I decided on the way home that I was going to put all my thoughts down before heading over to the message boards to see who they pinned the blame on for this loss. Here's what I came up with during that 20-minute drive.
He shouldn't have left so much time on the clock when hitting the shot to tie the game.
He should have blocked Igoudala's game-winner.
He should have done more than leading the Grizzlies in points, rebounds and assists. He should have led in blocks, steals and 3-pointers as well.
He's soft and can't play defense. That's why Andre Miller, Kyle Korver and Andre Igoudala combined for 66 points tonight.
He shouldn't have slacked off in the 2nd half -- he scored 17 in the 1st half, but only 14 in the second stanza. Slacker!
He should have subbed for Rudy in the obvious must-foul situation late in the game so that he could have contested Iggy's game-winner.
He should have fouled on the inbounds pass.
He should have played Kyle Lowry more.
He should have drawn up Gasol's game-tying shot to be a 4-point play, so that Iggy's game-winner would have only tied the game.
He should have been more "mentally tough" so that he could have played better defense, hit more shots and committed fewer turnovers. By "mentally tough", of course I mean he should be a Jedi master who can control his opponents' thoughts.
He should have cut his hair. Not sure how that assigns blame to him, but I'm sure it will be brought up.
He should stop being so old.
He should stop existing so that Iavaroni couldn't sub him in.
Nothing. Seriously, the kid is perfect just the way he is. He's a hero, a leader, a great cook and a fine dancer. At least that's what I've been brainwashed to believe on the message boards.
That's it. No real commentary about the game and no analysis. I'm sure Chip and Zack will be along to do that for me. I just wanted to vent while waiting for the Tylenol to take my headache away.
Seems like this Grizz team is the anti-thesis of the 2003-04 team that was able to win every close game. This year's model is now 1-7 in games decided by 3 points or less. Iquodala made a great shot that was contested. Great players make great players and there is no question Iquodala is a great player.
Still the game should never have been that close at the end. Philadelphia was playing like a team ready to go home in the first half. Memphis was careless with the ball and didn't seem to have the killer instinct when the 76ers were vulnerable and that allowed the Sixers to get confidence heading into the 2nd half and especially into the fourth quarter. Every time Memphis had Philly right where they wanted them they let them off the hook. Call it inexperience, youth, poor coaching, whatever, the reality is this team hasn't learned how to finish off teams and that puts them in the position to be defeated at the end of games.
Gasol may only be the 2nd option now (and I definately believe that to be the case) but he is still a very good player who can take over games for periods of times. It was encouraging to see him take over down the stretch when it was apparent Rudy was struggling against Iquodala.
Rudy has to learn how to play slashers better. Everytime Rudy is matched up against a player who drives the ball well he gets into foul trouble. The foul trouble throws off his flow in the game and makes it difficult to be the player he is capable of being night in and night out.
Mike was Mike. 100% effort, good eye for the basket, nothing in the late stretches of the game. Mike is essentially an on-looker and passer in the closing minutes of games. In the 4th quarter tonight Miller had 3 turnovers, one missed shot and a single rebound. It may be fatique after playing more than 44 minutes but the dropoff was easy to notice.
Kyle is officially in a funk. Nothing really wrong with his game but teams have adjusted to his style and now he has to adjust to their adjustment. He is basically a rookie and he is struggling to do this but I believe he will figure it out. I was surprised to see him play only 14 minutes tonight but he wasn't very effective when he was in the game. Remember this period of adjustment when Conley gets back. He will have great games and then struggle as well. It happens to young PG's in the league. Kyle will figure it out and improve. Andre Miller is a very experienced PG and he exploited Damon's size and Kyle's inexperience.
Speaking of Andre Miller, he should ask to be traded to Memphis. He absolutely loves playing here.
The Christmas intermission couldn't come at a better time. Gasol, Milicic and Conley all could use a break to heal up and the rest of the team can use the time off to collect their wits.
The front line was changed again. Memphis will struggle defensively until they can put 10 games in a row together with the same front line. I personally don't think it matters much if it is Gasol, Milicic and Gay or Miller, Gay and Gasol. Just put the same people on the court for a stretch of games. Great teams play together enough to learn tendancies and Memphis has not had a chance to do that. We won't know how good or bad they really are until they get the opportunity to log consistent minutes together.
Saturday, December 22, 2007
I decided on the way home that I was going to put all my thoughts down before heading over to the message boards to see who they pinned the blame on for this loss. Here's what I came up with during that 20-minute drive.
