The Grizzlies' Jekyll-and-Hyde act continued with last night's loss to the Kyle Lowry-less Houston Rockets. As Griffin mentioned yesterday, the Grizzlies have a 91% chance of making the playoffs, so we're only playing for seeding at this point. However, considering that a single loss or win could be the difference between matching up against the Lakers, the Clippers, or Mavericks in the first round, it's extremely important for Memphis to quit giving away easy games. Tonight's game against Milwaukee should give them a good chance to rack up another win. Although the Bucks are currently fighting for the final playoff seed in the East, they recently traded for Monta Ellis and are working to incorporate him into their offense. It's also worth mentioning that there is a clear disparity in talent in the Eastern and Western conferences. Portland has an almost identical record as Milwaukee but is 12th in the West. If the Grizzlies play fairly well tonight they should easily overcome the Bucks.
Memphis (27-22) at Milwaukee (24-27)
8:30 P.M. ET at the Bradley Center
Keys to the Game:
1. The Bench: The Grizzlies have relied on strong bench play to carry them through the majority of the season. O.J. Mayo is having fine season as the team's 6th man, and Marreese Speights, Dante Cunningham, and Quincy Pondexter also provide solid production. In fact much of the blame for last night's loss can be attributed to the bench's uncharacteristically poor performance. Unfortunately, Milwaukee also has the benefit of a strong and versatile bench. If either team's second unit can outplay the other, it could tip the game's outcome.
2. Chemistry: Both teams are working to incorporate players into their offense. Milwaukee is attempting to pair Ellis with Brandon Jennings in the backcourt. It remains to be seen whether this combo will work as the similarly-small Ellis-Stephen Curry pairing struggled defensively in Golden State. That being said, Milwaukee is a strong defensive team with the potential to overcome individual shortcomings. As Tom has often said, this Memphis team hasn't had much of a chance to gel. Now that Zach Randolph has returned, we're starting to see what this team can do at its full strength. Unfortunately, Randolph and Rudy Gay haven't yet found a way to co-exist on offensive. Coach Hollins has attempted to adjust to this by bringing Zach off the bench. The Grizzlies will need to sort this out sooner rather than later.
3. Marc Gasol: After being named an All-Star Reserve, Gasol has struggled on the offensive end. Here's a chart of his last 10 games:
|FG||FGA||FG %||FT||FTA||FT %||PTS||eFG%||TS%|
Even though he's averaging 16.1 points over the last 10 games, he's not doing it particularly efficiently as evidenced by his poor eFG% and TS%. For comparison Marc Gasol's career eFG% and TS% are .533 and .585. He's really struggling to finish at the rim right now. The hope was that with Randolph's return, Gasol could once again find his comfort zone. That hasn't been the case. As the glue of the team, Memphis desperately needs him to play well. Tonight, he has a chance to build some confidence. While Ekpe Udoh, Larry Sanders, and Jon Brockman are good defensive players, all of them will be physically overmatched by Gasol. He should have no trouble muscling his way to the rim putting him in good position for easy buckets. If he can finish, it will open up the floor for the entire team.
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