Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Memphis vs New Orleans - 12.26.07

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Memphis has struggled this season in close games. 1-7 now in games decided by three points or less has left Memphis in a deep hole this season. Memphis is 5-9 at home, 2-8 in their last 10 games and struggling to find a way to cut down the turnovers that have plagued them this season. Pau Gasol returned from a jammed big toe injury to get double-doubles in both games including a 31 pt, 13 rebound game against Philly. Rudy Gay has shown flashes of brilliance against teams but has struggled on defense against slashing players and has fouled out of games twice this season. Mike Miller is consistently scoring again and leads the team in minutes played but his long range shooting has been noticeably absent at the end of games. Memphis needs to use the time off for Christmas to heal up some of their walking wounded like Pau and Darko Milicic.

New Orleans has continued to shock the division by hanging around the top all season despite injuries to key players including Tyson Chandler, Morris Peterson and Peja Stojakovic. New Orleans isn't a great scoring team (18th in the league) but they are a great defensive team (4th in the league) and that combines to give them the mental edge they need in close games. Mew Orleans hits the boards well with the 9th best rebounding team in the league but are a surprising 21st in the league in preventing opponents rebounding. Mostly this is due to the Hornets poor field goal percentage. New Orleans has the mental advantage over the Grizzlies after winning twice already this season but both games came in OT so it isn't something New Orleans should take for granted.

Point Guards: Damon Stoudamire vs Chris Paul
The man who is supposed to be on the way out against the man on the way up. Damon Stoudamire continues to surprise detractors not only with his continued starting role but also by his solid play. While not a great defender Damon is very good with that ball and limits turnovers which is important on a team not noted for controlling the ball. Chris Paul is a serious challenger for league MVP this season. Paul is averaging a double-double with 20.9 ppg and 10.0 apg. He is shooting 48% from the field and 37% from the arc. Throw in an incredible 2.84 steals per game and the winner is clear.
Advantage: New Orleans

Shooting Guards: Mike Miller vs Morris Peterson

Mike Miller is probably the least known Team USA member from this summer. His reason for making the team is quite simply that the man can shoot. His range is anything within 27 ft and he can hit those shots consistently. Miller doesn't like to sit and that has him among the league leaders in minutes played averaging over 37 minutes a night. Those minutes may be taking their toll already as Miller's 4th quarter performances have been declining significantly including an 0-1, 4 turnover performance against Philly which included having his man score 17 pts and hit the game winner. MoPete is an under-rated defender who also has a smooth outside shot but understands that he isn't expected to be a scorer on this team.
Advantage: Memphis

Small Forwards: Rudy Gay vs Peja Stojakovic

Peja Stojakovic is one of the most hated players for Grizzlies fans in the league. Even now, 4 years later and on a different team, Peja can still expect boos after the fight with James Posey. What people forget is that Peja can still really shoot and at 6-10 he is actually taller than Rudy Gay. The good news for Rudy is Peja isn't really a slasher nor a great defender. As long as Rudy prevents Peja from spotting up he should be able to contain his scoring while Rudy has averaged 25.5 ppg against New Orleans in two games. Rudy has become the focal point of the team's offense and therefore the opponents defense. How Rudy responds to be the main man team's attempt to stop should be something to watch for going forward.
Advantage: Memphis

Power Forwards: Pau Gasol vs David West

David West loves Memphis. Rather, he loves playing against Memphis. He's averaging 33.5 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 54.2% from the field and 50% from the arc. The 5th yr pro from Xavier has done this despite giving up inches to Gasol. Of course Darko was hurt in the 1st quarter of game 1 and didn't return and Darko was playing in his 1st game back from injury in game 2. How many productive minutes Darko can log could influence how effective West is. Gasol looked as sharp as ever in his last game scoring 31 pts and grabbing 13 boards not to mention scoring a lot down the stretch. West will have difficulty defending the tall and lanky Gasol.
Advantage: Memphis

Centers: Darko Milicic vs Tyson Chandler

Tyson Chandler joins Chris Paul in averaging a double-double. His 11.5 ppg are a direct result of his grabbing 11.9 rpg. His offense is basically dunks and free throws and he is much more effective dunking. Keeping Tyson off the glass has to be one of the most important things to focus on for the Grizzlies. Darko is good at blocking at rebounders although that doesn't translate well into personal rebounding numbers. What is clear is that Darko's thumb hasn't recovered as he avoids contact on offense which has meant very few easy baskets for the big man. Darko needs to finish at the rim not fading away. Until he feels comfortable with his thumb that isn't likely to happen.
Advantage: New Orleans

Benches: Memphis vs New Orleans

Two radically different approaches to bench players in this game. New Orleans brings in experience with Bobby Jackson, Mark Jackson, Jannero Pargo and Rasual Butler sprinkled with some youth in Hilton Armstrong and Julian Wright. Memphis comes in with basically rookies with Kyle Lowry and Juan Carlos Navarro, a veteran in Casey Jacobsen who has played more minutes in Europe than the US and 3rd yr player Hakim Warrick with the only true veteran being Stromile Swift. While Memphis is building for the future New Orleans is playing to win now and their bench reflects that. Memphis has firepower and excitement but New Orleans has consistency and a better understanding of their roles.
Advantage: New Orleans

Relevant Blogs/Sites:
THE New Orleans Hornet Fan
Hornets 24-7
Hornets Beat
Swarming the Ball


ChipC3 said...

Hornets need this game to stay up with the Spurs and Mavs, Memphis needs players to heal up and the team was called out by their captain for not being tough. Should be a great game tonight. Bottom line is that New Orleans has Chris Paul when the going gets tough and Memphis doesn't have anyone who can stop him.

Memphis 110
New Orleans 113 OT

Anonymous said...

tyson chandler versus tyson chandler? did darko or stro change their name?

ChipC3 said...

I'm so ashamed!

I fixed the typo and let's just leave it with the idea that I am concerned about Chandler in this game.