Memphis plays the third game in four days...again. The Grizzlies are 2-5 in the third game in four days all season and have only one win out of four when the 3rd games is also the second game of a back to back (at Orlando). Memphis is at home this time which, considering the Tigers play at 11:00 am, could mean a bigger than normal crowd or another small crowd. Hopefully the Tigers will win and people will hang around to see if they can watch a double dip. Rudy Gay has been drawing more attention every week as he is averaging 29 ppg over the last three games including that dramatic 3 pt shot to beat the Spurs on Wednesday night.
Philadelphia is probably one of the more surprising teams in the league this season that no one is paying attention to. Heading into tonight's game against the Lakers, the team most 'experts' predicted would finish in the cellar of the Atlantic Division if not the entire Eastern Conference was only one game out of the 8th spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race. Of course the team is also only 10-15 and if not for the Knicks pathetic play would still be in the cellar of the Atlantic. Led by Andre Iquodala and Andre Miller, the 76ers are playing better every week and have a nice young core of talent as well.
Point Guards: Damon Stoudamire vs Andre Miller
Andre Miller is reportedly on the trade blocks and so is Damon Stoudamire however there is no chance they could be traded for each other. Both Philly and Memphis have young PG's ready to take over but they just can't beat out the vets yet. Miller is having one of his best seasons ever shooting the ball at a 48.9% clip but he still can't hit the long ball. Keeping Miller from posting up Damon will be tough but must be accomplished or Miller will have a big game.
Shooting Guards: Mike Miller vs Willie Green
Call me a dreamer but I expect Gasol back for this game so the rotation goes back to normal with Miller at the 2 guard spot, if you consider a lineup that hasn't started many games together 'normal.' Miller is a better match for Green anyway. Green suffered a horrific knee injury a few years ago that has robbed him of that devastating first step he used to have but the long range eye hasn't gone away. Green likes to hang around on the perimeter and drop bombs all night. Miller can defend that. Miller has joined Gay in playing some of the best ball of the year and his dead eye long shot and improved ability to drive the ball has really helped the Grizzlies offense. Miller has always been a better 2nd option than leader and now that Rudy has stepped up Miller is quite comfortable being the 2nd man.
Small Forwards: Rudy Gay vs Andre IquodalaAndre is a high flying athletic freak who plays tough defense but has relied too much on his ability to jump over people to develop a good outside shot. Now in his 4th NBA season one begins to wonder if he will ever develop one. Rudy is a high flying freak who plays decent defense but has not relied too much on his pure athletic skill so he has a dangerous outside shot (ask Tim Duncan and the Spurs). The problem in this match comes from Iquodala's desire to slash to the basket. Rudy's troubles guarding slashing players is well documented. If Rudy gets in early foul trouble it could spell trouble for the Grizzlies.
Power Forwards: Pau Gasol ve Reggie Evans
Old nemesis Evans and Gasol match up again. Reggie Evans has battled Gasol when he played in Seattle, when he played in Denver and now in Philadelphia. One of the most feared rebounders in the game, Evans is completely undersized with no natural talent other than a dogged determination to get the ball. Gasol is back after stubbing his toe (okay, it was a really bad stubbing) but he can't be tentative against Evans. Gasol has been shut down and he has had huge games against Evans. It all depends on his being aggressive with ball. His size has to be exploited on offense and on the glass. Evans can only score when he grabs an offensive rebound.
Centers: Darko Milicic vs Samuel Dalembert
Dalembert is a big strong boy who has limited offensive skills but knows how to use his body well enough to almost average a double-double. He also is one of the premier shot blockers in the league. Darko will need to be aware of this but still look for his shot. Most of Dalembert's blocks come from playing off his man. Darko will need to have his body on Dalembert the whole game to prevent him from grabbing rebounds or blocking shots. Pretty tall order for a player who isn't exactly known as a body up defender.
Benches: Memphis vs Philadelphia
If Memphis has a clear advantage in this game it would appear to be off the bench. Philadelphia has electrifying point guard Louis Williams and long range bomber Kyle Korver but not much else, especially on the front line. Memphis can bring in Kyle Lowry, Juan Carlos Navarro, Stromile Swift and Hakeem Warrick who can all contribute big numbers on any given night. The question is how well will Lowry play against another fast PG, how will Juan Carlos respond coming off the bench again and will Stro show up? If the Grizzlies get positive play from their bench they should be able to exploit Philly's tired legs.
