Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Memphis vs Orlando - 1.23.08

Memphis has won two consecutive home games by double digits. Sure the opponents weren't leading their divisions but the playoff teams that the Grizzlies have played lately didn't actually have fun in the games either. Cleveland in OT, Lakers by one referee...I mean point, Golden St having to fight right down to the wire shows me that the players are learning what Iavaroni wants them to do, Iavaroni is learning what the players can do and that everyone seems to be on the same page. There have been some stumbles along the way but Memphis is growing as a team and the next two games should be a good time to see how far they still have to go. This is the 2nd and last matchup for Darko Milicic against the team that let him go and Memphis will need his defense in this game.

Orlando surprised Detroit with a home win on Monday which should give the Magic some motivation heading into Memphis. The Magic have probably not forgotten how the Grizz treated them in their house earlier in the season either. Orlando is doing something very rare these days with 5 players averaging double figures. Led by Slam Dunk contestant Dwight Howard at 22.1 ppg and a league leading 15.2 rpg, Orlando has managed to survive in the East despite not having a true PF on the roster. Hedo Turkoglu (18.7 ppg) and Rashard Lewis (18.6 ppg) are both 6-10 but also more small forwards than power forwards. Orlando is an amazing 16-9 on the road so the Grizzlies had better come prepared to play.

Point Guards: Mike Conley vs Carlos Arroyo
Orlando didn't see Mike Conley when the teams played the first game as he was recuperating from his shoulder injury. Now Conley is not only healthy but starting and leading the team. Conley has averaged 10.4 ppg and 5.4 apg in 2008 and that isn't including his 10 pt, 10 assist game Monday. Most importantly Conley is hitting at a high enough percent from the arc (33.3%) to make opponents at least be aware of him out there. That makes his passing and driving ability that much more effective. Arroyo has replaced the injured Jameer Nelson in the starting lineup and played well in that role. His 11.7 ppg as a starter on 57.1% shooting attests to that. He isn't the distributor that Nelson is but his size allows him to be more physical on defense. That attitude has gotten him in foul trouble on occasion however.
Advantage: Orlando

Shooting Guards: Mike Miller vs Maurice Evans

Maurice Evans came to Orlando in a mid-season trade with the Lakers and has worked himself into the starting lineup for the Magic. As a starter Evans is averaging 11.6 ppg but not scoring very efficiently from outside (31.6%) but he has hit nearly 50% of his field goal attempts. His ability to get to the hoop allows the team's sharpshooters more space on their attempts. Evans is an erratic player who is very good when hot but not so good when cold. Miller has been hot a lot lately but will need to make sure that he keeps Evans cold. Something Miller and the team have struggled with at the SG position all season. Miller's stepped up his game a lot lately and his size and rebounding skills should prove to be the difference in this matchup.
Advantage: Memphis

Small Forwards: Rudy Gay vs Rashard Lewis

Rudy Gay has retaken the team scoring lead after his 24 pt outing against Chicago. Rudy should also be motivated by his selection for the All-Star Slam Dunk contest but Rashard Lewis has been an All-Star game selection at at 6-10 has the size to compete against Rudy. Rudy has been playing some of his best defense of late and with Rashard not known as a slashing type player will need to make sure he doesn't pick up silly fouls in this matchup. Lewis has been playing well this season but not as well as he is being paid after signing a huge free agent contract this summer. His play has picked up lately however including hitting over 40% of his three pt attempts. Lewis missed the first game against the Grizzlies and his presence makes this a very important matchup for the Grizzlies.
Advantage: Orlando

