Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Memphis vs Denver - 1.30.08

Mike Conley Free Jersey Night!

Memphis continues their season long home stand against another team competing for a divisional title as the team tries to regroup from the beating Dallas inflicted on them Monday night. It may have been just a coincidence but it was hard to dissassoiate to correlation between Damon Stoudamire being freed from his purgatory of DNP's when he was waived and the total lack of effort by the Grizzlies Monday night. Pau Gasol is trying to play despite painful back spasms which are severely limiting his effectiveness. Mike Miller hustles but if he doesn't hit his first few shots, turns off the aggressive mode which the Grizzlies need from him. Even Rudy Gay has struggled with the moniker of Franchise Player put on him. Mike Conley is possible for this game and everyone is hoping he comes back quick but I somehow get the feeling it won't happen in this game. Kyle Lowry has been one of the few bright spots of late and that is despite his horrendous free throw shooting and inability to dive and dish effectively. Things have looked better in Memphis. Now Stromile Swift has joined the freakish story by getting suspended after the Dallas game.

Denver hasn't won on the road since January 4th against Minnesota. The Nuggets also come to town in a dog fight in the Northeast division. Utah, Portland and the Nuggets are all fighting for the top spot and it is quite likely one if not both losers will fail to even qualify for the post-season. That makes every game magnified in importance and also less likely that Denver will overlook the Grizzlies in this game. Throw in a 2 game losing streak to Southwest divsion teams in Dallas and New Orleans and the possibility of an 0-3 road trip has to be wearing on their minds. This will be the 3rd game in four days so fatigue has to be factored into the equation as well. Allen Iverson leads the Nuggets with always dependable Marcus Camby hitting the boards. The Nuggets are a little thin at forward with Nene and Carmello Anthony both battling differents problems but Linas Kleiza has stepped up and is starting to contribute in his role as back up scorer to Iverson with Carmello out. Carmello has been questionable the last two games. Anyone want to bet he recovers in time for this game? That would just be the Grizzlies look this year.

Point Guards: Kyle Lowry vs Anthony Carter
Anthony Carter has really helped the Nuggets out this season with his steadying play at the point. With Earl Boykins and Andre Miller gone and Former Grizz Chucky Atkins injured the team needed some stability at the point to free up Iverson to be the scorer he naturally is and Carter has allowed that. Carter's role isn't to score. He can hit shots however as he's shot 46% from the field and 35% from the arc this season. His main job is defense (1.44 spg) and assists (6.3 apg) and that he does well enough. Kyle Lowry is playing very well considering the excessive workload of the last two games (49 minutes against the Clips and 42 minutes against Dallas). His 8 total assists on 92 minutes is a bit disturbing but his 13 boards, 3 steals and only 1 turnover have been encouraging. What is disappointing is his 13-26 free throw shooting in those games.
Advnatage: Denver

Shooting Guards: Mike Miller vs Allen Iverson

Allen Iverson stampeded his way to one of the starting positions on the NBA All-Star team. He deserved it more than T-Mac so I am happy for him. This also raises some interesting questions in this matchup. Is it better to be an NBA All-Star or a bench player on the Olympics team? AI was left off the invite list to last summer's FIBA championships which means he probably won't be on the Olympic team. Mike Miller made the team which means he should at least be asked to tryout again. Iverson is a scoring machine averaging 26.9 ppg on 45.4% from the field and 32.6% from the arc. He still averages over 2 steals per game (2.11) and at 32 yrs of age shows no sign of slowing down. Miller is 3rd on the Grizzlies in scoring at 16.7 ppg but should have little trouble getting his shot off over the diminutive AI. He will need to be careful with the ball however. Being aggresive shooting and taking care of the ball have not been strong points of Mike's game this season.
Advantage: Denver

Small Forwards: Rudy Gay vs Linas Kleiza

Rudy Gay may hope he plays against Kleiza because the alternative is Carmello's return (which I still fully expect) but Kleiza is no pushover. He's not physically imposing or particularly athletic but he can get the job done. Rudy is putting together a good month but is obviously also looking forward to all-star weekend. It is a bit unfortunate that Ray won't be getting the time off because he has taken on a heavy load this year and there are still a lot of games left to play. Rudy will need to be aggressive in this matchup because it is one of the few that Memphis has the advantage in, assuming Carmello is still out.
Advantage: Denver

Power Forwards: Pau Gasol vs Kenyon Martin

Pau Gasol normally has trouble with more physical players like Martin but KMart's knee has prevented him from being the beast he used to be in the NBA. Of course Gasol's back has made him a shadow of the player he was earlier in the month. Gasol is still averaging over 20 pts and 10 board in January but he will need to pick up the pace to win this battle. Gasol will likely be traded off between Marcus Camby and Kmart in an attempt to wear him down as well. The problem for Denver is the lack of depth behind Kmart and Camby and Gasol's ability to get to the line. If Gasol can get the starters in foul trouble then Memphis looks surprisingly good in this game. The problem is that Gasol is averaging around 5 FT's a game in January and that won't get anyone in foul trouble.
Advantage: Denver

Centers: Darko Milicic vs Marcus Camby

Camby will not be seeing his former coach John Calipari on the sidelines this trip to town as the Tigers will be in Houston taking care of the Cougars we hope. That is good news because the last thing Darko needs is more motivation for Camby. Camby always seems to have huge games against the Grizzlies and their weak interior rebounding. While Darko doesn't grab the ball that often he usually prevents his man to get the rebound as well. Take away Camby's offensive boards and you take away a lot of his offensive effectiveness. Darko may not have Stro backing him up in this game so avoiding foul trouble is important as well.
Advantage: Denver

Benches: Memphis vs Denver

When a team has J R Smith coming off the bench, you realize this is a team that can hit you from many different positions offensively. With Carmello Anthony out with a bad knee and Nene out with cancer it does hurt the Nuggets bench but that doesn't mean the cupboard is bare either. Eduardo Najera is the exact player Memphis thought they were getting when they signed Brian Cardinal. The only real difference is Najera doesn't have bum knees and an insane contract. Also, while Carmello took off for the disaster on the Gulf, I doubt he will miss this game as well. Memphis' bench has been strong with Navarro and Hakim trying to compete but Bobby Jones looks like he won't be picked up for the rest of the season. He hasn't played at all lately and looks disinterested in the few minutes he has gotten. If Stro plays, and that is questionable with the suspension, and regains the level of play he exhibited before he twisted his ankle Memphis' bench will be stronger but it usually takes Stro a longer time than most to recover from these types of injuries.
Advantage: Denver

Relevant blogs/websites:
Pickaxe and Roll
The Nugg Doctor
Nuggets Hoops

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