Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Memphis at Denver - 3.12.08

Memphis was absolutely destroyed for the second outing in a row, as the Phoenix Suns ran them into the ground for a most embarassing loss. The Grizzlies showed all the defensive intensity of a three-toed sloth for the second time in as many games and the run-n-gun Suns didn't display any mercy in racing out to a huge lead and eventual win.

Denver comes off a tough loss against the defending champs Monday night. The Nuggets are currently 2.5 games out of the playoff picture, despite the presence of a former MVP, the reigning Defensive POY and an All-Star by the name of Melo on their roster. That shows you how tough the West truly is this year. They will need to close that gap if Coach George Karl expects to retain his job without a fight this offseason.

Point Guards: Mike Conley vs Anthony Carter
Anthony Carter was signed as a stop-gap measure backup who was thrust into the starting lineup following Chucky Atkins' string of ailments this season. He has been decent in that role, even as his minutes fluctuate from game to game. Conley bounced back after a succession of disappointing games to post some solid numbers against Phoenix (10 pts, 5 reb, 4 ast) and he should see significant playing time in this one. Carter's veteran savvy should outweigh Conley's youthful exuberance.

Advantage: Denver

Shooting Guards: Mike Miller vs Allen Iverson
Allen Iverson paced the Nuggets with 28 points against the Spurs, despite playing with a broken finger on his shooting hand. That's right Grizz fans, AI plays with a broken finger and we couldn't even get one former player out on the floor until "his lift" returned. Mike Miller played poorly against the Suns at the SF spot, but he should be able to take the smaller Iverson down to the post and get a few easy baskets. Of course, the diminutive guard's lightning-quick first step will cause #33 all kinds of problems on the other end, so expect a big night for the Nuggets' leading scorer.

Advantage: Denver

Small Forwards: Rudy Gay vs Carmelo Anthony
The marquee matchup for this game (and quite frankly, probably the only truly interesting part of the game as long as the Grizzlies continue to play like it is still the preseason). Rudy was the lone Grizzly to post good numbers against Phoenix, so hopefully that will carry over to this game. Melo has played well since the All-Star break, even as his team struggles to get over the hump and back into the postseason picture, picking up his rebounding numbers noticeably. I expect Melo to get significant help in defending Rudy, while Rudy will be left on an island most of the time.

Advantage: Denver

Power Forwards: Hakim Warrick vs Kenyon Martin
Kenyon Martin has been in the news for the wrong reasons the past few days. It would seem that there have been some questions about him receiving preferential treatment by the local police despite behavior and driving that didn't deserve it. On the court Martin has been inconsistent recently, leaving George Karl to wonder just which player will show up from one night to the next. Warrick, on the other hand, has been fairly steady since being inserted into the starting lineup, which made his move back to the bench last night somewhat surprising. Martin's hustle and intensity could intimidate Hak and throw him off his game, but if he utilizes his exceptional mid-range game, he'll draw Martin away from the basket and away from his comfort zone.

Advantage: Memphis

Centers: Darko Milicic vs Marcus Camby
Marcus Camby's scoring might be down this season (from 11.2 ppg last year to 9.2 ppg this year), but he's certainly not resting on the laurels of his DPOY award, as his rebounding is up 2.2 rpg (13.9 rpg - 2nd in the NBA) and his blocks are up 0.5 bpg (3.8 bpg - 1st in the NBA) from last year. Darko is coming off a poor shooting (6/15 FG) and rebounding (4 reb) night, which isn't good if you caught a look at Camby's stats above. To further complicate matters, when Camby does shoot, he has no problem stepping out to 18 feet, which will pull Milicic away from the basket on defense, leaving him in poor rebounding position. I expect Camby to double Darko in rebounds and blocks in this one.

Advantage: Denver

Benches: Memphis vs Denver
Denver gets most of their bench scoring from the duo of Linas Kleiza and J.R. Smith, while Eduardo Najera takes care of all the "dirty work". Kleiza was positively on fire earlier this season, but has seen his shooting touch get a little shaky since the onset of a nagging ankle injury last week. Memphis relies on Juan Carlos Navarro for scoring/playmaking, on Kyle Lowry for defensive intensity and a change of pace, and Jason Collins for their own brand of "dirty work". Javaris Crittenton has also seen increased minutes lately, as the coaching staff evaluates the team in preparation for next season.

Advantage: Denver

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