Other Pre-game Sites/Relevant Commentary:
Passion and Pride
Friday, December 21, 2007
It is very difficult to win on the road. Double that statement if you shoot 33.8% from the field, miss 5 free throws in the first guarter, turn the ball over 22 times and fail to score more than 20 points in any quarter.
Detroit looks like a team that wants to be considered among the elite teams in the league. Memphis looks like a team that is still trying to find consistency. Pau Gasol returned to the lineup but shot poorly (4-14) in barely reaching double figures with 10 points. His 10 rebounds were nice but was offset somewhat by Darko Milicic's 2 pt and 3 rebound game. Rudy Gay led the team in scoring again but twice missed open dunks and seemed frustrated all night.
Newly signed Jerome Richardson went 0-3 in the game and did nothing to erase fans displeasure with Tarence Kinsey's release.
The only good news the team could take from the game is that the starters rested most of the fourth quarter so they shouldn't be overly tired for tomorrow's game against Philadelphia.
Memphis played good defense most of the night but the inability to capitalize on Detroit's early game malaise ultimately led to the defeat. When Detroit finally got their act together Memphis was unable to counter in any way. Memphis was able to hold Detroit under 100 pts. This was the 2nd game in a row Memphis held an opponent below 100 pts, the first time all season they were able to do that.
After playing three of the best teams in the league in the last 4 games Memphis needs to rebound as 10-16 Philadelphia comes to town. Philadelphia lost to the Lakers at home Friday night and won't be any fresher than the Grizzlies.
Short and sweet today as we prepare for back-to-back weekend games, as well as the Tigers taking on Georgetown tomorrow morning.
David Berri has been reviewing each division in the NBA over the past weeks and has arrived at the Southwest Division today. A few interesting observations from his post:
There were no more than two teams with a positive efficiency differential in the divisions reviewed thus far. In the Southwest, though, four of the five teams have a differential that’s above zero. And so far, ten of the teams examined have been worse than the Memphis Grizzlies. In sum, this is one tough division.
In other words, the Boys from Beale Street aren't quite as bad off as some fans would have you believe. They aren't good -- but they aren't horrific either.
Dave also promises something that should be of unique interest to Memphis fans:
My plan is to write a specific column on each of these teams that will re-visit the Shane Battier for Rudy Gay trade. Look for that column in a few days.
I'm sure that Chip will be all over that post like a fat kid on a cupcake. Check out the link for the full review of the toughest division in the NBA.
That's all for today. Look for a Christmas Wish List next week, as well as a fantastic interview with Geoff Calkins. Enjoy the three Memphis basketball games over the next two days and the Tigers bowl game tonight in N'awlins. Happy Holidays everyone.
Website/Blog of the Day: PhDribble
Memphis heads to Detroit with the glow of a last second victory in their eyes and the taste of their first win in a game decided by three points or less all season. I imagine that visions of sugarplums are dancing in their heads as well. They better wake up and get serious however because Detroit is downright scary (take it any way you want). Michael Conley should be cleared to practice with the team very soon (he said he was ready to go last night and was just waiting on the Doctors to inspect him to get cleared to play) but I don't expect for him to see the court anytime soon. Rudy Gay has established himself as a serious candidate for Most Improved Player in the league with that buzzer beating three point shot over Tim Duncan. The Grizzlies have won 2 of 3 games after a 6 game losing streak.
Detroit heads home with the glow of a last second victory in their eyes and the taste of the first visiting team victory in Boston all season. I imagine that visions of pick and rolls and hard fouls are dancing in their heads. They are the Pistons after all, home of the Bad Boys and the hardest working team in the NBA. Sugarplums just don't enter their minds even in dreams. Chauncey Billups was the man again as he faked Tony Allen into biting on a desperation three point shot, drew the foul and calmly sank the free throws to win the game. The Pistons are 8-2 in their last 10 games and a top the Central Division standings.
Zack's Corner - Q/A Time
Q: The Griz and Pistons just played 10 days ago. What has happened since then?
A: The Griz have went 2-2. They played probably their worst game of the season against the Clippers, but followed that up with their best 2 wins of the season against the Magic and Spurs. The Pistons have went 3-1, including their signature win of the season, beating the Celtics in Boston.
Q: Should Griz fans hope for a high or low scoring game?
