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Preview & GameThread: Orlando Magic at Memphis Grizzlies

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Let's be real here, the Memphis Grizzlies are outliving everyone's expectations. Even if you were the guy preaching a championship season behind Allen Iverson -- or was A.I. the only guy doing that -- you didn't really believe that Memphis would be this hot this season.

Lots of people did, however, think that the Orlando Magic not only had a legitimate shot at leading the East, but winning against the best of the West too.

Those predictions are both looking dead today. The Magic seem to be a team moving backwards: adding Vince Carter hasn't helped anyone, Rashard Lewis looks broken, Dwight Howard's impact on the game has been minimal, and it turns out that Brandon Bass and Marcin Gortat are proving that there is such a thing as too much talent.

Meanwhile our Grizzlies are taking enormous leaps forward. Jamaal Tinsley and Zach Randolph are giving the team leadership nobody expected, Rudy Gay and O.J. Mayo are learning to win in crunch-time, Marc Gasol is making our #2 draft pick Hasheem Thabeet look like a luxury or bonus player (a sort of back-handed complement). The Grizzlies have won 10 in a row in Memphis and look to keep the streak tonight.

Of course it won't be easy. The Magic are still the third best team in the East, and I would maintain that they are still theoretically improved from last season. The guy that I pegged to be the biggest impact acquisition of the whole offseason, Matt Barnes, has somewhat revived the Magic's, well, magical weird-underdog appeal.

The Grizz will have a tough time finding as many points in the paint tonight, because D12 is still a dominant force on the defensive end. If their shooting can stay hot, then the Grizzlies might run away with it. If not, then they might get stretched out and broken down by Orlando's superior skill players.

Both teams have surprised us so far this season, though, so I wouldn't hold any preview too close to my heart.