Tonight, unstoppable force meets immovable object as the Grizzlies take on the undefeated (6–0) New York Knicks at FedEx Forum. The Grizzlies are coming off two straight wins by double digits over the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Miami Heat — last year’s NBA finalists, if you’re playing along at home. The Knicks beat the San Antonio Spurs last night 104–102 in San Antonio, so tonight they’ll be on the second game of a back to back. Hopefully the Grizzlies can use that to their advantage.
Here are some things to watch for tonight that will give the Grizzlies the edge.
Keys to the Game
Matchups — The Knicks have been playing Carmelo Anthony at the 4 for a lot of this season, and they’ve been having a lot of success with it. They’re coming into tonight’s game with an ORtg of 113.5, which is good for first in the league, and on defense they’re second, with 98.5. The Grizzlies have gotten where they’ve gotten so far this season by putting guys on the floor that are a terribile matchup for the other team — size when it’s needed, smallball when that’s needed. It’ll be intersting to see if Lionel Hollins can get the right guys on the floor at the right time to make sure the Grizzlies come away from tonight handing the Knicks their first loss.
Who Does Tony Allen Guard? — The Knicks are loaded with shooters — Steve Novak and JR Smith are devastating, but other guys can shoot the three as well. They’re always going to have somebody on the court that can knock down a three. Assuming Rudy Gay guards Carmelo Anthony, that means Tony Allen’s got to turn somebody’s water off. If the Grizzlies can keep the Knicks from getting their usual open looks for three, they’ll be one step ahead of the game defensively. Of course, if Wayne Ellington knocks down 7 threes, it may not be as important. Here’s looking at you, Wayne.
The Zoo Crew — In just about every Grizzlies win this season, the starters have come out a little slow and the bench has stepped in and kept the onslaught going. This team is clearly special: they play hard, they’re good, and they’re playing for each other. It used to be that the Grizzlies’ starters would build a huge lead, and then the bench would come in and the game would quickly be tied, and then the starters would have to come back in. That’s not the case anymore, with the bench — led by Jerryd Bayless, Quincy Pondexter, Wayne Ellington, and Marreese Speights — actually building leads. It’s something that’s been foreign to Grizz fans for the last few years, and it feels good. If they can come in tonight and play the way they’ve been playing thus far, the minutes when both teams’ starters are sitting should be tilted pretty heavily in the Grizzlies’ favor.
Tonight's game is going to be something special, and it's going to be nationally televised on ESPN at 8:30 Central. With any luck at all, the Forum will be sold out and rockin'. It's a good time to be a Grizzlies fan.