A: There might not be a logical answer to this question. The Pistons are 11-0 when scoring over 100 points. The Grizzlies are 1-9 when scoring less than 100 points. I guess I'll go with a high scoring game.
Q: What went wrong in the last game?
A: Everything. Started out slow (37-22 in the 1st quarter). The Pistons backcourt totally dominated the Grizzlies backcourt. The Grizzlies couldn't force many turnovers on defense (leading to the Pistons having a 19-4 fastbreak point advantage) and wasn't getting many assisted FG's on offense.
Q: What should be the most important point of emphasis tonight?
A: The Grizzlies backcourt holding their own against Billups and Hamilton. Damon, Kyle, Navarro and Miller are the key players tonight.
Point Guards: Damon Stoudamire vs Chauncey Billups
Damon has been playing some of the best basketball of his Memphis career. There is a not so subtle statistic to look for with Damon. He averages around 10 ppg in Grizzlies wins but only 6 ppg in losses. 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. The last time these two met Billups had his way with Damon. If that happens again it will be a long night for the Grizzlies.
Shooting Guards: Juan Carlos Navarro vs Richard Hamilton
Juan Carlos Navarro can shoot. No big news there as the former MVP of the Spanish League has always been known as a scorer. Juan Carlos can play defense. Now that is something people weren't so sure about. After struggling early NAvarro has begun to pick up how to slow players down. 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 Navarro may have to sacrifice his offense. Size is also a problem as the 6-3 Navarro surrenders four inches to Hamilton.
Small Forwards: Mike Miller vs Tayshaun Prince
Tayshaun Prince's lanky body allows him to play surprisingly good defense without being outmatched physically. This will be a difficult match for Mike 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. Mike has woken up is offense after a slow start of the season and is starting to pour in baskets in bunches but he is still a defensive weak point. Unlike Hamilton, Prince isn't a constant mover without the ball so possibly this will allow Miller to focus more on offense where he is needed.
Power Forwards: Rudy Gay 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. Rudy Gay however can match Wallace in height, perimeter agility, rebounding and defense while having a far better overall offensive game. Rudy will have to be aggressive however against a pretty good defender who will have the home court and experience advantage. A classic match up that should be worth the price of admission. While I doubt it will make the difference in the game, it should be fun to watch anyway.
Centers: Darko Milicic vs Antonio McDyes
Darko's return gives Memphis an extremely physical interior presence that the team desperately needs. Darko is returning to the scene of the crime in this game. Detroit is where he sat and watched as the Pistons played. 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. If Darko can avoid foul trouble he may just have enough emotion to overcome his numerous bumps and bruises.
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 new entry off the bench is Aaron Afflalo. The UCLA rookie has been earning time of late which allows Rip Hamilton a few minutes break each half. The rest of the Detroit bench plays less than 10 mpg and aren't expected to contribute unless the game is over. Memphis is settling into an 8 man rotation while Gasol is out raising questions as to what will happen when he returns. The newest Grizz, Jerome Richardson, should be in uniform for this game but it is doubtful he will see action. That leaves Kyle Lowry, Hakim Warrick and Stromile Swift as the main contributors off the bench. Jacobsen will see some action simply because Miller and Rudy can't play 48 minutes but not otherwise. There is a possiblity Pau Gasol will be active for this game and not wait until after Christmas as was originally reported in the paper.
Other Pre-game Sites/Relevant Commentary:
Pistons Nation Blog
Detroit Bad Boys
Detroit News - Chris McCosky
Wages of Wins "Are the Pistons This Good"
Thursday, December 20, 2007
Eric McMahon, the man behind the mask as GRIZZ at the Grizzlies basketball games, has been diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphona. Wikipedia has this entry on the disease:
Hodgkin's lymphoma, also known as Hodgkin's disease, is a type of lymphoma first described by Thomas Hodgkin in 1832. Hodgkin's lymphoma is characterized clinically by the orderly spread of disease from one lymph node group to another and by the development of systemic symptoms with advanced disease. Pathologically, the disease is characterized by the presence of Reed-Sternberg cells. Hodgkin's lymphoma was one of the first cancers to be cured by radiation. Later it was one of the first to be cured by combination chemotherapy. The cure rate is about 93%, making it one of the most curable forms of cancer.
This is good news for Eric and the fans of the team who wish him nothing but a speedy recovery.
