Thanks to Natalie Sitto from Need4Sheed for her help with the Detroit pre-game comments.
Memphis finished a week on a severe down note. Entering last week the team had to look at a schedule that included a home game against Portland, a road match against Atlanta and two divisional games as a chance to make a statement. If that was a statement week then the statement is rather discouraging as the team went 0-4 with two last second losses and two poor efforts. Memphis must get over this sickness, both literally and emotionally, as they prepare for one of the most experienced teams in the league. Gasol had been playing well prior to the Atlanta debacle. Milicic is back from his sprained wrist and ankle but still is rusty on offense. Rudy Gay has assumed the role of primary scorer and seems able to handle it despite his young age. The illness that felled Damon and Stro needs to be contained as both players are needed for victory.
Detroit comes in to tonight's game against Memphis with a solid foundation. The Pistons have been on a roll dominating teams since they beat the Cavs handily seven games ago, with the exception of a slight hiccup against the Bulls. With the offensive flow the best it's been all season and the new found attention to defense, watch out for The Pistons on both ends of the floor. When Detroit's starting five is on the floor its pick your poison, any one of them can be the star of the game on any given night. And with Jason Maxiell reeking havoc off the bench, along with the solid play of Jarvis Hayes, Flip Murray and Arron Afflalo this whole Pistons team can cause trouble. Detroit never counts any team out but, Memphis has got to have everything working to beat the red hot Pistons right now.
Trouble Ahead - The Detroit Pistons
-- Overall Record: 14-6 (5th best in NBA and 2nd best team we've faced to date)
-- In the last week, beat both the Hawks and Hornets on the road.
-- 8-2 in their last 10 games.
-- +8.3 average point differential per game (3rd in NBA)
-- 91.9 points per game allowed (2nd best in NBA)
-- 47.07 FG% (6th in NBA)
-- 43.68% opponent FG% (4th best in NBA)
-- 33% opponent 3-point% (6th best in NBA)
-- 23.9 assists per game (3rd best in NBA)
-- Allows 20 assists per game (5th best in NBA)
-- Only 11.6 measly turnovers per game (2nd best in NBA)
Trouble Behind - The Memphis Grizzlies
-- Overall Record: 6-14 (only 1 game better than last year through 20 games)
-- In the last week, lost to both the Hawks and Hornets on the road.
-- Lost 4 straight and 3-7 in last 10.
-- Allow 105.2 points per game (3rd worst in NBA)
-- 47.15 opponent FG% (2nd worst in NBA)
-- Allow 23.5 assists per game (4th worst in NBA)
-- Force only 12.9 turnovers per game (3rd worst in NBA)
And You Know That Notion Just Crossed My Mind
I can't imagine that for tonight's game against the Pistons, the Griz will suddenly morph into a defensive juggernaut. Of course, Darko's presence alone makes our interior defense better than it was without him. But everything else on defense is not going to be miraculously improved for this game. Our perimeter players - here's looking at you Kyle, Rudy and JC - are going to help too much and leave their man open for uncontested shots when teams make the 'extra' pass (Tayshaun will be sure to get extra reps warming up from the corner). The guards will also passively move around/through/over screens and come up a step late allowing an easy mid-range jump shot. Everybody is going to get out worked on the glass and give up too many second chance points. We will get very few steals (what ever happened to tracking and encouraging deflections?). We will not be able to get stops in the clutch. And someone is likely to go for a near-career high in points. The poor things we have done all season on defense will most likely occur again tonight. Sorry.
What can change to increase the chances of winning? How well we shoot the rock. Unfortunately, Detroit is good at forcing teams into shooting lower percentage shots than they would like to take. And that is rooted in having great transition defense, along with a long, tall team that understands body positions and angles. But who cares. It doesn't matter. Our players (with only a few exceptions) are best known for being good shooters. So, it only makes sense that when our shooters shoot good, we win. When our shooters shot bad, we lose. Really. It is almost that simple. Our chances of winning are most closely correlated to our shooting percentage. So, if the Griz want to win tonight, a repeat 1 for 15 performance from beyond the arc probably won't cut it. Our shooters gotta make shots. They aren't getting paid to play good defense, they're getting paid to be good shooters.
