Friday, November 23, 2007

Pregame: Grizzlies at Spurs 11.23.07

Memphis is coming off the Turkey Day Holiday facing the same team they played on Opening Night. Why do the Grizzlies always seem to play the Spurs at the wrong time? When will we get to catch them on the 3rd game in a four day road trip or something? Anyway, Darko's return will be much anticipated and needed for the Grizzlies to match up against the Spurs. Last night it was reported that Darko is close to being day to day. I don't know what that means but I am planning on Darko. Duncan on Gasol/Swift/Warrick is just to dreadful to imagine only surpassed by Duncan against Andre Brown. The Grizzlies will need a big effort from their little men to slow down Tony Parker, an absence of foul trouble from their wing men (most notably Rudy Gay) and some serious team defense down low on Duncan while hitting a high percentage of shots and hoping the Spurs ate some bad turkey to win this game but I felt the same way about the Dallas and Houston games and the Grizzlies played above expectations in both so I am trying to keep an open mind.

San Antonio hasn't played in two days either but of course they got to stay at home after Thanksgiving. That has to be a nice scheduling concession for having to play on the road for Christmas. Wait a minute, they are in the middle of a four game home stand from before Christmas until after New Year's. It's good to be the Champs I suppose. The Spurs are chugging along beating everyone they are supposed to beat and only losing to teams giving the supreme effort on an off-night. It isn't that the Spurs don't try hard every game but they aren't going to get too excited about regular season games. They save that intensity for the playoffs. They seem to have the attitude of 'let the minions fight over playoff seeding while the Spurs figure out where to put their 5th ring.' Maybe someday the Grizzlies will have that attitude as well.

Fast Facts
-- Memphis has yet to win two or more games in a row.
-- San Antonio has yet to lose two or more games in a row.
-- San Antonio only committed 3 turnovers in their last game against Orlando.
-- Memphis made only 5 3-pointers in 24 tries in their last game against Toronto.
-- Memphis starts 2 players over 7 foot tall, yet 6'8 Mike Miller is the teams leading rebounder.
-- San Antonio starts former MVP's Tim Duncan and Tony Parker, yet 6th man Manu Ginobili is the teams leading scorer.
-- Manu Ginobili is averaging over 2 steals per game.
-- Out of the 11 games the Grizzlies have played this year, 7 of them have been essentially tied within the last 2 minutes. The Griz are 2-5 in those 7 games.

Questions
-- Will Darko return to action?
-- Can the Griz continue their strong play against Southwest Division opponents?

Keys
-- Play effective defense against the pick-and-roll.
-- Don't let San Antonio's transition defense dictate the tempo and flow of the game.
-- Rudy be productive on offensive.

Matchups

Damon Stoudamire vs Tony Parker
Coming off the most incredible summer anyone could ask for Tony Parker faces an aging point guard who is showing that experience can out-play youth and talent. Parker doesn't have a lot of support behind him and will be pressured all game from the PG's Memphis can throw at him. The key to stopping Parker is to not let him get into the lane, something easier written than done. Damon will be pressured to do this since he's not that great on defense. Damon just needs to play his game and keep them team controlled. Slowing down Parker man to man will fall on Kyle Lowry's shoulders. Unfortunately, Parker is just too experienced and fast for the Grizz to contain. Lowry will need to play tough defense and not make silly turnovers.
Advantage: San Antonio

Mike Miller vs Michael Finley

It still amazes me that these two players are expected to start for their teams. Finley was considered over the hill when San Antonio signed him three years ago. His massive minutes in Dallas had supposedly robbed him of his game and he was rumored to be burned out. While it is true he isn't the player he was in Dallas, Finley has proven to be an intelligent player who knows when to step up his game and when to allow others to lead the way. Miller was supposed to be the consummate 6th man. A scoring threat from anywhere on the court, Miller's lack of speed and toughness was rumored to be too much to overcome as a starter. Last year he proved his critics wrong becoming a dominant #2 scoring threat and surprisingly tough. A suspicious knee injury sidelined him the last month of the season keeping him from playing in 80 games last year for the 1st time since his rookie year. Miller is leading the team in rebounds, is near the top in scoring and assists but somehow isn't doing enough for some people.
Advantage: Memphis