The team has set up a Friends of Grizz program in support of Eric. The fund will raise money for the St. Jude's Childrens Hospital and the families of those children being treated there. The team store will begin selling wristbands in support of this effort on January 15th (the Cleveland Cavs game). We hope everyone will buy these wristbands to show their support.
However Memphis can do more. The men at 3 Shades of Blue encourage everyone to make a donation to the St. Jude's Hospital in the name of Grizz to show our support for Eric and his fight to beat this disease. During the holiday season it is a great time to remember those less fortunate than ourselves. The men at 3 Shades of Blue are kicking off this totally voluntary effort with a $500 donation in the name of GRIZZ.
Fans can send cards and get well wishes to Eric, care of Grizz, to 191 Beale Street, Memphis, Tennessee, 38103, or via e-mail at email@example.com. Fans wishing to donate to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital can log on to http://www.stjude.org/.
May you have a speedy recovery and all of our prayers are with you Eric. Your presence will be missed at the games but you will not be out of our thoughts. Throught out the season different teams mascots will be dropping by to support Eric and keep the home crowd entertained. A very nice gesture by the teams and the men who work as the mascots.
The earth shattering groan can still be heard in distant corners of FedEx Forum. The Grizzlies traded Shane Battier for WHAT????
People thought Jerry was crazy. We are getting Stro back and a rookie for the most complete all-around player and super citizen Shane Battier?
So Jerry West left Memphis very quietly a year later. Not actually in disgrace but no one threw him going away parties after the team bottomed out at 22-60 then lost the lottery (I still say it was rigged). He was gradually led to pasture and spoken in terms of what he gave to the game and not so much what he did for Memphis.
The new Grizz Brass drafted Michael Conley, signed Darko Milicic and traded for Juan Carlos Navarro. Big excitement was supposed to be building with these hot new players.
But what is the story of the pre-season? It sure isn't Michael Conley burning up the court, Darko Milicic being the missing piece or Navarro's surprising NBA ready form. No the chatter is about Kyle Lowry's defense and overall winner's mentality, Stromile Swift's resurection from the doldrums and Rudy Gay's consistent excellence. All of these players came to Memphis last season to help elevate the team from middle of the road status to playoff contenders. Everyone knew it would take a step backwards to move forward but I don't believe anyone realized just how big a step that would be.
People will still criticize Jerry West for his drafting of Troy Bell and Dahntay Jones (missing Luke Ridnour and Josh Howard in the process) and his drafting of Robert Archibald over Carlos Boozer and rightfully so. Those were big gambles that have returned nothing for the franchise. People may complain about how West kept rotating 2nd rd picks to reach for players like Andre Emmett, Antonio Burks, Lawrence Roberts and Alexander Johnson and they didn't work out for the Grizzlies either.
The main criticism of West has been that he never built the team, just took advantage of the team built by Billy Knight. Now the only remaining piece of the team Jerry inherited is Pau Gasol. Gone are former starters Shane Battier, Lorenzen Wright, Jason Williams and Grant Long and instead we have 4 starters straight from West acquisitions Mike Miller, Kyle Lowry, Rudy Gay and Stromile Swift (okay Stro was here before but he left and West brought him back, probably against his wishes, so it is Jerry's pickup in my eyes). Throw in Jerry's bench players like Hakim Warrick, Damon Stoudamire, Tarence Kinsey and Brian Cardinal and we see a totally remade team from the group that Jerry inherited.
While it has yet to be determined if these players can perform at a high level against NBA caliber teams in the regular season. Maybe this group will fail but right now it looks like the team is taking at least a baby step forward from last season's step back. I'm not saying Jerry shouldn't have stepped down. I am definitely not saying the Chris Wallace isn't an improvement for this community and its fans who want to feel closer to the team. Jerry wasn't good about letting people feel a part of the Grizzlies.
But it is interesting to note that after all the criticism of last season that maybe Jerry knew what he was doing after all.
P.S. If you would like to read an excellent article talking about Chris Wallace I recommend the Beale St Beat's article from October 23rd.
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Memphis continues to grow and tonight they overcame a persistent growing pain to get the victory over the short-handed Spurs. This was the first time all season Memphis has won a game decided by three or fewer points.
Rudy Gay scored 23 points and came through at the buzzer sinking a huge 3 point shot over Tim Duncan to win the game. Rudy also had 9 rebounds and 3 assists as the total package was on display in this game. Mike Miller led the team in scoring with 31 but was not a factor offensively in the 4th quarter when the Spurs made their run. He contributed with 6 rebounds as well but only 1 assist. Rudy and Miller and Juan Carlos Navarro each logged over 40 minutes in the game. Navarro was not sharp offensively scoring 10 pts on 4-13 shooting including 2-7 from long range but his 7 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals were huge in the game. Navarro was also forced to defend much larger guards but was not burned defensively.
