Saturday, March 29, 2008

Memphis at LA Clippers - 3.29.08

Memphis has their 2nd consecutive game in Los Angeles tonight and have to worry about over-confidence. That sound's strange to say about a team that is 2-19 in their last 21 road game and has won only 3 road games in 2008. That doesn't mean it isn't true however. Memphis got an emotional win against the LA Lakers (sans Pau Gasol) Friday night despite surrendering 53 pts to Kobe Bryant. The Grizzlies were led by Rudy Gay and got a surprisingly strong game from Darko Milicic with 20 pts, 12 rebounds, 4 blocks and 3 assists. Of course Chris Kaman is a different player than Ronnie Turiaf and DJ Mbenga.

Los Angeles took it on the chin last night in Utah losing 121-101 to the Jazz. The Clippers have been experimenting with some odd lineups and the results haven't been too impressive, although many people believe the Clippers are achieving just what they are trying to accomplish i.e. losing games to improve their chances in the lottery. This game could have a big impact on who ends up with the most ping pong balls in the hopper. Clippers rookie Al Thornton has had an impressive 2nd half of the season and is now being mentioned as a possible all-rookie team player.

Point Guards: Mike Conley vs Brevin Knight
Mike Conley has seen his minutes dwindle to an even split with Kyle Lowry over the past month as he has struggled with his consistency. His assist to turnover ratio is a healthy 2.47/1, but his FG% has fluctuated recently, often leaving his defender free to play off of him and concede open looks from the perimeter. Brevin Knight is the consumate coach's player as he always makes smart plays and rarely turns the ball over. His assist to turnover ratio for this season is a phenomenal 4.63/1 and he has 31 more steals than turnovers for the year. His offense is nearly non-existent however, which means that Conley will need to concentrate on shutting down the passing lanes more than preventing Knight from scoring. Knight is a wily veteran, so expect him to confound Conley using every trick in the book.
Advantage: Clippers

Shooting Guards: Mike Miller vs Cuttino Mobley
Mike Miller had been torching opponents through the month of March before slowing down somewhat over the last week. He has compensated for that by picking up more rebounds than usual, grabbing double-digit boards in 5 of the last 8 games. Cat Mobley has struggled with his shot in the midst of the Clippers 10 game losing streak, posting a FG% of .415 while only hitting 4/20 3-pointers in that span. Like Miller, he has contributed in other areas, such as rebounds and steals, but Mobley is first and foremost a scorer. Whichever player gets hot from the perimeter will give his team a decided advantage in this game.
Advantage: Grizzlies

Small Fowards: Rudy Gay vs Corey Maggette
The marquee matchup of the night features each team's top scoring threat. Rudy Gay has been playing at a high level all season as he fights through the transition of being a second-year player to "The Man" for this Grizzlies franchise. He would be better served to put his head down and drive to the basket more as his perimeter shot has been shaky this month (.219 3PT%). He needs more games where his FT attempts outnumber his 3PT attempts -- something that Corey Maggette knows all about as he is currently 4th in the league in FT attempts per game. You cannot blame Maggette for the team's losing streak, as he has posted 24.1 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 2.7 apg on .467 FG% during that time. Maggette's relentless aggressiveness will probably be the deciding factor in this matchup unless Rudy can regain his outside shooting form.
Advantage: Clippers

Power Forwards: Hakim Warrick vs Josh Powell
Hak continues to put up points in bunches on an array of mid-range jumpers and low-post spin moves. He'll need to concentrate on rebounding and defense in this matchup though, as Powell has proven to be quite effective on the boards as a starter this month, in addition to being a capable scorer. Also, it wouldn't kill Warrick to find an open shooter on occasion, as it has been 6 games since his last assist was recorded.
Advantage: Grizzlies

Centers: Darko Milicic vs Chris Kaman
After a big game by Kaman in the first matchup of the season, Darko did a good job neutralizing the former Central Michigan standout in their second meeting. This will be Kaman's third game back from injury and his second in as many nights, so it will be interesting to see how he handles that. Darko had a great game against the Lakers' depleted frontcourt and he'll need to play at a similar level if Memphis intends to win this one.
Advantage: Clippers

Benches: Memphis vs Los Angeles
The Clippers continue to get solid production from rookie Al Thornton, but veteran Tim Thomas has fallen off considerably in recent games, most likely due to the stomach virus he has been battling. Recent signee Smush Parker has done little of note since joining the Clip Joint. The Grizzlies counter with the dynamic backcourt duo of Kyle Lowry and Juan Carlos Navarro, each of whom have had big games this month and provide great energy off the bench. Jason Collins has also been a great defensive presence in the paint, which has been very important when Darko's shot isn't falling or gets into early foul trouble.
Advantage: Grizzlies

Relevant blogs:
Clips Nation

BallHype: hype it up!

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