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Game Preview: Similarities highlight Grizzlies-Hawks matchup

The Hawks will try to beat the Grizzlies Saturday night, a team they should try and emulate.

Kevin C. Cox

I can't help but see a lot of similarities between the 11-5 Hawks and the 14-3 Grizzlies. Both teams feature their best players at the PF & C spots (don't tell Rudy Gay). The difference is, Memphis is just a much better group with a clear identity.

Time together and a commitment to the inside-out game (and forcing turnovers) has made the Grizzlies a true contender out West. Both teams are exceeding expectations this season. The Hawks were supposed to be bad and are actually pretty good.....The Grizzlies have been good the past few years, and now they're great.

This game will either be a blowout win for Memphis or (not as likely) a nail-biter. The Hawks are a poor man's Grizzlies, which is never a good thing. Your best chance at beating a better team is to do the things that they DON'T do well, not try and match them at their game. This is why the Heat have blown out the 76ers in recent history.

Rudy Gay (coming off a season-high 28 pts vs Hornets) may be the difference tonight, as he's something the Hawks just can't duplicate. Lou Williams may go off in a similar fashion, but I don't see him having the same impact as Gay off the bench. Tony Allen's return to the lineup will go a long way in trying to sour Sweet lou's night. I also expect DeShawn Stevenson to give Rudy the LeBron treatment all night, too. We may even see the bigger Josh Smith guard him though, you have to think, 'Smooth' will likely have his hands full with Z-Bo.

The PF spot is the obvious matchup to watch in this one. The league is still shaking from the Hall of Fame effort Zach had against Phoenix Tuesday (38 & 22). I bet that the Hawks coaching staff has been showing their big men clips of it for the past 24 hours.

As a result, Marc Gasol may get free on the inside and Rudy on the outside. Hence, a blowout could very well be coming.

The Hawks are last in the league in total field goal attempts. If this game is uptempo early, Atlanta may just get run out of the gym. The Atlanta Hawks are also last in the league in both free throws made and attempted.

Many Atlanta residents like to blame Smith's fetish for perimeter shots...but that doesn't explain being LAST. They are also middle in the pack at forcing turnovers, something the Hawks should actually be good at with their multitude of similarly-talented wing players. Coach Drew should be rotating these guys in short spurts and getting them to play the passing lanes like, oh let's say, the Grizzlies. Memphis may not be forcing turnovers like last year, but it's more that they aren't relying on that aspect of the game. It's a more versatile squad at Tha Grindhouse these days.

Should Atlanta fall badly in this one (my prediction), it could actually end up being a good thing for Larry Drew's crew. It's an up-close lesson in how a team with great inside strength should play every night.

Jeff Teague, too, can learn from Mike Conley on how to thrive at PG feeding OFF of your 'bigs' and not away from them. Consistency in the NBA is about committing to a style of play and trying to be the best at it. Every team has weaknesses, you just try and do what you do the best.

Win or lose, the Atlanta Hawks take some notes Saturday night. Memphis is the team they should strive to be one day.

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