Memphis nearly lost a huge lead heading into the fourth quarter when San Antonio really turned up the heat defensively. Memphis had a 76-59 lead going into the fourth thanks to one of the most complete first quarters I have ever seen the team play. The Grizzlies led 31-19 at the end of the first quarter behind Damon Stoudamire's 8 pts in the quarter. Damon finished with only 10 pts but was a steadying hand in the 4th after Kyle Lowry lost his composure under relentless pressure at the start of the fourth.
The only drawback was that Memphis blew the 17 pt lead in the fourth including giving up a slam dunk to Manu Ginobili with under 4 seconds to play on an inbounds play. That Memphis could commit 9 turnovers in the fourth, score only 12 points and still manage to win should bolster the team's confidence going forward. In the last three games Memphis has managed to win two games where the game was in doubt with under two minutes to play. The team is starting to trust one another and is finding ways to win games instead of losing them.
Rudy Gay should get a huge boost from this game. Often matched up against one of the best defenders in the game in Bruce Bowen, Rudy allowed the game to come to him most of the night instead of trying to force the action and the results were inspiring. If there was a negative, it was his play leading up to the game winning shot. With clear outs set up for him to operate one on one he often deferred to teammates with disastrous results. Rudy needs to understand that in crunch time the team can live without Rudy making every play, but he needs to be initiating every play in crunch time for the team to succeed. He is only 21 and in his 2nd season so that will come with maturity. He grew up a lot tonight with that shot.
The referees didn't play protect the stars as much as they simply deferred to the players tonight. It was a poorly officiated game in that there was no officiating to speak of. What calls the crew did make were usually terrible, including a walking call against Mike Miller when he never moved either foot! He faked a move and Manu Ginobili flopped down on the ground. The ref blew his whistle but realized he could call neither an offensive nor defensive foul since there was no contact so he made up the travelling call. From that point on he never made a call, no matter how much contact was made. The crew was lucky a fight didn't break out the way the game was getting out of control. Most of the turnovers in the fourth were caused by plays that normally would have resulted in foul calls.
San Antonio looked their age tonight. Without Tony Parker who is either nursing a bad ankle or trying to handle more personal matters at home, the Spurs looked tired and old and could only muster the effort in the fourth quarter but it was nearly enough.
The team is gaining confidence in themselves and it should result in better results as the season progresses.
On a side note there was no Mazola Dance Program tonight. Very disappointing in that respect!
Memphis has 5 players averaging double figures scoring a night. The Grizzlies also have 4 more players averaging more than 7 points a game. The problem is that Head Coach Marc Iavaroni only wants 8 men in the rotation. That leaves someone out in the cold. Pau Gasol's injury however has allowed Coach I to play his rotation now without concern and he is building some continuity finally. How long that last depends on how long Gasol stays injured. Rudy Gay has emerged as a long shot for All-Star consideration this season and has taken a huge step forward in Gasol's absence but the small ball lineup the Grizzlies have been running means Gay is on Tim Duncan. I guess it's no time like the present to see how much further Rudy has to go in his pursuit of All-Star recognition. The Grizzlies need this win to split the two game home stand after losing to Golden St on Monday night.
San Antonio has had to fight thru injuries as well this season. First Duncan went down with a sprained ankle and then Parker went down with a bad ankle although it is rumored he may be back for the Grizzlies. Without Parker and Duncan San Antonio has managed to remain on top of the difficult Southwest division but not without some bumps along the way. Back to back losses to Golden State and the LA Lakers may have only awakened the sleeping giant however. Manu Ginobili is running away with the 6th man of the year award this season and has really stepped up his production in Parker's absence. Poppovich is a solid coach who doesn't allow the team to get too high or too low. Memphis had better not count on a let down from the Spurs in this game especially after losing their first home game of the season against Phoenix Monday night.
Zack's Keys to Victory
1.) Strong Interior Defense by Darko and Swift. In the first Spurs meeting, Darko impressed all Griz fans with his tough interior play against Duncan. However, now he is banged up and has been getting into constant early foul trouble. One of the main ways to keep this game close will be for Darko and Swift to play at a high level on the defensive side.
