Saturday, March 8, 2008

Memphis vs Boston - 3.8.08

Memphis enters this game with a small winning streak. Well most people don't call one win a winning streak but fans in Memphis take what they can get. Memphis hasn't won two games in a row since sweeping Washington and New Jersey back in November. The interesting thought is that Memphis did beat New Jersey on Wednesday. Could there be a trend here? Mike Miller's return makes Memphis a much more efficient and dangerous offensive team. His long range shooting combined with Rudy Gay opens up defenses that allow Hakim Warrick and Darko Milicic to work inside. Memphis' point guards have been hot and cold lately with Lowry providing the heat. The first time these two teams met, Memphis gave Boston everything they could handle before finally falling 100-96.

Boston comes to Memphis after destroying the Chicago Bulls last night with the best record in the NBA, on a 7-game winning streak (you know, one of those "real" winning streaks) and the first team to have secured a postseason berth after defeating the team everyone expects them to meet in the Eastern Conference Finals, when they beat the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday night. They also acquired a player that many expect to help put them over the top in the playoffs when they signed the recently waived Sam Cassell. Cassell has yet to actually suit up for Boston, but his addition could propel the Celtics all the way to a championship. The Big Three of Garnett, Pierce and Allen have lived up to expectations this year and are poised to make the citizens of Beantown forget the disappointment of last season.

Point Guards: Mike Conley vs Rajon Rondo
Rookie Mike Conley comes into this game having struggled mightily the past 4 games, as noted by Graham Kendrick on his blog. While both Conley and Rondo lead their respective teams in assists per game, neither is looking to challenge Nash, Paul and Kidd for the league leaders with both averaging around 5 assists per game. There are a lot of similarities in these young point guards as they are both lightning quick playmakers with questionable outside shots. The key difference is that Rondo is in his 2nd year while Conley is hitting the dreaded "rookie wall".
Advantage: Boston

Shooting Guards: Mike Miller vs Ray Allen
Mike Miller's return spurred the Grizzlies to a victory over the New Jersey Nets Wednesday night, leading The Blowtorch to proclaim him the MVP....of the entire league. While I make a mental note to party with those guys more often, I think they have hit on something that Grizzlies fans have known all season. As Mike Miller goes, so go the Grizzlies. After all, they are still winless when he scores less than 17 points in a game. Ray Allen has provided the calm, steady hand to balance out the fiery emotion of KG all season. He has missed a few games due to injury, but has appeared rejuvenated after the last few up-and-down seasons spent in Seattle. And just in case anyone has forgotten, Jesus Shuttlesworth can still light it up with the best of them when called upon.
Advantage: Boston

Small Forwards: Rudy Gay vs Paul Pierce
Rudy Gay, the future of the franchise, has been playing like a dying star, rather than a rising star as he prepares to become the first player not named Pau Gasol to lead the Grizzlies in scoring for the season. After scoring a career high 36 points against Phoenix, Rudy has put up totals of 11, 20, 21 and 13 on .363 FG% and .292 3PT% in the last four games. Perhaps the combination of the grind of the NBA's regular season and the pressure of being "The Man" is affecting him as he has played 42+ minutes in 4 of the last 5 games. Paul Pierce, on the other hand, is used to the grind, the pressure and carrying an exceptional load. He has maintained all his numbers across the board from last season's disaster except for his scoring, now that he has some actual help on that end.
Advantage: Boston

Power Forwards: Hakim Warrick vs Kevin Garnett
You could say that Hakim Warrick has enjoyed his newfound role in the starting lineup since the Gasol trade. After all, he's averaged 18 ppg and 9 rpg in the last 11 games as a starter. He has even been contributing in other areas, having tallied 9 assists, 9 steals and 5 blocks over that same span. That's good news for fans who have thought of Hak as nothing more than a poor man's Zach Randolph or Eddy Curry over the past few seasons. Unfortunately for him, he's facing Kevin Garnett, who has made a career out of the 20/10/5 line nearly every night out. His numbers are down slightly from that this season as he has deferred to his teammates now that he is surrounded by talent, but the Big Ticket is still as dangerous as they come.
Advantage: Boston

Centers: Darko Milicic vs Kendrick Perkins
After struggling through the month of February, Darko appears to be back on track once again. In his last 5 games (including a 2 point performance against the Rockets), he is averaging 13 ppg and 8.8 rpg on .604 FG%. He still struggles with foul problems occasionally, but has managed to play 30+ mpg in the last 3 outings. Kendrick Perkins is proving the doubters wrong, as he is not a weak link for the Celtics to this point. He has played extremely well in his last 4 games, averaging 13.5 ppg, 13 rpg and 3.5 bpg on .645 FG%. In their first meeting, these two players battled to a virtual draw. It should be interesting to see if anything has changed since then.
Advantage: Memphis

Benches: Memphis vs Boston
The Grizzlies actually have a bench now, with the return of Mike Miller into the starting lineup. Kyle Lowry has been playing out of his mind recently, gaining more and more playing time as Conley continues to struggle. Juan Carlos Navarro continues to battle with refs on a nightly basis as he impresses fans and foes alike with the variety of his offensive game. Javaris Crittenton has shown flashes of the potential that made him a 1st round selection. Jason Collins continues to provide tough defense as he sets some of the most devastating picks in the league. Of course, some of the guys on the Celtics bench might start for the Grizzlies, with Eddie House, James Posey and Tony Allen logging most of the minutes off the pine for Boston. The Celtics did suffer one setback, as they found out that center Scot Pollard will likely be lost for the remainder of the season due to a partially torn tendon in his left ankle.
Advantage: Boston

Enemy Blogs:
Green Bandwagon
Celtics 17
Red's Army
Loy's Place
The Shamrock Headband
Celtics 24/7

BallHype: hype it up!

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