Friday, March 14, 2008

Memphis at Golden State - 3.15.08

Golden State of Mind wanted our thoughts on the Grizzlies in the post-Gasol era and, as always, we were more than happy to offer them up. Go check out that Q&A for some further insight and analysis.

Memphis is a ship without a rudder, captain or destination at the moment. Many fans simply want this disastrous season to be over with so that they can focus on the hope that the offseason brings to every team looking to rebuild. The Grizzlies are in the midst of a 16 game road losing streak - their longest since they moved from Vancouver.

Golden State has won five straight against the Grizzlies and are on a 4-game home winning streak. They are maintaining their tenuous grasp on the 8th playoff spot, leading the Denver Nuggets by 2 games at the moment. They will need to take advantage of their next three games (Grizzlies, Kings, Clippers), if they plan on making any noise this postseason.

Point Guards: Mike Conley vs Baron Davis
BD has been on fire in the month of March, averaging 27.4 ppg, 7.6 apg, 4.6 rpg, 1.4 spg on .527 FG% in the last 7 games. He's even chipped in 4 blocks in the last 3 games. Mike Conley, on the other hand, has been facing the typical struggles that all rookie point guards deal with. The scary thing is, his stats are almost exactly what I predicted they would be in the preseason. Of course, all the rest of them were way off, but I'm going to bask in the glow of being right for a little while.
Advantage: Golden State

Shooting Guards: Mike Miller vs Monta Ellis
Monta Ellis has responded to March in much the same way as his backcourt mate. Through 7 games he is averaging 23.1 ppg, 7 rpg, 4.4 apg, 1.9 spg on .550 FG%. This smallish SG (only 6'3") is lightning quick and has a great mid-range game to go with his prolific slashing ability. In other words, he's going to shred the Grizzlies' defense once again. Mike Miller has put up less than spectacular numbers in the last three games (all blowouts) and the fact hasn't changed that as #33 goes, so go the Grizzlies. He'll have to put forth a superhuman effort for them to even be competitive in this one.
Advantage: Golden State

Small Forwards: Rudy Gay vs Stephen Jackson
Captain Jack had been playing well prior to Thursday's loss to Phoenix when his shot seemed to leave him. If his perimeter game picks back up, Rudy could be in for a long night on defense. There is some concern that Rudy Gay is less than 100%, given that the Commercial Appeal reported that he pulled his left hamstring against the Suns, which he feels limited his effectiveness against Denver. If that injury is still bothering him, this matchup could get ugly very quickly.
Advantage: Memphis

Power Forwards: Hakim Warrick vs Mickael Pietrus
Now, on most teams Pietrus would be as much of a PF as Shaq is a SG. But by the Bay, anyone can play anywhere, which is why he gets the start here as far as we can ascertain. Pietrus has responded well to the increase in playing time over the last few weeks, which I find interesting given that Nellie didn't want to play him at all early in the season. Of course, Nellie is known for making unusual decisions and leaving people guessing. Hak will do what Hak does: score and rebound. He'll definitely struggle to defend Pietrus though.
Advantage: Golden State

Centers: Darko Milicic vs Andris Biedrins
Biedrins is a classic high-energy player, which is the classic example of what Darko has trouble with. In other words, expect Biedrins to get the best of him in blocks and rebounds, even if he doesn't score much. Darko's main role should be to block out any and everyone he can to prevent the Warriors from collecting easy second chance points.
Advantage: Golden State

Benches: Memphis vs Golden State
Al Harrington has been sent back to the bench (again, for reasons only Don Nelson knows), giving the Warriors another weapon off the bench as he joins Kelenna Azubuike, Brandan Wright and C.J. Watson as the primary scoring threats in reserve. The Grizzlies still don't have much coming off the bench for them, as they counter with Kyle Lowry, Juan Carlos Navarro, Brian Cardinal and Jason Collins.
Advantage: Golden State

Relevant blogs/websites:
Golden State of Mind
The City
Ball Don't Lie - Warriors talk about their first cars
Commercial Appeal - Grizz seek talent like (Monta) Ellis
Tom Ziller (The Fanhouse) - Will Monta Ellis Leave Baron's Shadow?

