Saturday, January 19, 2008

Memphis at Charlotte - 1.19.08

Memphis hits the road for a quick trip to Charlotte to take on the Bobcats on the 2nd game of a back to back. Whether or not the Grizzlies will be in a good mood for this game depends a lot on their tangle Friday night against the Sonics. Memphis has a 5 game losing streak going and it has been 30 days since Memphis beat San Antonio on Rudy Gay's last second 3 pt shot. Memphis' only home win since that game came against Miami 12 days ago. Pau Gasol has become a stronger force in the middle of late as he has averaged 23.2 ppg and 10.4 rpg over the last 10 games. Either he is serious about wanting to lead this team or he is putting on an impressive audition for teams looking to acquire him. The problem with trading Pau is that the Grizzlies would almost have to trade Navarro as well in a deal and JCN is averaging 10.2 ppg and hitting 42.6% of his 3 pt attempts over the same time frame. Rudy Gay and Mike Miller are also playing well as everyone seems more involved offensively since Mike Conley took over the PG duties. The good news is that Memphis should feel right at home in front of the empty stadium at Charlotte.

Charlotte is actually playing decent basketball, not that anyone on Tobacco Road is noticing with UNC the only team ranked ahead of Memphis in college basketball. In fact, this game could be a professional precursor to the NCAA Championship game. The only difference is that if the college teams play it would be a sell out and that won't happen in this game. Charlotte's play depends on two players: Jason Richardson and Gerald Wallace. When they are on the Bobcats are difficult to stop offensively. Just ask Boston who lost by 12 to the Bobcats in Boston. The problem is that they aren't hot enough. Despite winning 4 of their last 6 games heading into New Orleans Friday night Charlotte is only 15-23 on the season. The main force for Charlotte has to be Emeka Okefor. Okefor will be guarding Gasol and if he can stop Gasol Memphis will struggle.

Point Guards: Mike Conley vs Raymond Felton
Raymond Felton is progressing the way most young PG's in the league develop. He struggled bad his first season while learning from Memphis resident Brevin Knight. The second season he took over full time but still struggled. Now in his 3rd season he is making strides to become what his potential implied coming out of college. It usually takes a few years for young PG's to learn the game. Conley was supposed to follow a somewhat similiar path-learn from Damon, replace Damon but struggle and then become what his potential suggested. It hasn't worked out that way so far as Conley was injured then immediately went from 3rd string to starter forcing Damon into street clothes. What's more he hasn't struggled that bad. His shot has fallen more often than not and he hasn't been lit up defensively very often. I still lean toward the home player with experience however.
Advantage: Charlotte

Shooting Guards: Mike Miller vs Jason Richardson

Mike Miller must be wondering what he has done to deserve this week. First it was Kobe, then LeBron, the Kevin Durant and now Jason Richardson. Mike has to be hoping that he can survive tonights game because he only has to deal with Ben Gordon on Monday. Jason Richardson is seemingly injury free after one nagging injury after another plagues his last few years in Golden St. HIs FG% isn't that great at 43.7% but his 3 pt shooting is strong at 43.8%. He obviously is relying more on his long range shot this season than his legendary slam dunk ability but that doesn't mean he can't pull out a rim rocker if someone overplays his jump shot. Defensively Richardson has quick hands and gets into passing lanes but can be beaten when he overplays.
Advantage: Charlotte

Small Forward: Rudy Gay vs Gerald Wallace

I haven't said this very often this season but Rudy is overmatched here. Gerald Wallace is a great defender (one of three players in NBA history to average 2 blocks and 2 steals a game for an entire season) and an explosive scorer (21.6 ppg). He is the model of the type of player people want Rudy Gay to become. He is also a slasher and those players frustrated Rudy earlier in the season. If Rudy can avoid foul trouble he should be able to get his shot off against Wallace but it will require more work than usual. Rudy will need to use all of his skills to avoid foul trouble and hopefully to get Wallace in trouble since the backup situation is very weak in Charlotte. This matchup alone should be worth the price of admission to the game.
Advantage: Charlotte

Power Forward: Pau Gasol vs Emeka Okefor

A big time battle of strength vs strengths at the 4 as defensive minded Emeka Okefor takes on offensive minded Pau Gasol. Gasol has been on fire of late and seems more determined than ever to be the Grizzlies go-to player down low. Okefor has not been the dominant rebounder he usually is of late but that probably has more to do with Nazr Mohammed joining him on the front line than anything else. When Charlotte has the ball Okefor isnt a big move offensive player but can score if left alone. Good thing too because Gasol isn't a big time defender. Okefor scoring in double figures probably will be a bad sign for the Grizzlies. If Gasol goes for more than 20 it is a good sign for the Grizzlies. If Gasol can grab at least 12 boards it is very positive. The advantage goes to Gasol because of Okefor's stiffness. Gasol should be able to out-manuever him down low.
Advantage: Memphis

Centers: Darko Milicic vs Nazr Mohammed

Nazr Mohammed is playing like the man Detroit wanted him to be before giving up on him. Darko is playing like the man Detroit thought he was before giving up on him. Not good in that respect for Memphis. The difference is that Darko is improving considering the health problems he has had this season while Nazr has pulled this type of show before only to retreat back into his career averages of 7 pts and 6 boards a night. Those numbers are still better than Darko this season and Darko's knee has joined his thumb on the injured but still playing list.
Advantaga: Charlotte

Benches: Memphis vs Charlotte

If Memphis stands a chance in this game it will have to come from the bench. Navarro, Warrick and Lowry need to have big games against the Charlotte bench because frankly the starters will struggle to stay even. Charlotte's only scoring threat off the bench is Matt Carroll and he shouldn't be tough for Bobby Jones to stop. After that the pickings are pretty slim. If Memphis can get 35 points from their bench they will be in great shape.
Advantage: Memphis

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