get timely stops and find a way to improve the crunch time offense.
-- No early fouls for Rudy. Rudy is a big part of Iavaroni's game plan each night. When Rudy inexplicably picks up early fouls, Iavaroni has to change the game plan and go deeper into the bench. Although Iavaroni's comment about not getting down early might be pointing towards Damon, it probably has just as much to do with Rudy having to ride the pine for long stretches of the 1st half because of stupid fouls.
-- Replacing Darko. If the Serbian Enforcer can't go tonight, the Grizzlies will need to find a way to match his interior defense (without fouling, Rudy!!!) and his rebounding. Wilcox and Collison are both solid rebounders. Stromile or Hakim will need to step up and fill Darko's shoes tonight, especially if Rudy can't avoid early foul trouble. I suspect BC or Andre Brown may see some playing time tonight as well.

Matchups

Point Guard: Damon Stoudamire vs Earl Watson
Earl Watson and Damon Stoudamire are very similar players. They are both under 6 ft tall, they aren't as fast as most NBA PG's and most importantly they can't shoot a lick. They also have another thing in common. They are not far from seeing the opening tips from the bench. Watson has been outplayed recently by Delonte West while Damon has been seen as only babysitting the job since Michael Conley was drafted this summer. Earl will probably outlast Damon as a starter but if his game doesn't improve it is only a matter of time. Kyle Lowry's turnovers are probably the only reason he isn't starting already but the team can't afford to start game after game in a hole. Lowry's defense could help the team get started better and Damon can perform better against back ups than starters in most instances. He has proven he can still play without limping. The banner is ready to be passed.
Advantage: Seattle

Shooting Guards: Mike Miller vs Damian Wilkins

Damien and Mike had a nice match the first meeting this season with Wilkins getting 18 pts and 5 boards and Miller scoring 20 pts and 8 rebounds. Of course that game was a road game for Mike. Now Miller is at home, has found his place in Iavaroni's offense and is starting to take over games down the stretch. Mike has always been a great outside shooter and an adequate slasher to the basket but where has the rebounding come from? Mike still leads the team in rebounds despite playing most of the game at the shooting guard. Wilkins' has to realize that Jeff Green and Kevin Durant are going to make it difficult for him to get minutes in the future but he isn't going away quietly. Especially after his 41 pt explosion at Atlanta (in front of his dad and uncle no less). However Damian and Gerald won't be at this game.
Advantage: Memphis

Small Forwards: Rudy Gay vs Kevin Durant

People in Memphis have been declaring that King Pau is dead, Long Live King Rudy. I don't know if I am quite ready to go that far but it is hard to argue that Rudy has been the most effective and productive player on the Grizzlies this season. Now if he could only avoid first quarter foul troubles. Kevin hit a game winning 3 pt shot against Atlanta the other day and that shot was the headline story on almost every sports show in the country. Rudy hit two three point shots to force OT against New Orleans the same night but was relegated to the back pages. Something tells me that Rudy and Kevin are going to be great rivals for the rest of their careers. Right now however Rudy shoots better, scores better and plays better defense despite the lack of press clippings.
Advantage: Memphis

Power Forward: Hakim Warrick vs Chris Wilcox

With Darko injured and Navarro a bad match up against Wilkins I expect Warrick to start this game. Call me crazy but the small ball lineup doesn't fit well against a long and fast team like Seattle. Just ask Atlanta about that. Hakim isn't as powerful as Wilcox but his range and speed should give Wilcox fits as well. Hakim started the season buried on the bench but his offensive play of late has earned him more time. If it isn't Hakim then expect Stro to start but somehow I think with Iavaroni's desire to get a lead early the better offensive player in Warrick is the better option. Still Wilcox is a power beast who knows how to rebound and with no Darko rebounds will be a highly sought after commodity.
Advantage: Seattle

Centers: Pau Gasol vs Nick Collison

Something is wrong with Gasol. Never a power player, Gasol has failed to grab more than 8 rebounds in a game since November 7th. That is bad even for a weak center with no heart as some Grizz fans call Gasol. Pau hasn't lost his shooting touch however as he still is averaging 17 ppg and shooting over 50% from the field but there is still something missing. Be it dead legs from a summer of playing or a bad back or whatever, with Darko out Gasol must raise his game. Collison is an undersized Center who survives on effort, a knack for rebounds and a lack of decent competition for the job. Seattle recognizes the problem as they spent three straight #1 picks on a center but none have developed yet.
Advantage: Memphis

Benches: Memphis' bench has been depleted by the injuries to Darko and Michael Conley. That is one reason the development of Juan Carlos Navarro has been such a nice addition. Kyle Lowry continues to be the spark plug off the bench and Tarence Kinsey is starting to get court time again at the expense of cold shooting Casey Jacobsen. The thing to remember about Memphis' bench is that the team is a work in progress. Iavaroni started with those most comfortable in his system and now he is broadening out as more talented players get as comfortable. Seattle's bench is basically a three man outfit as Wally Szczerbiak, Delonte West and Jeff Green get the majority of production. Johan Petro continues to struggle fitting in and Robert Swift has been a disappointment. Luke Ridnour's return could add more confusion to the point guard position as well.
Advantage: Memphis

Coaches: Marc Iavaroni vs P J Carlesimo
Two coaches in their first seasons with new teams that are rebuilding with youth balanced with some experience. Iavaroni should be grateful for Carlesimo giving him his first professional victory as a head coach. Iavaroni is starting to bet into the team's head in a good way. The defense is improving and the offense is flowing. Players are starting to know what is expected instead of thinking about it. Now Iavaroni needs to teach his team how to hit 3 pt shots at the buzzer. The Grizzlies had the ball in their hands for the last shot in all three losses but couldn't get the shot to fall. Eventually that will change. Carlesimo got his first wins at Miami and Atlanta so obviously his style is being understood as well. Carlesimo's experience could be a deciding factor but I like Iavaroni at home.
Advantage: Memphis

Other Previews
Grizzlies.com
Hoopsworld.com
Seattle Post-Intelligencer
The Sports Network
Sonics.com
Sonics Insider

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

I agree that Lowry needs to start, at least for now. Eventually, I see him coming off of the bench behind Conley. But for now he is the Grizzlies best PG. And the best players on most teams in most sports start. Even when the best players don't start -- e.g., Ginobli in San Antonio -- they usually have had an opportunity to start through a process of trial and error. A second reason to start Lowry is that he always comes to play, which could help what has been a slow starting first unit. Third, Lowry plays defense, the Grizzlies biggest weakness. Finally, while Lowry doesn't shoot the ball as well as Damon, he puts a lot of pressure on the opposing team's defense because of his quickness, ability to penetrate, and his knack at drawing fouls on bigs at the rim.

ChipC3 said...

I agree in principle but there are two reasons not to make that change tonight.

First, with Darko out we don't want to start former bench players at two different positions. It throws off chemistry too much.

Second, I predicted Damon would hold onto the starting job for a month and I still have a week to go to make the prediction look brilliant. I made it in July by the way.

zack said...

titans and grizzlies playing at the same time....that sucks...

Anonymous said...

the picture of mike owning diop's face is the funniest picture ive seen this year. nice find