|2013/2014 NBA Season|
|January 31st, 2014|
|Target Center in Minneapolis, MN|
|7:00 PM CDT|
|Fox SportsSouth/ 92.9 FM ESPN|
|Mike Conley||PG||Ricky Rubio
|Courtney Lee||SG||Kevin Martin|
|Tayshaun Prince||SF||Corey Brewer|
|Zach Randolph||PF||Kevin Love|
|Marc Gasol||C||Ronnie Turiaf|
|2013/14 Advanced Stats|
|92.2 (30th)||Pace||99.8 (2nd)|
|102.9 (18th)||OEff||104.9 (9th)|
|103.0 (T-14th)||DEff||102.0 (9th)|
For those of you who know me in real life, or follow me on Twitter (which is the closest thing), you know I'm a big fan of the show Community on NBC. It's got several of the classic elements of a great show. Perfect comedic timing, a "secretly" gay Dean, Allison Brie in a featured role; you know, typical things. Through the first three seasons, it had developed a cult following, and was critically acclaimed as a really funny and high quality show.
Unfortunately, a feud with star Chevy Chase led to the firing of show runner Dan Harmon, and the fourth season suffered greatly. This season, Harmon has returned, and has made his presence known. The show is funny again, charming again, and to be honest, watchable again. It really is streets ahead. Why am I wasting your time with an increasingly long introductory paragraph? To draw parallels of course! Because what Dan Harmon is to Community, Marc Gasol is to the Memphis Grizzlies.
Dan Harmon returned to a show that was a total mess. It had lost one of it's main characters, saw it's already low ratings drop, and was coming off a season finale that was bashed and ridiculed by fans, critics, bloggers, and any other fully functioning being that had human understanding. In the six episodes since he's returned, Harmon and company have made us laugh, cry, laugh, feel, and has seen his show mentioned in the same sentence as other popular Emmy winning comedies.
Sound vaguely familiar? (he wrote, stretching as far as he possibly could) Marc Gasol returned to a team that couldn't get defensive stops, was multiple games out of the playoff picture, and was quite frankly, really hard to watch. In the 8 games since he's returned, however, he's transformed the Grizzlies back into the dark horse title contender we all know and love.
Without Dan Harmon, Community is just another NBC mistake, but with him, it's one of the best shows on television. Without Marc Gasol, the Grizzlies are just an "also ran," but with him, they are a force to be reckoned with. It simply is amazing what can happen when the right person is running the show. Friday night, Gasol and the Grizzlies will look to keep rolling as they take on All-Star Kevin Love and the Minnesota Timberwolves on the road. Both teams are on the uptick, and they both continue to try and battle to position themselves within the top 8 teams of the Western Conference.
Matchup Problems: Kevin Love vs. Zach Randolph
Kevin Love presents a bit of a matchup problem for Randolph on the offensive side of the floor, as Love is a tremendous jump shooter and will spend a large amount of time beyond the arc, while ZBo will prefer to be "in the mud." Love averages 6 three-point attempts per game and, as Channing Frye can attest, he'll see a lot of them as wide-open shots with ZBo guarding him. The difference in playing styles just might lead to the return of folk legend Jon Leuer! (Cross your fingers, kids.)
The Timberwolves rank second in the league in terms of points from their Starting 5, getting over 80 points per game, with only Ricky Rubio averaging below 10 points per game. While they're bench is bottom five in scoring, they still have the ability to hurt you from all over the court. If the Grizzlies are to win this game, they'll need to play good team defense (allowing only 86.6 ppg over their last 5 wins, 88.7 over 9-1 stretch) and get big scoring nights out of their stalwarts (Conley, Randolph, Gasol) as well as solid contributions from Courtney Lee, James Johnson, and Tayshaun Prince.
Minnesota should again be without starting center and resident behemoth Nikola Pekovic, which means that Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph, and the other Grizzlies bigs should be ready to capitalize on the advantage they'll have in the paint. Ronny Turiaf and rookie Gorgui Dieng will see the majority of the minutes at center, and should both be receiving stretch limousines sent to their doors to make sure they arrive safely to the arena. No disrespect intended to either player, but the Grizzlies bigs clearly have the advantage here, and they should definitely use it.
This is the first game in the second set of back-to-backs the Grizzlies have had this week, and they are surely weary from the road and ready to be back in Memphis. They'll need to come out focused and furious Friday night, ready to take care of business against a team following in their footsteps in the ascent up the Western Conference standings. It's not going to be easy, and it's a bit of a matchup nightmare in places, but coach Dave Joerger must rally his troops and deliver a simple message: "Finish your vegetables and you can have dessert. We've got Milwaukee at home tomorrow."
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