Saturday, March 1, 2008

Memphis vs Utah - 3.1.08

Memphis marches into the new month with glee after leaving the month of February with the worst record for any month since the team arrived in Memphis. One win vs 11 losses would be upseting to anyone. Throw in the Gasol trade, the Miller and Lowry rumors plus the abreviated situation with Marcus Vinicius (was he ever even in Memphis?) and you have a team needing to put that month behind them. If it is any consolation the team seems to be rebounding from the shocking series of events and could be welcoming back Mike Miller to the lineup. Mike would bring a serious second scoring threat to Rudy Gay and should be able to open the paint for the point guards as well. Over the last few games Memphis has started only two players averaging over 10 ppg for the season. If Miller comes back the Grizzlies will still probably be starting only two players averaging more than 10 ppg this season.

Utah is coming in with a 2.5 game lead over 2nd place Denver for the division lead which is a good thing since they are also 2.5 games out of missing the playoffs after reaching the conference finals last season. Led by 3rd yr PG Deron Williams and finally healthy Carlos Boozer, Utah has been adjusting to the early season trade to acquire Kyle Korver for unhappy Gordan Giricek. Korver gives Utah their first true long-range scoring threat since Jeff Hornacek. Utah is a complete team with all 5 starters contributing to the team's success and everyone understanding their role on the team. How can I say that? Well how about all 5 starters scoring more than 11 ppg and European Championship MVP Andrei Kirilenko scoring the fewest points among the starting 5.

Point Guards: Mike Conley vs Deron Williams
Anyone concerned about Mike Conley not being able to take the beating from the long NBA season better not watch this matchup. Deron Williams is a bruising PG who not only possesses a great outside shot and good passing eye but he is not afraid to use his significant bulk for a PG to get easy shots around the basket. Conley has been getting his strength and confidence back the last few games, especially in regards to his passing. His last 5 games have seen Conley averaging 12 ppg and 6 apg. Not bad for a 20 yr old rookie. Deron Williams is putting up numbers to put him in the same breath as Chris Paul and Steve Nash.
Advantage: Utah

Shooting Guards: Juan Carlos Navarro vs Ronnie Brewer

Earlier this season I belittled former Razorback Ronnie Brewer's production. I'm not making that mistake again. How many SG's are shooting 53.4% from the field? Throw in almost 2 steals a game and 11.7 points and you have a very nice looking player. Juan Carlos Navarro seems to have finally gotten over the rookie wall he was banging into most of the month. Since the all-star break Navarro is hitting 35.7% of his 3 pt attempts while scoring 13.4 ppg and hasn't missed a single free throw. Another interesting statistic is that Navarro actually shoots better from beyond the arc on back to back games (39.5%) than he does with 3 days rest (20%). Lucky for Memphis he is playing back to back in this game. Still Brewer has size, speed and athletic ability over Navarro.
Advantage: Utah

Small Forwards: Rudy Gay vs Andrei Kirilenko

Rudy Gay has been the leader of the team since Pau Gasol was traded. However without Mike Miller to keep defenses honest Rudy has struggled to get any consistency going. He has a big weight on his 21 yr old shoulders and after being harassed by Shane Battier Friday night he can't be excited to see Andrei Kirilenko the next night. AK-47 has not been a big scorer this season (11.5 ppg) but he is a great defender averaging 1.21 spg and 1.72 bpg. That isn't good for Rudy who has had trouble dribbling the ball under pressure.
Advantage: Utah

Power Forwards: Hakim Warrick vs Mehmet Okur

I know Okur is the center and Boozer the PF but there is no way Iavaroni is going to allow Hakim to defend Boozer and I can't move Hakim to Center with a straight face. Okur, a former All-Star, has seen his star dimmed somewhat this season. His rebounds are down to 6.4 rpg and his scoring has dropped to 13.1 ppg. However he seems to have gotten a 2nd win in February raising those numbers to 14.8 ppg and 8.8 rpg while hitting 47% of his FG attempts and 36.5% of his three balls. Hakim has started 8 of the last 10 games and is averaging 16.5 ppg and 7.7 rpg over that span while hitting over 53% of his FG attempts. he needs to focus as much from the FT line as he has hit only 60.5% of his attempts. This boils down to Hak being able to stop Okur's long range bombs. If he gets on him then he can win the matchup.
Advantage: Utah

Centers: Darko Milicic vs Carlos Boozer

Carlos Boozer is probably the best player in the league running the pick and roll. Memphis is one of the worst teams in the league defending it. Not a good combination. What's more both Okur and Boozer are more agile than most Centers and that is the kind of player than gives Darko fits. Not many players in the league can reach double figures in points and rebounds in the league. Boozer averages 21 ppg and 10.8 rpg. Darko averages 6.6 ppg and 5.9 rpg. Need I continue?
Advantage: Utah

Benches: Memphis vs Utah

If Miller is playing some of the matchups change but not even Miller can sway the difference in the benches. Utah has Kyle Korver, a younger Miller in some people's eyes, Matt Harpring (an older Shane Battier) and power player Paul Milsaps. About the only interesting match up from the bench would be Jason vs Jarron. That's the Collins' twins and not some new Halloween slasher flick although it may resemble one by the end of the game.
Advantage: Utah

Relevant blogs:
Basketball John
My Utah Jazz

1 comment:

Jason said...

Both teams are on a back to back. Utah will be looking for blood after losing to New Orleans last night.

This one could get ugly. I hope I'm wrong.