Rudy Gay vs Bruce Bowen

Bowen is a defensive master (or dirty player depending on who you talk to) who will get inside players shirts and drive them crazy. Rudy can physically outmatch almost anyone in the league but his propensity to commit offensive fouls and Bowen's ability to draw them makes for a tough match up. With a 39" vertical leap and long arms Rudy is both a shot blocking threat and a decent steals man but still needs to learn the other facets of the game to be truly effective. People aren't looking for Rudy to be the next great defensive SF. He is expected to be a 5 category threat starting with scoring. Rudy has range to the 3 pt line and can jump over almost anyone in the league. Bowen is old and will have to use all of the tricks left in his bag against Rudy. Unfortunately the bag is pretty big with tricks.
Advantage: San Antonio

Pau Gasol vs Tim Duncan

Pau Gasol is one of the few players in the NBA that is capable of averaging a double double in scoring and rebounding over an 82 game season. He is also among the top 10 in the league at blocking shots. He shoots a high percentage from the floor and is a good enough passer to possibly post a triple double on any given night. He hasn't been playing like that this season however and he is hopelessly outclassed in this match up. Tim Duncan could quite possibly be the greatest power forward to ever play in the NBA. His career averages are 21.8 ppg, 11.5 rpg, 3.3 apg, 3.1 bpg and 52.1% FG shooting. That is a 10 yr average. He had routinely been named to both the All-NBA first team and the All-NBA Defensive first team. Does he have a weakness? Well it is written that he is afraid of heights and sharks. Seriously, his free throw shooting is abysmal which does allow teams to play a sort of 'Bonk a Dunc' defense in reference to the old Hack a Shaq ploy but late in games you don't want him on the line either.
Advantage: San Antonio

Darko Milicic vs Fabricio Oberto

If there is a bigger surprise on the team this season than Darko Milicic then I don't know what it is. No one saw Darko battling Yao Ming toe to toe like he did before he did it. At least I didn't. The wrist may not be 100% (it hasn't even been announced if he will play at the time I am writing this) but Memphis needs Darko to play and play well. Oberto emerged in the playoffs last season. This season he has apparently gone back into his shell and at 31 you have to wonder if the big playoff games were an aberration. A healthy Darko and motivated Swift should keep him that way.
Advantage: Memphis

Benches

Memphis' bench is as deep as it has been with since Hubie Brown paced the sidelines. With Kyle Lowry, Juan Carlos Navarro, Casey Jacobsen, Hakim Warrick and the Grizzlies have someone at every position to offer support and often the bench is faster than the starters. What they lack is experience. San Antonio's bench is long on experience and age. With Brent Barry, Matt Bonner, Francisco Elson, Manu Ginobili, and Robert Horry the Spurs bench averages over 30 years old and will be hard pressed to stay with the Grizzlies if the game picks up pace. It is the Spurs job not to let the game get fast and they are good at that. It will be interesting to see if former Tiger Darius Washington has an impact in this game.
Advantage: Memphis

Coaches: Marc Iavaroni v Gregg Popovich
Iavaroni has elevated the Grizzlies play from the opening night game that the Grizzlies barely lost but seriously is there a better coach in the NBA than Gregg Popovich? It isn't just that he has 4 titles without repeating once but he has kept his team competitive in almost every season he has been in control. He did lose valued assistant PJ Carlisimo but how important are assistant coaches anyway? This will be Iavaroni's first visit to the Alamo as a head coach. It is one thing to coach against the Spurs on Opening Night, quite another to take them on when the team is on a roll and playing like they intend to return to the Finals this season.
Advantage: San Antonio

Make sure you post your final score predictions in a comment!

Other Previews
Hoopsworld
USA Today
MySanAntonio.com
CBS 42 (Austin, TX)

2 comments:

Carl Chaplin said...

It is hard for me to imagine the Griz taking one in SA unless they play a much better game than they have. The TOs are killing them more than the poor shooting. The Spurs know how to convert the TOs into points as good as anybody.

Grizzlies 101
Spurs 110

zack said...

Griz 109
Spurs 115