Friday, February 29, 2008

Memphis at Houston - 2.29.08

Memphis 'leaps' back into action after their encouraging performance against Phoenix on Tuesday night. For only the 2nd game since the Gasol trade Memphis looked competitive with Rudy Gay, Hakim Warrick and Juan Carlos Navarro leading the way against the revamped Phoenix Suns. Memphis will attempt to not lose all but one game in February by giving Houston their only loss of the month. Memphis seems to be gaining some confidence after losing their face of the franchise as Hakim Warrick and Rudy Gay bring athleticism and excitement to the court. Memphis is hoping to get Mike Miller back for this game but it is doubtful. Kwame Brown failed to get into the game against Phoenix due to some minor injuries including a sore shoulder according to Coach Mark Iavaroni.

Houston took advantage of a friendly schedule in February to win 13 consecutive games but that doesn't mean every thing is going great in Texas. The Rockets are playing their 2nd game without Yao Ming who is lost for the season with a stress fracture in his foot. There didn't seem to be much of an effect against Washington in their first game as Houston won 94-69 against Washington. That puts Dikembe Mutombo Mpolondo Mukamba Jean Jacque Wamutombo aka Dikimbe Mutombo into the starting center role. No one is really sure how old Mutombo is but his profile says he is 41. He could actually be older! Houston is led now by Tracy McGrady but gets important minutes from Shane Battier and Shane Battier. Houston surprised many people with two late trades despite their winning ways. Houston acquired former Grizz Bobby Jackson and former slam dunk champion Gerald Green at the last second before the deadline.

Point Guards: Mike Conley vs Rafer Alston
Rafer Alston is being asked to pick up a large amount of the scoring lost by Yao Ming which is fine with Rafer but the Rockets aren't so sure. Alston's reputation is being a selfish point guard who thinks 'me' first. Despite his poor shooting percentages this season Alston has been better at playing within the team concept. Mike Conley is all about the team concept. The 20 yr old PG is averaging 5.2 apg as a starter while shooting 44.5% from the field. The main area Conley needs to develop is his long range shooting is terrible (27.5% from behind the arc).
Advantage: Houston

Shooting Guards: Juan Carlos Navarro vs Tracy McGrady

This is probably the worst match up Memphis will face all season. Tracy McGrady is 6-8, scores at will and has an all around game people dream about. Juan Carlos is 6-3, a weak defender and has only recently climbed over the rookie wall to start producing again. The main deficiancy in Navarro's game has been on the defensive end which doesn't bode well when playing T-Mac who seems to take personal joy in lighting up the Grizzlies especially in crunch time. T-Mac's averaging 29 points, 8 rebounds and 7 assists against the Grizzlies this season.
Advantage: Houston

Small Forwards: Rudy Gay vs Shane Battier

It seems strange today to believe that Rudy and Shane were once traded for each other. Rudy Gay is starting to prove he can score on anyone in the NBA. Shane Battier is one of those players who lives to shut down people who think that way. Usually Shane is giving Mike Miller fits but with Miller laid up Battier will turn his focus to Rudy. That isn't good for Memphis. Battier is a 'glue guy' that does everything well. Shane's benefited against the Grizzlies in the past with insider knowledge of our players favorite moves. That isn't the case now so it will be interesting to see how things develop.
Advantage: Memphis

Power Forwards: Hakim Warrick vs Luis Scola

In the last 5 games Warrick is averaging 18.8 ppg and 8.4 rpg. while shooting 52% from the field. That is pretty good production for the Grizzlies who were supposed to be weak at the PF position after trading Pau Gasol. However everything isn't simply by the numbers. Warrick doesn't command the double teams that Gasol did which makes it difficult for their other players to get easy shots and his passing is close to terrible compared to Gasol. Luis Scola, the rookie from Argentina, has averaged 13 points and 6.6 rebounds over that same time frame but is bring muscle and effort to a position Houston has been extremely weak at historically. Scola struggled on the boards with Yao out against Washington getting only 2 rebounds. How well Scola handles the increased pressure with Yao out will determine if Houston can continue to climb in the Western Conference standings. Scola will need to use his bulk against Warrick's speed and range.
Advantage: Memphis

Centers: Darko Milicic vs Dikembe Mutombo

If there is a more important match up in this game than T-Mac against Navarro is has to be Mutombo against Milicic. In the first game without Yao Houston got 4 blocked shots from Dikembe but the Rockets lost Yao's ability to score and rebound getting only 4 pts and 6 rebounds from the elder Mutombo. Darko Milicic was limited to 12 minutes against Cleveland but returned against Phoenix and Shaq to score 15 pts and grab 7 rebounds in only 21 minutes. Darko is the future in the middle for Memphis but needs to start showing more consistency and a better touch around the basket to make fans agree with the decision to sign him. Milicic has performed well against slow big men and Mutombo is that in a nutshell plus he offers almost no offensive threat.
Advantage: Memphis

Benches: Memphis vs Houston

If Memphis appears to have an advantage among the starters that won't be enough to overcome Houston's dominating bench. Former Grizzlies swing guard Bobby Jackson brings toughness to the backcourt and mixes well with Luther Head for a powerful scoring dou off the bench. Rookie Carl Landry is starting to make a name for himself at the forward position as well. In the last 5 games Landry has averaged 10.4 ppg and 7.0 rpg. Houston will have to go small a lot with Yao out but Chuck Hayes has proven himself to be more than capable rebounding despite his size. Memphis' bench is led by Kyle Lowry but falls off quickly after that. Javaris Crittenton has yet to find his groove in Memphis since the trade. Kwame Brown has struggled with minor injuries and isn't expected to play in this game leaving Jason Collins as the only big off the bench. Brian Cardinal has been getting minutes and still exhibits that go for broke style and outside touch that enamored former GM Jerry West to bring him to town.
Advantage: Houston

BallHype: hype it up!


Anonymous said...

"Enamored" is not a verb.

Palmerica said...

tr.v. en·am·ored, en·am·or·ing, en·am·ors
To inspire with love; captivate: was enamored of the beautiful dancer; were enamored with the charming island.