BallHype: hype it up!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Links: Evaluation, Nuggets Blogs, Blogger Ban

Empty the Bench has taken on the task of evaluating the teams that won't be making the postseason this year (a thankless job, if ever there was one). Yesterday, they tackled the Memphis Grizzlies. ETB didn't mince words or pull any punches, which is just the way we like our analysis: harsh and accurate. It is a great read that I urge all of you to take a look at.

Both Nugg Doctor and Fire George Karl are pleased with last night's win, if somewhat unimpressed with the opponent. Hard to blame them on either count.

I'm sure all of you bloggers out there have already heard about the Dallas Mavericks imposing a Blogger Ban on their locker room. We have read everyone else's responses to this point (Hardwood Paroxysm, TrueHoop, et al) and agree with much of what has been said. Of course, as it so happens, we here at 3SoB have been politely asked to refrain from contacting anyone within the Grizzlies organization after our initial sitdown with Chris Wallace, even as we continue to provide some of the best coverage of the team outside of the lone newspaper in town. We have abided by that, even as other teams give blogs more access that we have ever dreamed of requesting. I have no problem with teams protecting themselves from media outlets that would seek to release damaging information (true, false or otherwise) acquired from "insider access". In fact, I wholeheartedly support it. However, as has been pointed out, writers from the "established media" should be held to the same standards that they accuse bloggers of not reaching. After all, if I had a nickel for every Sam Smith or Peter Vescey rumor that never panned out, I could afford to do nothing but write this blog every day. The media landscape is changing and it is time for "media targets" to not only realize it, but to accept it and adapt accordingly.

Blog of the day: Pete Pranica (Grizz Blogs)

BallHype: hype it up!

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Denver Recap 3.12.08

Memphis started out playing like a team that wanted to make a statement. The statement ended up being that the Grizzlies are a terrible team.

After opening the game 14-2 Memphis couldn't hold the lead until the end of the quarter, being outscored 8-21 the rest of the way to trail 23-22. Memphis' cold streak continued into the second quarter when the team could only score 14 points. That means that after the hot start the Grizzlies 22 points the rest of the half. Denver scored 23 pts in each of the first two quarters.

When the Grizzlies finally refound some offense the game was over as Denver scored 38 pts in the third quarter to leave the fourth quarter for the scrubs. There were two positives to take from this game. First our scrubs were better than Denver's as we outscored the Nuggets 28-24 in the final quarter.

Second, when on vacation in Colorado and people at the sports bar find out you are from Memphis and cheer for the Grizzlies they will buy you a lot of drinks in sympathy. Too bad I only drink sodas! Now I will be up all night thinking about how embarrassed I was at the bar.

If you look hard enough there were some bright spots. Hakim Warrick had three assists. Juan Carlos Navarro scored 16 points off the bench. Mike Miller, Javaris Crittenton and Hak hit all of their free throws.

The negatives were Mike Miller leading the team in rebounding with Navarro second against the big front line of Denver (Camby, Kenyon Martin and Carmello). Rudy played only 18 minutes and failed to reach double figures for the first time in a long while. The team shot 35% from the floor, 20% from the arc and below 70% from the line and their offense was a bright spot. I lost count at 10 but there were a lot of dunks by Denver last night. You probably won't see them on ESPN but there were a lot. Darko only played 9 minutes but I didn't see him get hurt. In the recap they mentioned he hurt his foot.

All in all another pathetic effort and a unfortunate outcome. Denver has been promoting that the team only has 19 games left in the regular season and they are going to give each one of them a playoff effort. It would be nice to see that type of effort from the Grizzlies in one of their remaining 18 games.

BallHype: hype it up!

Memphis at Denver - 3.12.08

Memphis was absolutely destroyed for the second outing in a row, as the Phoenix Suns ran them into the ground for a most embarassing loss. The Grizzlies showed all the defensive intensity of a three-toed sloth for the second time in as many games and the run-n-gun Suns didn't display any mercy in racing out to a huge lead and eventual win.

Denver comes off a tough loss against the defending champs Monday night. The Nuggets are currently 2.5 games out of the playoff picture, despite the presence of a former MVP, the reigning Defensive POY and an All-Star by the name of Melo on their roster. That shows you how tough the West truly is this year. They will need to close that gap if Coach George Karl expects to retain his job without a fight this offseason.

