Once again the Grizzlies honor foreign players, both Memphis' and the opponents, with special ticket prices. If you are a citizen of China or Spain you can really get great discounts with a valid passport. Tonight honors Zaza Pachulia of the Hawks. The strange thing is Zaza is from Georgia. Isn't everyone on the Hawks team from Georgia???
Memphis had a near perfect road trip going 1-2 with the only win against the LA Lakers who's pick the Grizzlies own this season. The road trip ended with a loss to the LA Clippers putting the Clippers three games behind the Grizzlies in the lottery race. You can't ask for better than that. The young guns are starting to play the uptempo style that Iavaroni prefers and the team is playing on both sides of the court. Memphis held the Lakers and Kings to under 40% shooting for the game as well as hitting shots above their season average from the field.
Atlanta has finally put some distance between themselves and the pretenders for the 8th and final spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race. No one is sure if that is a good thing or not as the Hawks first round opponent will be the Boston Celtics while the Nets will be 11th in the lottery and could fall lower. Not a great reward for making the playoffs for the first time since 1999. Atlanta is led by Joe Johnson and Josh Smith. Joe Johnson was originally drafted by then Boston GM Chris Wallace and Josh Smith is rumored to be a player that Wallace is interested in this summer in free agency.
Point Guards: Mike Conley vs Mike Bibby
Mike Conley seems to have gotten over the rookie wall, even if he swears he never hit it, in the last 10 games highlighted by a 17 pt game (and highest scoring game of his career) against the Clippers. Mike Bibby has hurt his thumb again but is still averaging 14.2 ppg and 6.6 apg as a Hawk. Bibby is a far better shooter from the outside than Conley but Mike has the jets Bibby never had and he is getting older. Still Bibby has the reputation with the refs so expect him to get away with murder compared to Conley.
Shooting Guards: Mike Miller vs Joe Johnson
Mike Miller must wonder why he ever recovered from his bad back. In the last few games Mike has been matched up against Kevin Martin, Cuttino Mobley, Allen Iverson, Kobe Bryant and now Joe Johnson. Johnson is possibly them most complete of these players as well averaging 21.6 ppg, 4.5 rpg and 5.7 apg. Johnson has a sweet long range shot but can drive the ball equally well and when trapped knows how to find the open man. Miller has not been exactly on top of his game lately but against competition like this it is difficult to know if Mike isn't playing well or he is just focusing on other aspects of his game.
Small Forwards: Rudy Gay vs Josh Smith
Rudy Gay is one of the most athletic big men in the game, capable of shooting over anyone, hitting the long ball and making exciting in game dunks. Josh Smith might be better than Rudy in all of these areas except long range shooting and Josh is far better defensively than Rudy. Josh, a former slam dunk champion, is averaging 16.9 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 3.3 apg, 1.5 spg and 2.9 bpg. He is a fantasy god in other words hitting every statistical catagory. If there is one draw back it is his 3 pt shooting which he loves to take but can't hit. This match up is worth the price of admission as Rudy averages 19.9 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 1.8 apg, 1.4 spg and 0.9 bpg.
Power Forwards: Hakim Warrick vs Marvin Williams
Marvin Williams was the undisputed #2 pick in the 2005 draft who many people thought should be drafted ahead of Marvin Bogut. Atlanta needed a point guard but they went with the smart pick so they passed on Chris Paul and Deron Williams. Oops. Hakim Warrick was in that draft as well but fell hard during draft night from a top 10 pick all the way down to 19 and Memphis. As a starter Hak is averaging 17.2 ppg, 7.7 rpg and hitting 54% of his shots. Marvin is averaging 15.0 ppg, 5.9 rpg and shooting 45.8% from the field. Of course Marvin is still 4 yrs younger than Hakim but the parallels of their careers are still interesting to look at.
Centers: Darko Milicic vs Al Horford
An interesting match between two of the more intriguing big men in the league. Once again Atltanta passed on their need for a PG in the draft and took Memphis' #1 want in Al Horford. That pick has looked a lot smarter than the Marvin Williams pick. Horford isn't a great NBA scoring big but as a rookie he nearly averages a double-double at 9..9 ppg and 9.7 rpg. Darko, a year older than Horford, has struggled since entering the NBA but has shown a lot of promise at the end of the season averaging 10.0 ppg and 8.8 rpg in March. Horford has a lot more speed than Darko and that has been Milicic's defensive Achilles heal.
Benches: Memphis vs Atlanta
Memphis' bench has been the spark plug driving the engine lately. With Kyle Lowry, Javaris Crittenton and Juan Carlos Navarro spearheading the offense and Jason Collins the defense, Memphis' bench has been ramping up the tempo and making it difficult for teams' starters to catch their breaths for long. Atlanta's bench has a 6th man of the year candidate in Josh Childress but little else. Salim Stoudamire is playing better of late but he only averages 5.3 ppg for the season. Former Grizz 10 day contract pickup Jeremy Richardson (he replaced Tarence Kinsey) is trying to stay in the league with his third team this season (Memphis and San Antonio being the others), but so far has not really shown a lot.
Atlanta Hawks Pre-Game Report
Sekou Smith - Atlanta Journal Constitution
Monday, March 31, 2008