The Grizzlies are coming into this game after a big win, finishing 93-84 over the Knicks. In reality, the final score doesn't reflect how much of a blowout it actually was. Memphis lead by as many as 25 points, and with three-and-a-half minutes to go, emptied their bench and let their reserves spin. The Memphis Grizzlies are expected to be a playoff team this year, but are currently 2 games under .500. Tonight presents a fine opportunity to edge closer to that goal.
New Orleans is coming into a back-to-back against lossing to the Minnesota TImberwolves. Coming into the season, many thought that the Hornets would be one of the worst teams after trading their superstar Chris Paul. While they haven't been very good, but they certainly aren't the worst team and possess several capable players. Unfortunately, rising star Eric Gordon is still sidelined. However, several players, including Jarrett Jack, have stepped up in the interim. For more on the Hornets, be sure to check out At the Hive.
New Orleans (3-8) at Memphis (4-6)
8:00 P.M. ET at FedEx Forum
So far we've been a bit of a dissappointment this year. Some of that can be attributed to injuries, but mostly it's because the Grizzlies haven't been playing the style that worked so well for them last year. Thursday night against the Knicks, the Grizzlies played the way they're supposed to play. They were tough and gritty on defense, and feed off points off turnovers. I've always thought that the Grizzlies are at their best when they allow the other team to kill itself with turnovers and sloppy play, and that's what happened in our last game. The question then becomes: was the drubbing against the Knicks a sign that we've corrected our ways, or was it a fluke? This game will give us a much better indication. Here are my three keys to the game:
1. Team Defense: The Hornets are currently 27th in Offensive Rating (97.9), which isn't surprising considering that most of their best players tend to be defense-minded. On Defense, they're dead center of the pack (15th). The Grizzlies should have no problem containing the Hornets on offensive, but if they're stymied themselves, it could cause a lot of problems.
2. Pace: Whoever dictates the pace of this game, will probably be the winner. As you'd imagine, the Hornets play at one of the slowest paces in the league (28th) averaging a mere 88.3 possessions per game. On the other hand, the Grizzlies are in the top 10 in pace. As a team, we tend to rely on forcing turnovers and getting out in transition. Last year we had Zach Randolph to feed in the post in the half-court offense, but since he's gone down with injury, our half-court offense has likewise struggled. If they can slow down the pace and hold on to the ball by not committing turnovers, we could be in trouble.
3. Rebounds: This surprised me a bit, but the Grizzlies are currently 26th in the league in rebounding. Admittedly, losing Zach Randolph is huge in that department, but Rudy really seems to have stepped up on that end, and Marc is always reliable. The Hornets are 8th overall and 5th in offensive rebounds. As I mentioned earlier, this is not a good offense team, but if we give them a ton of 2nd chances, it won't matter. The Grizzlies really have to fight for the boards, especially on defense tonight.
Alright guys, let's get one game closer to .500!