Friday, April 11, 2008

Memphis at Miami - 4.11.08

Memphis is winning at a clip their fans haven't seen since this time last season. The big difference is that at this point last season Memphis had already sewn up the worst record in the league. This year they are in the middle of the pack for a legitimate chance in the lottery. Not exactly the best time for a team to start winning if strategy is their prime concern. Which leads one to only one conclusion. They are trying to win because they believe that is what they are supposed to do. What a novel attitude for a team in their position.

Miami has taken a more strategic view of this season. Shelving Dwayne Wade to rehab his injuries for next season, allowing Shawn Marion to rest the remainder of the season after an apparently painful slip in the shower and allowing their coach to scout college players at the NCAA tournament instead of actually coaching games is not what you would call a competitive attitude toward winning games. Throw in injuries to former Grizzlies Alexander Johnson and Jason Williams plus Udonis Haslem has made Miami's starting lineup a better trivia question than an NBA team. Seriously, can anyone name thier starting 5?

Point Guards: Mike Conley vs Chris Quinn
Mike Conley has played three really nice games in the last six. That is what happens with rookies and especially with rookie PGs. One night he is able to use his speed to get to the rim and really put defenses on their heals opening up jumpers for his teammates. The next night he appears to be sluggish and unsure of what to do with the ball. Chris Quinn has struggled coming off the bench but the 2nd yr guard out of Notre Dame has been much more effective as a starter. Quinn is a better shooter but will be pressed defensively with Conley's speed. With no true shot blocker behind him Quinn won't be able to get a lot of support either.
Advantage: Memphis

Shooting Guards: Mike Miller vs Daequan Cook

Mike Miller was struggling before erupting at Minnesota for a season high 34 points with 8 three pointers. Unfortunately his cold slump returned against Phoenix making it 9 games out of 10 with Miller not reaching 20 pts and 4 out of 6 games that he failed to reach double figures. Something is obviously not right with Mike right now. DeQuan Cook, a teammate of Mike Conley at Ohio St, is not afraid to shoot the ball despite his low shooting percentage (37.1% from the field and 32.1% from the arc). Rookie gunners routinely struggle with their shot in the NBA but against Miller he may have better looks than he is used to getting. It shouldn't help that much however.
Advantage: Memphis

Small Forwards: Rudy Gay vs Ricky Davis

If their is a bigger nemisis for the Grizzlies than Ricky Davis I don't know who he is. Ricky Davis has made a career of beating the Grizzlies with last second shots including a streak of three straight game winning shots at one point. It may not be a coincidence that this streak ended when Rudy Gay came to town. Since Rudy's arrival Davis has not been nearly as effective. Rudy, who is having a break out season and is in competition for the Most Improved Player award, has been red hot of late and especially effective during the 4th quarter. That is a trait the Grizzlies have been notoriously missing since their arrival in Memphis.
Advantage: Memphis

Power Forwards: Hakim Warrick vs Earl Barron

Hakim has started to struggle of late after an impressive run after the trade of Pau Gasol. In his last 10 games Warrick is averaging 16.4 ppg but only 4.5 rpg. That isn't good enough. Warrick has a big advantage against Barron being able to draw him away from the basket offensively but will struggle with Barron's size on the glass. The former Tiger center is starting simply because Miami has no one else to play right now. The 3rd yr pro is playing only 19 mpg and scoring only 6.4 ppg and grabbing 4.2 rpg, but is playing far better since being inserted into the starting lineup.
Advantage: Memphis

Centers: Darko Milicic vs Mark Blount

Darko has been an enigma wrapped in a quandry this season. Averaging only 24 mpg this season despite starting 63 games Milicic has excelled against bigger, slower centers but struggled mightily against Centers capable of operating away from the basket. Blount is capable of scoring away from the basket. When motivated Blount is a very capable center but he is rarely motivated which works to Darko's advantage. Not enough however to win the individual battle.
Advantage: Miami

Benches: Memphis vs Miami
If I thought figuring out who was starting for Miami you can imagine the difficulty in discovering who is really contributing off of their bench. Marcus Banks, the former Grizzlies draft pick, is on his 4th team in his 5th NBA season. Judging from performance (9.5 ppg on 51.2% shooting and 3.0 apg in only 21.6 mpg) you might believe he has finally found a home. The rumors that Coach Riley is most interested in Derick Rose in the draft may mean that is a bit too optomistic. Kasib Powell, Stephane Lasme and Joel Anthony contribute but JWill's return may be the best news for the Heat. Memphis has probably lost Javaris Crittenton for the rest of the year with his sprained wrist but Kyle Lowry, Juan Carlos Navarro and Jason Collins are still contributing and offering some hope for next year.
Advantage: Memphis

Relevant blogs:
Crazy from the Heat
Ira Winderman

Other previews:
USA Today
The Sports Network
Commercial Appeal
Grizzlies Message Boards

BallHype: hype it up!

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