Monday, February 25, 2008

Grizzlies vs Phoenix - 2.26.08

Memphis again faces one of the elite teams in the West that were forced to make a deal after the Gasol trade to the Lakers. That is three consecutive teams that made big moves after the Gasol trade and one has to wonder how likely those moves would have been if the trade had not occured. Memphis is struggling mightily right now both with scoring (down to 92.2 ppg in February after averaging 102 in January) and defense (switching to zones constantly to cover for individual weaknesses). It makes one wish that ex-whipping boy Pau Gasol was still around. With Gasol the team lost close games. Without Gasol the games aren't close right now. The value in the trade hasn't kicked in yet but the kicks the team and its fans are feeling are still painful.

Phoenix has played well since acquiring Shaq and has looked more stronger defensively since activating him. The Lakers beat the Suns in the first game but Boston was unable to handle the pressure in the second game being held to 30 first half points. However Detroit on Sunday had no problems wiht Phoenix' new defense as they shredded the Suns 116-86. So the Suns come to town pissed about the embarrassing home loss, pissed because Memphis made their biggest rivals, the LA Lakers, stronger and pissed because they have now fallen behind those Lakers in the Western Conference standings. Not a good time to be playing the Suns.

Point Guards: Mike Conley vs Steve Nash
Steve Nash is one of the best point guards of all time. He is quick getting into the paint, has eyes in the back of his head and can make any pass at anytime. What's more he forces to teams to play him tight by having a dead eye from long distance which makes his first step that much more effective. Mike Conley has a lightning first step, great eyesight and can make any pass but he doesn't have a great or even decent outside shot and he hasn't got experience.
Advantage: Phoenix

Shooting Guards: Juan Carlos Navarro vs Raja Bell

Raja Bell and Juan Carlos Navarro play similiar roles on their teams. Bell is counted on for long range shooting and making sure the opposing teams best backcourt scorer doesn't go for huge numbers. Navarro is counted on for long range shooting and making sure the opposing team's backcourt non-scorer doesn't go for huge numbers. Very similiar but different just the same. Navarro is being allowed to shoot himself out of the slump he has been in while Miller has been out with back issues and that has been good for Navarro. Not good enough however.
Advantage: Phoenix

Small Forwards: Rudy Gay vs Grant Hill

Rudy Gay is trying to become what Grant Hill used to be, a complete basketball player. Grant Hill was a 25 ppg scorer who also averaged 6 boards and 5 assists per game before injuries nearly ruined his career. Now back healthy Hill is more than a shadow of the player he used to be but not the same player either. Rudy Gay has the skill to be a very good player in the NBA but needs to involve his teammates more to be great. Rudy's 1.8 apg is not going to enable him to reach Superstar status. However Rudy has good speed, great leaping ability, a deadly outside shot and great defensive instincts. Grant won't be able to hang with him the entire game.
Advantage: Memphis

Power Forwards: Hakim Warrick vs Amare Stoudamire

Ugh. That is the most descriptive way I can describe this matchup. It should be ugly for Grizzlies fans (hence the term 'ugh') and painful for Hakim (once again 'ugh'). Amare Stoudamire spent the first four years of his career swapping body slams with the biggest bigs in the league, surving by emphasizing speed over bulk. Now with Shaq in the middle Amare gets to use his speed and power against smaller players at the PF position and Hak is among the smallest PFs in the league. Hakim prospers by using his speed, leaping ability and surprising outside jump shots to get points. Perhaps Amare will struggle guarding Hak on the perimeter but not as much as Hak will struggle defending against Amare. The Zone defense the Grizzlies have used to cover Hak's defense won't work against Phoenix with their 3 pt shooting ability.
Advantage: Phoenix

Centers: Darko Milicic vs Shaquille O'Neal

Shaquille O'Neal was brought in to help Phoenix get over the hump of playoff failure. It is a good thing that he is going to be graded on the playoffs or people might be getting concerned about things so far. Phoenix is 1-2 in games Shaq has played in after going 3-2 without Shaq or Marion. Of course the teams aren't exactly pushovers the Suns have played. The Lakers, Celtics and Pistons would give any team a fight and the Suns haven't adjusted to Shaq fully yet. Darko has played well against solid big men this season but lately his game has suffered. The drop off cost him his starting role against Cleveland (although Kwame showed little reason to keep it). Darko's performance has declined dramatically this season despite the increased minutes. He will need to have another one of his big games against Shaq for the Grizzlies to stand a chance.
Advantage: Phoenix

Benches: Memphis vs Phoenix
Memphis' bench has suffered both from Miller's absence and from an overall lack of veteran talent. The Grizzlies have talent and they have veterans they just don't have much in the way of both in one player. Kyle Lowry has been a constant sparkplug off the bench and Javaris Crittenton has shown signs of putting it together but neither has played a full season in the NBA. Kwame Brown has washed out twice and is not showing any reason for the Grizzlies to stop him from finding team #4 this summer. Jason Collins is big and a defensive presence in the middle but offers little in the way of rebounds or points. Brian Cardinal is the oldest Grizz on the team currently and looks like he's been under the knife too many times. Phoenix has Leandrho Barbosa and Boris Diaw off the bench but really doesn't care about bench production. This team lets the starters do the talking.
Advantage: Phoenix

Contrary Opinions and Inteteresting Reading:
Bright Side of the Suns
Born and Raised
Remember the Barkely Years- I recently communicated with Josh who runs this site and he had some interesting comments about tonight's game. Josh says 'Don’t give [my sister] too much [excrement] when the Suns get beat by the Grizz…Shaq has destroyed our team.' I happen to know his sister by the way.

BallHype: hype it up!

No comments: