Grizzlies-Wizards preview: It ain't Hogwarts, but it'll do

USA TODAY Sports

The Grizzlies go on the road looking to take the Wizards to school. Will the Grizzlies take care of business against the East's 5th-ranked team?

2013/2014 NBA Season
vs
33-25 (15-11 road)
Won 1
31-28 (15-14 home)
Won 6
February 21st, 2014
Verizon Center, Washington, DC
6:00 PM CST
Fox SportsSouth/ 92.9 FM ESPN
Possible Starters
Mike Conley PG John Wall
Courtney Lee SG Bradley Beal
Tayshaun Prince SF Trevor Ariza
Zach Randolph PF Trevor Booker
Marc Gasol C Marcin Gortat
2013/14 Advanced Stats
92.2 (30th) Pace 95.9 (19th)
102.6 (T-18th) OEff 102.5 (T-20th)
102.5 (T-12th) DEff 102.1 (9th)
Injury Report

Wizards - Kevin Seraphin (Questionable, Knee)

Grizzlies- Quincy Pondexter (Out, Foot)

Opponent's Blog: Bullets Forever

Key Matchups

Mike Conley vs. John Wall Conley struggled through his first 5 games back from injury - 12 PPG on 30% from the field, 20% from 3 - and only truly looked like his normal self in the second half of the Grizzlies' win over Cleveland. His normal self, though, is pretty freakin' good - 22 points, 7 assists, 2 steals, and a block. John Wall was statistically outplayed by Nick Calathes the last time these 2 teams matched up. It is unlikely the Grizzlies will get so lucky again, but this duel between top-flight point guards should be fun to watch.

Zach Randolph vs. Trevor Booker This is a matchup the Grizzlies will be looking to win by a big margin. Z-Bo has height, weight and experience on Booker. Booker is a solid, efficient player but has been thrust into a starting role by injuries and, on paper, this should lead to a good night from the Grizzlies' double-double king.

Bradley Beal vs. Courtney Lee & Tony Allen Bradley Beal scored 37 points on 24 shots against the Grizzlies in their last meeting. 37. He was an assassin that night, and kept them in the game to the final buzzer. Lee defended him relatively well in that first matchup, but Beal hit shot after shot anyway. Let's not forget the Grizzlies' well-known tendency to leave 3 point shooters wide open at times. Hopefully the duo of Allen & Lee can combine to harass Beal for 48 minutes and make him uncomfortable as a shooter.

Ariza's Amazin'

Trevor Ariza is having a career season, shooting a career-high 42.2% from 3, his best field goal percentage in 6 years (45.6%), and generally doing everything well (6.4 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.9 steals per game). He also is coming off a 40 point game against the 76ers in which he shot 8-12 from 3. Ariza, like Wall & Beal, can go off for big numbers any given night. It makes the Wizards a dangerous team against anyone.

Let It Fly - Rejuvenated

Mike Miller, who stumbled into the All-Star break shooting around 30% from 3 in the 2 months preceding it, has come out balling since. He scored in double digits in 4 of his first 5 games after the break, shooting 58% (14-24) from 3 and looking fresher than he has since the beginning of the season. A few days off seemed to do him some good. He played just 6 minutes against the Cavs, so should be fresh and ready to go against the Wizards.

Joe's neat-o fact-o-the-day

In realizing that the Wizards are currently the East's 5 seed, I also realized that with their current record, the Grizzlies would be 3rd in the Eastern conference, trailing only Miami and Indiana. If we look at that further:

Wins Losses Winning %
vs. West 19 19 .500
vs. East 14 6 .700
Total 33 25 .569

If you then swap the numbers to distribute those winning %'s as if the Grizzlies played the majority of their games vs. the East (with rounding):

Wins Losses Winning %
vs. East 27 11 .711
vs. West 10 10 .500
Total 37 21 .638

That would put them in 3rd place, and 4.5 games ahead of Chicago and Toronto at that. Instead, the Grizzlies are 1.5 games out of the 8th spot in the West. There's no use crying over spilt milk - they have to win in the situation they're in - but it again points out just how tough the West is this year.

The Bottom Line

The Grizzlies are in must-win mode for the remainder of the season - the team has said that, and we as fans realize that. Making the playoffs will be a win for this team, and games like tonight's are ones they need to pull out. That said, the Wizards have 3 players - Ariza, Wall, & Beal - who can go off for 35-40 on any given night, and are a dangerous, playoff-bound team. The Grizzlies' strong road and Eastern conference records combined with the Wizards mediocre home record makes me believe the Grizzlies should win this game. If they can shut down all 3 of those scorers, it could be a big margin, but I expect 1 of them to go off and require a patented Grizzlies grit-it-out performance to pull out the win.

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