Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Memphis vs New Jersey - 3.5.08

Memphis has been described as giving away the most for the least this season in their trade of Pau Gasol to the Lakers. The Grizzlies will be playing their second game in a row after battling in Chicago on Tuesday night. This is a rare moment in the Grizzlies season when they are playing back to back games against teams they have already beaten once this season. In fact it may be the only time this season. The Grizzlies are a young team which should help them recover quickly and a couple of good performances could turn the team's perception of themselves around pretty quickly.

New Jersey may have improved themselves more than any team unloading a superstar this season. That won't help them this week as the Nets have possibly the worst road trip in modern basketball history. New Jersey plays all 5 of the teams in the Southwest division in a row over a seven day period. The Nets have to be looking at this game as the only realistic shot at a victory but they are playing the 2nd game of a back to back as well having played the Spurs the night before. New Jersey is holding on the 8th spot in the Eastern Conference just a single game ahead of the Atlanta Hawks so this makes the Grizzlies game very important.

Point Guards: Mike Conley vs Devin Harris
Devin Harris had a nice first game for New Jersey but has to feel somewhat shaken by his trade from Dallas to New Jersey. Going from starting for one of the best teams in the league to a rebuilding one takes some adjustment mentally but Harris is quick and smart. It won't take him long to adjust. Mike Conley is quick and intelligent as well but has far less experience than Harris. Harris is known as one of the better defensive PG's in the league and that will put more pressure on Conley to run the offense. This should be a great battle one day but Conley isn't quite up to the challenge yet.
Advantage: New Jersey

Shooting Guards: Mike Miller vs Vince Carter

Miller is back at practice and should be back in the lineup for this game. His presence gives the Grizzlies a far different look and a far better shooting attack. The last time these teams met Vince Carter went for 32 points and nearly pulled the game out. That was against Juan Carlos Navarro when the rookie was starting for the first time. He won't find it quite so easy against a rested Mike Miller and without the fine passing of Jason Kidd. Carter isn't as young as he used to be and he can't take over the entire game like he used to do but he can dominate in spurts. Miller will be hard pressed to control VC when he wants to score.
Advantage: New Jersey

Small Forwards: Rudy Gay vs Richard Jefferson

Rudy Gay played the four against New Jersey in the first match and was still a bit insecure about his role on the team with Miller and Gasol. That is no longer the problem as Rudy is confident over his ability to play at this level and he knows he is the main man on the team. Richard Jefferson has been on the brink of stardom for a few years now and is obviously the player that the new Nets will be built around. Jefferson is a more complete player than Rudy in that he passes the ball and scores more but he also is a weaker rebounder. Where Jefferson really distinguishes himself is on defense. That ability to guard the other team's best offensive weapon while still scoring himself is a level of performance Rudy hasn't reached yet. Of course Rudy is only 21 and in his 2nd season while Jefferson is 27 and in his 7 NBA season.
Advantage: New Jersey

Power Forwards: Hakim Warrick vs Nenad Kristic

An interesting battle of softer bigs. Neither Warrick nor Kristic can be described as physical players. An interesting battle of softer bigs. Neither Warrick nor Kristic can be described as physical players. Kristic was coming into his own last year before a devastating knee injury cost him the season. He has struggled in his return. Warrick has started to earn some respect around the league, frequently getting double teamed on the offensive end. This has caused Warrick's scoring to slip a little. This also puts more pressure on Warrick's poor passing game. Once Hakim starts to realize how to incorporate his teammates more after the ball is in his hand then the flow will return to Memphis' offense. This however is a good matchup for Warrick who is too quick for Kristic.
Advantage: Memphis

Centers: Darko Milicic vs Josh Boone

Josh Boone played 61 games as a rookie but his season was essentially lost after missing all of training camp and the first quarter of the season with shoulder surgery. A former teammate of Rudy Gay, Boone is the bruiser in the paint for New Jersey who has averaged 8 ppg basically on put backs and dunks. He is hitting 53% of his field goal attempts but shooting only 41.1% from the line and has yet to hit a 3 pt shot. His range is about the circumference of the rim. Darco is back to playing well after a lull following the Gasol trade. At 22, Darko is starting to find some consistency in what is his first season starting in the league. The 21 pt, 7 rebound game against Chicago was very promising.
Advantage: Memphis

Benches: Memphis vs New Jersey

For once the bench isn't a severe negative for Memphis. Kyle Lowry, Juan Carlos Navarro and Javaris Crittenton are showing a lot of energy and promise in the backcourt where New Jersey is suffering with Marcus Williams and Darrell Armstrong. The front court should be bolstered by Jason Collins who spent his entire career in New Jersey prior to the trade in late January for Stro. Normally a player returning to his former team is dangerous but Stro has never shown enough motivation to be interested in the game to be concerned about paybacks. Sean Williams however is a frightening potential player. When his game is on he can dominate the paint forcing teams to the perimeter. He is easily excited and can get into foul trouble however.
Advantage: New Jersey

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