Game Preview: Memphis Grizzlies vs. Charlotte Bobcats

Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

It's now or never for the Grizzlies. After taking down a stingy Chicago Bulls squad Friday night, they will face the Charlotte Bobcats in a tricky second game of a back to back.

2013/2014 NBA Season
vs
35-26 (18-14 home)
Won 1
29-33 (12-19 road)
Won 2
March 8th, 2014
FedexForum in Memphis, TN
7:00 PM CDT
Fox SportsSouth/ 92.9 FM ESPN
Possible Starters
Mike Conley PG Kemba Walker
Courtney Lee SG Chris Douglas-Roberts
Tayshaun Prince SF Michael Kidd-Gilchrist
Zach Randolph PF Josh McRoberts
Marc Gasol C Al Jefferson
2013/14 Advanced Stats
92.2 (30th) Pace 95.7 (21st)
102.7 (19th) OEff 99.8 (T-24th)
102.5 (11th) DEff 101.4 (7th)

Opponent's Blog: Rufus on Fire

Injury Report: Memphis: Quincy Pondexter - Out (Foot); Charlotte: Gerald Henderson - Out (Calf); Brendan Haywood - Out (Foot); Jeff Taylor - Out (Achilles)

Memphis Grizzlies Tickets

Slow Down Big Al

In the last 20 games, Al Jefferson has averaged 26.6 PPG and 10.7 RPG. Jefferson's usage percentage is sky high this season, and Charlotte's offense runs through him in the post. The Bobcats are the fourth best post-up team in the NBA, averaging 0.91 points per possession according to Synergy. It's impossible to stop Jefferson when he's playing at this level, but he can be limited.

As a matter of fact, the Grizzlies proved Jefferson's offensive output could be stymied last time these two teams met, holding him to a season low 6 points. Marc Gasol, reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year, did a phenomenal job on Jefferson in the last meeting, using slight body bumps and putting a hand in his face on every shot near the rim. Jefferson was forced to alter nearly every shot he took in the post, and Tayshaun Prince even blocked one. If the Grizzlies can replicate their defensive performance against Jefferson from the first meeting with the Bobcats, they will be in great shape to pick up another win and start a much needed winning streak.


Clean Up the Glass on Both Ends

Easy points are always nice, and the best way to get those is through offensive rebounds. The Grizzlies are excellent at cleaning up the offensive glass, and there are few better at it than Zach Randolph. In the first meeting between these two teams, Z-Bo had 4 offensive boards. More of the same the second time around could just be the difference between a win and a loss. On the other end of the floor, the Grizzlies have to make sure they check their man when a shot goes up. Memphis can't afford to give up easy looks to a team they should beat. In the first go-round, the Bobcats had 9 offensive rebounds, and the freakishly athletic Michael Kidd-Gilchrist had 4 of those. MKG has a nonstop motor, but the Grizzlies must do their best to box him out.

Utilize Hand Offs on Offense

The Bobcats, despite what seemingly every uninformed, casual basketball fan on the internet said after LeBron James went for 61 against them earlier this week, are a great defensive team. They have the 7th best defensive rating in the league, and they ooze quickness, length, and athleticism all over the court. However, they have struggled to deal with dribble hand offs this season, as demonstrated by their opponents shooting 47% this season on that play type.

Coach Dave Joerger has shown a propensity to call plays that involve corner actions and frequent dribble hand-offs, and Saturday night against the Bobcats would be an ideal time to call a multitude of those plays. It's one of the few play types that mitigates Charlotte's quickness on defense if run correctly, and a hand off action can also can catch them off guard with misdirection. The Grizzlies love to utilize Mike Conley and Courtney Lee on hand offs with Marc Gasol as the big man screening and handing the ball off. It works well, and it worked against the Bobcats a couple of times the first time these teams met just two weeks ago.


Final Prediction

Memphis will want revenge after losing to the Bobcats recently, and this game must be a win for the Grizzlies if they hope to continue their run to get back into the playoffs. If the Grizzlies can limit Kemba Walker and Al Jefferson, two big asks, a win becomes infinitely more attainable. The offense did not click for the good guys the first time around, but a front court led by Randolph and Gasol is not likely to go 3-13 on post-up opportunities again, and a back court with sharp shooters like Mike Miller and Lee is unlikely to shoot 3-15 on spot-up opportunities again. Despite it being the second night of a back to back for Memphis, look for them to come out rearing their angry head and get out to a quick start, something they don't do often. But, knowing it's crunch time has always had a positive affect on this Grizzlies team before. Why should it be different this time around?

Final Score: Memphis 96, Charlotte 88

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