2.) Rudy Continuing His Strong Play. With Pau out, Rudy is the primary offensive weapon. An off night for him will spell trouble for the Griz.
3.) Our Shooters Getting Separation. I'm worried about Navarro and Miller finding room to get their shots off. In the half court set, both are likely to find Finley, Manu or Bowen giving them little space to shoot with. Usually, the transition game allows for many open 3-point looks, but the Spurs are probably the best transition defense team in the league. I suspect our 3-point shooting percentage tonight will be closely tied to Navarro and Miller being able to get space to shoot.
Bonus Key - Assisted Field Goals.
Point Guards: Damon Stoudamire vs Jacque Vaughn
If Memphis gets lucky, and it would be the first time this season that happened, then Tony Parker will rest his ankle one more game before returning. Vaughn is a solid point who makes intelligent decisions but he isn't Tony Parker who's blazing speed and ability to break down defenses is among the best in the league. Damon Stoudamire's shot has been hot and cold as has his overall play. Damon, more than anyone else on the Grizzlies team, needs to hit some shots to stay involved in the game. When contributing on the scoreboard early, the passing and overall play is better from him. If Parker plays then all bets are off.
Shooting Guards: Juan Carlos Navarro vs Michael Finley
Finley has lost the ability to play all out for 40 minutes a night but he can still do it in spurts and he trusts his replacement. If Navarro can light up Finley early maybe that will force Manu to play more minutes than usual, but is that a good thing? Navarro has rebound his shooting stroke and that helps tremendously in opening up the interior for Rudy and others to work. Navarro's size won't make it hard for Finley to get his shot off however.
Advantage: San Antonio
Small Forwards: Mike Miller vs Bruce Bowen
Mike Miller continues to hit 50% of his shots, 40% of his threes and grab a ton of rebounds for a SG/SF but has yet to make an impact when it mattered or so it appears. Mike had a huge 4th quarter against Golden St but the game was already decided before he started lighting it up. Memphis needs Mike aggressive from the start not in spurts. Bruce Bowen is known for one on one defense so Mike will have to step up his game again. In the two previous games Rudy scored a combined 25 pts against Bowen. With no Gasol he needs to be back in the 25 pt range tonight. Bowen is old and crafty. That won't be easy.
Power Forwards: Rudy Gay vs Tim Duncan
Rudy Gay has scored 32 points in back to back games while shooting 24-39 over that stretch. Unfortunately Rudy has only 2 assists in the last three games but that is a little deceiving. It isn't like Rudy is selfish. He's just the best option. No one else wants to shoot. Rudy passes and the open player passes it on. It is hard to get assists that way. Tim Duncan is back from his sprained ankle and will make it extremely difficult for Rudy on the defensive end while forcing Rudy to hit outside shots. Speed could work in Rudy's favor but you know Duncan will get the benefit of every call so Rudy has to be very careful not to get in foul trouble.
Advantage: San Antonio
Centers: Darko Milicic vs Frabricio Oberto
If Darko's ankle allows he should be able to control Oberto. He will predominantly be matched up defensively with Duncan anyway. If Rudy draws Duncan away from the hoop Darko will have to be aggressive to the glass. Oberto is a crafty vet who will play on Darko's tendency to fade away from the hoop. As long as he keeps Darko off the boards he's done his job. Darko's so beat up that shouldn't be a problem for Oberto.
Advantage: San Antonio
Benches: Memphis vs San Antonio
San Antonio has more all-stars on their bench than Memphis has had in their franchises history. Okay that sounds dramatic since Memphis has only one all-star in their history but it is true also. Manu Ginobili, soon to be announced as the 6th man of the year award winner and first to be so proclaimed before January 1st, leads the bench but Brent Barry, Robert Horry and Matt Bonner all contribute. If not in scoring per se then in doing the 'glue' things that make teams champions. Memphis bench has been playing better of late. Warrick provides 'point a minute' production and Stromile Swift is erratic but good when playing well. Kyle Lowry weathered his first slump as a pro and seems to be back on fire. The problem comes at back up SF where no one has contributed. Miller can't play 45 minutes a night. Jacobsen has been terrible offensively which was supposed to be his strength and Kinsey has not been any better plus his size makes it difficult to put him on the blocks.
Advantage: San Antonio
Other Previews/Commentary Sites:
Pounding the Rock
Spur of the Moment
|Power Rankings for 17 & 18 December, 2007|
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