Tonight, the Memphis Grizzlies travel to Miami to take on the Heat. Statistically speaking, these are the two hottest teams in the league. The Heat come in riding a 12 game winning streak, and Memphis brings in an 8 game streak of its own. After tonight, one of these streaks will just be nothing but a memory, while the other will continue to be really, really impressive.
Unstoppable Force: During Miami's hot streak, they are averaging just over 109 points per game. (You make think these numbers are skewed a little by their 141 point, double overtime victory against Sacramento, but they also had an 86 point win against Chicago, so it basically evens out). Much like the Grizzlies, they thrive on forcing turnovers, getting out in transition, and getting easy buckets. Unlike the Grizzlies, there is a zero percent chance it ends in a missed layup. If they get the ball in transition, it is going to be a highlight reel dunk. They're currently being carried by LeBron James, who is frighteningly playing the best basketball career, and Dwayne Wade, who is finally healthy and proving he still has gas in the tank. These are two of the most athletically gifted guys in basketball, and their speed, strength, and shooting ability makes them a tough match up for every team in the league. They also managed to find time to do a "Harlem Shake" video. It hasn't gotten a lot of press, so you may have missed it.
Immovable Object: During the 8 game win streak, the Grizzlies are giving up only 86 points per game. Their defense is everything. On the offensive side of the ball, they look to pound it inside to Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol, two high class big men, and with this team, pound is such an appropriate verb. Both Gasol and Randolph posses the ability to break their opponents down over the course of the game with their skilled post moves, and they do a phenomenal job cleaning up the glass. Memphis has made a good living on simply out lasting and out grinding their opponents, as evidenced perfectly in Wednesday's game against Dallas.
Matchups to watch
3 of a Kind Trumps 2 Pair
It's no secret that James and Wade will lead Miami tonight, and that Gasol and Randolph will carry the offensive burden for the Grizzlies. Whichever team can find a third option to score 15+ points tonight will have a huge advantage in winning this game. Chris Bosh, the forgotten member of the Big 3, has struggled to
do anything shoot the ball since the All-Star Break. They'll need him to play big, and if he can't, will turn to Shane Battier or Ray Allen. Mike Conley was 2/13 the last game against Dallas. He'll need to turn that around tonight, and should have an easier time against Mario Chalmers. If Mike still can't get it going, Quincy Pondexter and/or Jerryd Bayless will both need to score in double digits to help the Grizzlies get a victory.
With two teams that feast so frequently on turnovers and transition buckets, The Grizzlies will have to play smart and hold on to the basketball. I'd like to think Lionel showed the guys the scene from Remember the Titans where Denzel tells Petey to pick up his football and run every single foot that is in a mile. The more the Grizzlies turn the ball over, the more the Heat will score easy buckets, the crowd will get more into the game, and LeBron James will throw down crazy dunks that cause ESPN and all the talking heads to speculate about whether he'll ever compete in the dunk contest. Let us avoid these things.
All four of the big names in this game (James, Wade, Randolph, Gasol) cause match-up nightmares. The Grizzlies have Tony Allen to help limit Wade, but have no one to answer for what James may do. On the opposite side, Miami has no one on their roster capable of stopping Memphis' bigs. All four players are poised for big games, and if the Grizzlies are going to win, we'll need our 1-2 punch to do more damage than theirs.
So, what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object? It's a question that philosophers have been posing for centuries, and one I'll respectfully decline to answer. What I do know is this, both of these teams are two of the best in the league, and a loss for either one isn't anything to be ashamed about. One win streak will continue, and another will have to start again tomorrow. The only thing I know for certain is that this should be a really exciting basketball game, and if I may be allowed to steal a line from one of the greatest minds of our generation or any other, "Get your popcorn ready, it's gonna be a show."