Power Forwards: Pau Gasol vs Hedo Turkoglu

Another interesting match in this game is at PF. Gasol has been playing much better this month as he recovers from numerous injuries and gets comfortable with the new offense. Orlando will struggle to find a player outside of Dwight Howard who can stop a motivated Gasol. Likewise Pau will struggle to stay with Hedo on the perimeter. Turkoglu is extremely comfortable shooting on the perimeter but has a quick enough first step to get to the lane and exploit a slower footed big man rushing out to contest a jump shot. The deciding factor may be who is more aggressive on the offensive end. Don't be surprised to see Gasol moved to center and the Memphis small ball lineup see considerable time if Hedo starts lighting up the scoreboard. Orlando may also try to use Hedo at center on defense against Darko allowing Howard to compete with the less physical Gasol if Pau starts hot.
Advantage: Memphis

Centers: Darko Milicic vs Dwight Howard

Dwight Howard, who also is invited to the Slam Dunk Contest, did what almost every team best player has done against Memphis this season. He had a near career night when he went for 31 pts on 10-11 shooting and grabbed 20 rebounds. Not surprisingly the only team that he has performed better against this season is Phoenix where Iavaroni used to coach. Containing Howard has to be the single most important facet of the game. Darko has to stay in the game to do that. In the first match Darko was hampered with foul trouble ending up with 5 fouls in only 16 minutes. It is difficult to see Memphis coming out on top again if Darko can't remain in the game. Milicic has struggled this season offensively and has lost time to the bench when the Grizzlies go small but Gasol can't contain Howard on the glass. Darko will have to keep his emotions in check. If Milicic can hold Howard to a more normal night then Memphis has a chance. If not it will be tough.
Advantage: Orlando

Benches: Memphis vs Orlando
Memphis' bench has dramatically improved their play of late. Juan Carlos Navarro has found his shooting touch and is deadly when hot. Hakim Warrick has played better defensively and his shot has always been a strength. Kyle Lowry still struggles with his shot but has been making more intelligent decisions on the court. Even Stromile Swift has seen some minutes and been productive. Orlando's bench is not as strong. With Nelson out, Keyon Dooling becomes the backup PG and at 6-4 his size is difficult to match up against. Former starter Keith Bogans has been playing more minutes lately and producing as well. Where Orlando struggles is when their bigs have to rest. Brian Cook and Adonal Foyle have not been able to contribute at all forcing Orlando to go very small with JJ Redick as the only other contributor off the bench. If Memphis can get the frontline tired or in foul trouble Memphis has a real opportunity to sweep the series.
Advantage: Memphis

Relevant Links/Other Blogs:
Third Quarter Collapse (An Orlando Blog not Grizzlies)
Believing in Magic
Grizzlies Home Page Preview

3 comments:

OVERWADED said...

Nice write up. You obviously know your Grizzlies, as well as I know my Magic.

Orlando has been playing Rashard Lewis at power forward for the season. On occasions, Turkoglu will play there, but typically it's Rashard. The main reason is because Turkoglu is often utilized as a "point-forward". The ball is put in his hands often, and he's asked to create for himself and others.

I expect to see Rudy Gay guarding Turk, definitely not Gasol; Turk would blow up if Gasol was guarding him.

Lewis and Gasol is the match up I expect to see at the power forward position. After watching Orlando's 2 small forwards match up with Portland and Detroit, I'm not as worried about the front line of the Grizzlies. Not because I don't know they're talented, just because they're not nearly as physical. The Magic typically only tend to struggle with physical frontlines, and Gasol just doesn't scream physical to me, especially after having to deal with Sheed.

As for the game, I think if the Magic play with the energy and defense that they have in the last 4 games, they'll win.

I was at the game earlier in the season and our energy and defense was completely embarrassing; yet the game was still close. If that Magic can bring their recent found energy and defense, I think they'll win the game.

bobobolas said...

hey man. i already have this page in my firefox favorites. always nice reads. i also love that grizzs not matter how times they lose.

keep working that way

ChipC3 said...

Thanks for both comments.

Thanks for coming by and make sure you try the veal!

Actually if you don't mind stopping by Ball hype( http://ballhype.com/blog/3_shades_of_blue/) and hyping up our blogs it would be appreciated.

A little more publicity wouldn't hurt our little ole blog site!