Matchups by Chip
Point Guards: Damon Stoudamire vs Chauncey Billups
Damon Stoudamire was slowed by the stomach bug the past week. That was unfortunate as Damon was playing some of the best basketball of his Memphis career prior to the illness. Chauncey Billups is having another solid season. He is 2nd on the Pistons in scoring, first in assists and steals but not hitting his shots at the same clip he has in the past. This match up was a classic two seasons ago when the Grizzlies fought a double OT game in which Damon made two huge 3 pt shots to force first OT and then the 2nd OT only to have Billups win the game with a 15 ft jump shot at the buzzer to win the game.
Shooting Guards: Mike Miller vs Richard Hamilton
Richard Hamilton has picked up his game after a relatively slow start to the season to be on fire of late. He has averaged just short of 20 ppg on 51.4% FG shooting and a ridiculous 62.5% from the arc. Slowing down Hamilton is never easy as the man simply has an incredible amount of energy. Constantly in motion 'Rip' has been known to wear out opponents in the 1st half with the constant need to fight thru picks which Detroit sets liberally for their leading scorer. Mike Miller is more of a set shooter and his defense has been questioned. To keep up with Hamilton Miller may have to sacrifice his offense.
Small Forwards: Rudy Gay vs Tayshaun Prince
Rudy Gay has been the brightest star for the revamped Grizzlies this season. Rudy has become the offensive first option on the team. Rudy is averaging over 23 ppg in December and has scored a minimum of 17 pts in each of the last 5 games after a weak East Coast road trip to New Jersey and Toronto. However both of those teams have active defenders like Detroit. Tayshaun Prince's lanky body allows him to play surprisingly good defense without being outmatched physically. This will be a difficult match for Rudy as Prince is sneaky good on offense as well. Prince is 3rd on the Pistons in scoring and hits 49.6% of his FG attempts. Rudy being at home
Power Forwards: Pau Gasol vs Rasheed Wallace
Rasheed Wallace is one of the most difficult big men to play in the NBA. He leads the Pistons in rebounding at only 7.3 a game but adds 1.2 steals and 1.2 blocks a game while hitting 39% of his 3 pt attempts. Pau Gasol has gracefully passed the torch of lead scorer to Rudy Gay this season while still maintaining his double figure scoring streak. While starting slow Gasol is still averaging 17.3 ppg and 7.7 rebounds. His shooting percentage is down a bit but his FT percentage is way up and Gasol has gotten more physical of late.
Centers: Darko Milicic vs Antonio McDyes
Darko's return gives Memphis an extremely physical interior presence that the team desperately needs. Darko gets his first shot at the team who drafted him yet refused to play him and hopefully that will bring some extra incentive for the big Serbian. Antonio McDyes has been sick offensively this year hitting 56.8% of his FG attempts and he doesn't just try to dunk the ball. That percentage is made with 8-10 foot jump shots contested by some pretty big men. Darko performed very well with Orlando against Detroit in last season's playoffs but Darko's injuries plus the lack of Dwight Howard drawing attention may make it more difficult for Darko this time.
Benches: Memphis vs Detroit
Detroit runs an 8 man rotation for the most part. The big three off the bench are Jason Maxiel, Jarvis Hayes and Ronald 'Flip' Murray. All three of these players average about 8 ppg. The rest of the Detroit bench plays less than 10 mpg and aren't expected to contribute unless the game is over. Memphis has been running a very short bench of late with Stromile and Damon's illness and Conley's injury. Kyle Lowry has been playing like a rookie PG giving excellent effort but erratic ball control. He has been a huge spark off the bench and it appears that he may be shaking off the shooting slump he has been in. Hakim Warrick is a great scorer but weak defender which makes him the 4th big man in a 3 man rotation but if Stro can't go expect Warrick to get some burn. Navarro is struggling to get his shot off of late and that won't get easier against Detroit.
Update: Sheed unlikely to start due to illness, flu-like symptoms (Detroit News - Chris McCosky)
Other Pre-game Sites/Relevant Commentary:
Pistons Nation Blog
Detroit Bad Boys
Detroit News - Chris McCosky
Wages of Wins "Are the Pistons This Good"
Beyond the Arc (Chris Herrington)
Got a Prediction? Leave it in the Comments.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Thanks to Natalie Sitto from Need4Sheed for her help with the Detroit pre-game comments.