Friday, December 28, 2007

Memphis vs Houston - 12.28.07


GOOD BYE TO ANDY DOLICH NIGHT
Come give one of the men responsible for the Grizzlies being in Memphis a rousing farewell as he leaves to pursue opportunities in another city. Tonights game is the last home game before Andy's retirement so come out and give him a great send off!!!

We will miss you Andy and wish you continued success back in San Francisco. Don't forget us when we call you for Super Bowl tickets in a few years!!!

Memphis is trying to finish the season with a few bright spots to jump start the 2nd half of the year. One of the early bright spots was a victory over a healthy Houston Rockets team at FedEx Forum. The last game the Grizzlies played the fans were less than hospitable at the effort. Hopefully the Grizz will shake off their post-Xmas blahs (no turkey leftovers before the game please) and come out running and playing aggressively like people know they can do. Memphis can triple their division wins from a season ago with a win tonight against the short-handed Rockets.

Houston is attempting to correct their path before their season crashes as well. The preseason pick of having the best chance to unseat the Dallas-San Antonio stranglehold on the division has been struggling to find consistency with a new coach, several new players and two superstars who seem unable to get their health together to start any kind of run. The Rockets haven't played since losing in Detroit on Sunday in a game where both Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady left with injuries. At 13-15 and with two games remaining in 2007 the Rockets need to win both games to finish the 2007 year at .500 and within shouting distance of division leaders San Antonio, Dallas and New Orleans.

Zack's Corner

Sorry for coming in late with my thoughts on the Houston game. Despite sitting courtside for the Hornet game, I am just not feeling all that good about the team right now. That causes me to refrain from saying too much in the pre-game posts because an enjoyable and informative pre-game post should not be done when you are too down on the team (see last year's game threads). But here it goes. You can call these keys to the game, or rather they are simply some aspects of the game I am interested in tonight against the divisional rival Rockets:

-- Help defense on defensive mismatches. In the last meeting, the Rockets went to Bonzi in the post something like 7 straight times with Lowry on him (because JC guarded Alston to decrease the SG mismatch). What followed was embarassing and I am still at a loss for why Iavaroni didn't try to counter the Bonzi-iso somehow. If the gameplan is again to not double (or something) against defensive mismatches like the one Bonzi creates against Kyle or JC, we are in trouble.
-- Transition 3-pointers. It has been said that the Grizzlies need to be hot from outside to be at their best. I will modify that some for tonight. I think it is the ability to hit 3-pointers in transition that will make the most difference. Navarro and Miller both seem to have an easier time making 3's on the break than in the half court because it minimizes the ability of the other team to focus on the 3. The Rockets are good with transition defense though. Watch out tonight when we are on the break for how much success Miller and Navarro have.
-- RU-DEE. He's a stud and I think he's to the point now that he could go off for 30+ points on any given night and be almost unstoppable on offense. I want him to shoot the most shots tonight. I want him to be our 1st option on offense. With McGrady out, he should have an easier time.
-- Darko's interior defense. In my opinion, Darko's best 2 games of the year were against the Spurs, where it seemed he really wanted to show Duncan he is a good post defender. And it all started with Darko fighting HARD for position on the block (something I never see Pau do, Pau would rather take his chance after the post guy gets the ball, Darko on the other hand has shown he can do damage by fighting hard to not allow the post player the position or the ball). If Darko can go out there tonight and give the same kind of effort against Yao, we will be in good shape.
-- Foul trouble. We need Yao to get 2 quick fouls and for Rudy to stay out of foul trouble.

Matchups by Chip

Point Guards: Damon Stoudamire vs Rafer Alston
Rafer Alston was never viewed as a pure point guard under Jeff Van Gundy but that reputation seems to be changing with Rick Adelman. Alston has been the point guard on the floor when Houston's offense has executed at its best while the team has struggled to score when the reserves, Steve Francis and Mike James, have been on the court. Damon Stoudamire was supposed to be packing his bags by now for some new locale while Kyle Lowry and Mike Conley were preparing to play the point. Someone forgot to tell the plan to Coach Iavaroni as Damon is not only still starting but actually increasing his minutes played in each game and has re-taken the closer's role.
Advantage: Houston

Shooting Guards: Mike Miller vs Tracy McGrady

T-mac has struggled with a mysterious knee injury that has not shown up in scans or even an MRI but McGrady has said he can't play with the pain. It is not sure if he will play in this game or not but resting it for 6 days should ease the pain somewhat. Miller has been playing well until he hits the 35 minute mark when his legs appear to give out and his game goes downhill. Unfortunately Miller is being asked to play over 40 minutes a game and the drop off in crunch time has been easy to notice. Miller is having a great season other than late in games as he is scoring at the 3rd best clip of his career, is having his best rebounding season, second best assists and is shooting over 50% from the floor and over 43% from the arc. The trouble is if this game goes down to the wire, T-Mac can take over and Miller can't.
Advantage: Houston

Small Forwards: Rudy Gay vs Shane Battier

A match up of the past and future kings of Memphis. Shane Battier was the most beloved player ever to play in Memphis. Loved by nearly the entire city, his trade two summers fits rather conveniently with the drop off in attendance at games. The funny thing is that Battier's play has dropped off in Houston while Rudy Gay has become the new star of the team and a potential all-star that Shane could never be. Rudy is leading the team in scoring, has hit a game winning 3 pt shot (over Tim Duncan no less) and routinely is seen on ESPN with his highlight reel moves. Battier isn't the bright light but the glue and he makes his opponent work to look good. You will rarely notice Shane on the court much less see him on ESPN but he does his job. Rudy is just doing it better right now.
Advantage: Memphis

Power Forwards: Pau Gasol vs Chuck Hayes

The biggest mismatch on the court, literally. Gasol at 7-1 towers over Hayes at a generous 6-6. If there is a weakness that shouts out on the Houston team its Chuck Hayes. Adelman prefers his forwards to be passers from the high post as well as bangers underneath. Hayes can't shoot, isn't a great passer and is routinely over-matched underneath. He does try hard however. Gasol went into Christmas vacation with the best game of the season and one of his most clutch ever. Down the stretch Gasol continued to score as pull the Grizzlies close eventually tying the score. It didn't produce a win but it was good to see.
Advantage: Memphis

Centers: Stromile Swift vs Yao Ming

Most of Stromile's highlights in Memphis have come against Houston and Yao Ming. Including a few poster dunks over the big man from China. Unfortunately Stro only plays Houston four times a season. Yao is having another big season averaging 21 points and 10 rebounds a game but struggles against the quicker Swift. Since Houston has little support behind Yao getting the big man in foul trouble early is a big advantage for the Grizzlies. Failure to get him in foul trouble spells trouble as the last game in Houston showed. History says bet on the Grizzlies tandem but common sense tells you Yao should be too big for the Grizzlies post players.
Advantage: Houston

Benches: Memphis vs Houston

Bonzi Wells is notorious for playing big against former teams he feels disrespected by. I wonder if he feels that way about Memphis? Other than Bonzi the only real contributor off the bench for Houston has been rookie Luis Scola who has been erratic. Mike James and Steve Francis have struggled in the back up point guard role and Luther Head seems to be better suited as a small SG than a PG. Kyle Lowry has struggled lately as teams have become accustomed to his bulldog approach at the point. Teams are just daring Kyle to shoot from outside while preventing him from getting into the lane. Kyle's forcing the issue has created turnovers at inopportune times. Navarro is having a tough time in the NBA when his shot isn't falling but he is still averaging over 10 points and makes it difficult for teams to double in the post when he is in the game.

UPDATE: Tracy McGrady said he expects to miss a week with his non-injured knee. Despite an MRI showing no damage Tracy McGrady expects to miss at least another week resting his sore knee. Maybe he is waiting to get his lift back. Great news for the Grizzlies in this game if T-Mac doesn't play. Of course the bad news is more Bonzi Wells who has a history or torching his former teams.

Outside Commentary:
Wages of Wins: Houston Still Has a Problem

4 comments:

hooba said...

Remember when the Grizz won 50 games with the Gasol – Miller – Battier core and everyone wondered what the Grizz could accomplish with a true center to play next to Gasol?

Like say Yao Ming? Here is why Houston and Memphis should link up again and engage in a trade of Pau Gasol and Mike Miller for Tracy McGrady and Luis Scola (which works per TradeChecker).

For Houston –

a. team is not competing at championship level as constructed, is capped out and has been passed by the Hornets
b. Yao-Pau would be the only tandem of 7 ftrs that each command a double team and can effectively pass out of the double team allowing Miller, Battier and Mike James/Luther Head to hit open 3s from the perimeter
c. Yao is worth more to franchise than McGrady and this deal makes Rockets a uniquely difficult team to face that creates mismatches every night
d. Rockets would be the only team in recent years to trade a superstar and get full value, so Morey can pull the trigger safely

For Memphis –

a. Memphis gets its first perennial All-Star and a likable one at that
b. Memphis saves over $20 million in long term contract obligations, and McGrady’s current contract expires when Rudy and Conley would be in line for extensions
c. If the Grizz are going to run, running with Conley, Rudy and TMac will make for a fun entertaining style w/ Scola/Warrick handling post scoring, Darko/Swift at the 5 spot, JCN playing 25-30 min a night giving Rudy & TMac a rest and Lowry as the back-up point (if uptempo, Rudy and TMac should be able to work very well together)
d. Grizz get a clean break, a marketable star, economic relief, a good contract and player with upside in Scola, and still have a high draft pick in a deep draft this year. They are in as good or better position to improve as they are in now.

End Note: even though the Rockets have several point guards under contract, Damon would be a good veteran play-off tested walk-it up point guard who can hit the open 3 for the new Rockets team. The trade could be built up to include Damon and get a couple of expiring contracts in return (though I’d be interested in trying to get Luther).

ChipC3 said...

Memphis needs this win and Houston is playing really bad and has lost thier only go-to scorer in T-Mac for this game.

Besides, Memphis has to give Andy a going away present.

Memphis 101
Houston 92

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