Point Guards: Mike Conley vs Anthony Carter
Anthony Carter was signed as a stop-gap measure backup who was thrust into the starting lineup following Chucky Atkins' string of ailments this season. He has been decent in that role, even as his minutes fluctuate from game to game. Conley bounced back after a succession of disappointing games to post some solid numbers against Phoenix (10 pts, 5 reb, 4 ast) and he should see significant playing time in this one. Carter's veteran savvy should outweigh Conley's youthful exuberance.

Advantage: Denver

Shooting Guards: Mike Miller vs Allen Iverson
Allen Iverson paced the Nuggets with 28 points against the Spurs, despite playing with a broken finger on his shooting hand. That's right Grizz fans, AI plays with a broken finger and we couldn't even get one former player out on the floor until "his lift" returned. Mike Miller played poorly against the Suns at the SF spot, but he should be able to take the smaller Iverson down to the post and get a few easy baskets. Of course, the diminutive guard's lightning-quick first step will cause #33 all kinds of problems on the other end, so expect a big night for the Nuggets' leading scorer.

Advantage: Denver

Small Forwards: Rudy Gay vs Carmelo Anthony
The marquee matchup for this game (and quite frankly, probably the only truly interesting part of the game as long as the Grizzlies continue to play like it is still the preseason). Rudy was the lone Grizzly to post good numbers against Phoenix, so hopefully that will carry over to this game. Melo has played well since the All-Star break, even as his team struggles to get over the hump and back into the postseason picture, picking up his rebounding numbers noticeably. I expect Melo to get significant help in defending Rudy, while Rudy will be left on an island most of the time.

Advantage: Denver

Power Forwards: Hakim Warrick vs Kenyon Martin
Kenyon Martin has been in the news for the wrong reasons the past few days. It would seem that there have been some questions about him receiving preferential treatment by the local police despite behavior and driving that didn't deserve it. On the court Martin has been inconsistent recently, leaving George Karl to wonder just which player will show up from one night to the next. Warrick, on the other hand, has been fairly steady since being inserted into the starting lineup, which made his move back to the bench last night somewhat surprising. Martin's hustle and intensity could intimidate Hak and throw him off his game, but if he utilizes his exceptional mid-range game, he'll draw Martin away from the basket and away from his comfort zone.

Advantage: Memphis

Centers: Darko Milicic vs Marcus Camby
Marcus Camby's scoring might be down this season (from 11.2 ppg last year to 9.2 ppg this year), but he's certainly not resting on the laurels of his DPOY award, as his rebounding is up 2.2 rpg (13.9 rpg - 2nd in the NBA) and his blocks are up 0.5 bpg (3.8 bpg - 1st in the NBA) from last year. Darko is coming off a poor shooting (6/15 FG) and rebounding (4 reb) night, which isn't good if you caught a look at Camby's stats above. To further complicate matters, when Camby does shoot, he has no problem stepping out to 18 feet, which will pull Milicic away from the basket on defense, leaving him in poor rebounding position. I expect Camby to double Darko in rebounds and blocks in this one.

Advantage: Denver

Benches: Memphis vs Denver
Denver gets most of their bench scoring from the duo of Linas Kleiza and J.R. Smith, while Eduardo Najera takes care of all the "dirty work". Kleiza was positively on fire earlier this season, but has seen his shooting touch get a little shaky since the onset of a nagging ankle injury last week. Memphis relies on Juan Carlos Navarro for scoring/playmaking, on Kyle Lowry for defensive intensity and a change of pace, and Jason Collins for their own brand of "dirty work". Javaris Crittenton has also seen increased minutes lately, as the coaching staff evaluates the team in preparation for next season.

Advantage: Denver

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Power Rankings 3-10 & 11

Out of the basement by some.  Quotes of the week:
"Any week that includes a win is a positive step for the Grizzlies."
"The Grizz have 20 games left. Prediction: They'll win two."

Power Rankings for 10 & 11 March '08
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Actual NBA SI SteinCoversSagarin CBS FOXHollinger

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