Thursday, February 7, 2008

Memphis at Dallas - 2.8.08

Memphis continues the painful trip from optomism to reality as they venture to one of the most difficult arenas to play in the country when they take on the Dallas Mavericks Friday night. Memphis has seemed in shock, both the team and the fans, from the Gasol trade. On the good news front Mike Conley is expected to play for the first time since the Washington game on January 23rd. The bad news is that Dallas is where he originally hurt his shoulder that caused him to miss so much time early in the season.

Dallas continues to hang around the lead of the Southwest division thanks to the play of Dirk Nowitski. Last season's MVP started the season slowly but has been steadily improving and, despite the back to back losses last week at Boston and Detroit, Dallas is in great shape to win the division again as they are currently tied with Saturday night's opponent New Orleans and have a 1.5 game lead over San Antonio. Rumors have been swirling however that Dallas may be interested in acquiring former Mav point guard Jason Kidd. You will have to put me in the see it to believe it catagory.

Point Guards: Mike Conley vs Jose Barea
Barea hurt the Grizzlies the last meeting in the Mavericks rout. His 9 points came at crucial times when it looked like Memphis may make a run. Barea isn't a great shooter or passer overall but as a starter he has hit 54% of his FG attempts and 58% of his 3 pt shots. Mike Conley is more in control as the starting point guard than Kyle Lowry and his return should be a big benefit for the Grizzlies. Coach Iavaroni has said that Conley has looked good in practice and even taken a few tough hits without problem. However rust has to be a factor as will conditioning. If Conley is 100% and not afraid of contact then he should have the advantage but only time will tell if that is the case. Barea will physically challenge Conley despite his relative size disadvantage.
Advantage: Dallas

Shooting Guard: Mike Miller vs Eddie Jones

Eddie Jones is old. His performances this season reflect. His 3.5 average and 36.8% shooting means Mike could have a relatively easy night on defense for a change. The problem is Eddie Jones can still play defense and he knows Mike's tendancies and prefered shooting locals. He won't let Mike get open looks very often. When defended Mike has a tendancy to disappear and the Grizzlies don't have enough offensive weapons to match the Mavs if Mike isn't being aggressive. Mike should outperform Jones but will it be enough to change the outcome?
Advantage: Memphis

Small Forwards: Rudy Gay vs Josh Howard

Two players having serious break out seasons meet in this matchup. Rudy Gay is now considered the second best player in last season's draft but unlike Brandon Roy doesn't seem as comfortable in the lead scoring role yet. Rudy can hit clutch shots and has little fear but his ball-handling skill leaves much to be desired and he doesn't hit open teammates as much as is needed for a lead player. Howard toiled under Dirk's shadow for 4 seasons but this season emerged from the shadow to establish himself as a legitimate threat. Averaging 20.8 ppg this season puts Howard in 2nd place in scoring ahead of Jason Terry and only 1.6 ppg behind Dirk. What's more he has played above that level against Memphis averaging 26.5 ppg in the series.
Advantage: Dallas

Power Forwards: Hakim Warrick vs Dirk Nowitzki

Dirk Nowitzki used to light up Pau Gasol on the defensive end while letting his big centers work him over on defense. Now he will have to guard Hakim who has the size and quickness to frustrate Dirk offensively. The problem is that Hakim's reputation on defense is worse than Gasol's. Hakim needs to keep Dirk in check and that won't be easy. The real problem comes on the boards as Hakim is averaging a meager 3.1 rpg compared to Dirk's 8.7 rpg. If Dallas gets 5 more rebounds than Memphis from the PF position it is going to be a long night.
Advantage: Dallas

Centers: Darko Milicic vs Erick Dampier

Dampier is one half of the Mavericks powerful center combination. Known for his rebounding ability Dampier has managed to grab 7.0 rpg despite playing less than half of the game. Dampier gets most of his points close to the rim usually from tipping in misses which explains his 62.5 FG%. He has little range however which also explains his 62.0 FT%. Darko has posted three consecutive double-doubles but those games were against less physical big men. Diop and Dampier average 2.5 bpg between them and will clog the lane as well as any one. Darko needs to make sure he is taking good shots and hopefully will get Dallas' big in trouble more than himself.
Advantage: Dallas

Benches: Memphis vs Dallas

Jason Terry has moved back to the bench but that just means he gets to try and score against backups instead of starters. The man knows how to score. His points alone could outscore the Grizzlies bench players unless Navarro gets hot. Throw in Brandon Bass who is showing the athleticism that made him a star at LSU. Diop provides great defense in the middle and Dallas' bench with Terry becomes as scary as any in the league. OUtside of Navarro there just aren't a lot of points coming off Memphis' bench right now. Crittenton could help but Kwame Brown, Andre Brown, Brian Cardinal and Casey Jacobsen don't actually create fear in opponents. Kyle Lowry played well as a starter but hasn't shown the spark coming off the bench as much as people expected this season.
Advantage: Dallas

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