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Grizzlies at 76ers Preview: Tales from Liberty City

The Grizzlies head to the City of Brotherly Love following a disappointing loss in Toronto. They look to get back in the win column against a young Philly team that has lost 19 straight.

Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sport
2013/2014 NBA Season
38-27 (18-13 home)
Lost 1
15-50 (8-26 home)
Lost 19
March 15th, 2014
Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia, PA
6:30 PM CDT
Fox SportsSouth/ 92.9 FM ESPN
Possible Starters
Mike Conley PG Michael Carter-Williams
Courtney Lee SG James Anderson
Tayshaun Prince SF Hollis Thompson
Zach Randolph PF Thaddeus Young
Marc Gasol C Henry Sims
2013/14 Advanced Stats
92.2 (30th) Pace 102.6 (1st)
103.1 (T-16th) OEff 95.9 (30th)
102.2 (9th) DEff 107.3 (28th)
Injury Report
76ers - Jason Richardson (Out, Knee) Nerlens Noel (Out, Knee) Brandon Davies (Out, Finger)

Grizzlies- Quincy Pondexter (Out, Foot)

Keys to the game

Show up I know this sounds condescending initially, but the Grizzlies have had a tendency to play down to struggling teams.  The 76ers, proud owners of a 19 game losing streak, certainly fall in that category.  With this being the second game of a road back-to-back and the 4th game in 5 nights, there will be a strong temptation for the Grizzlies to kick in cruise control and try to show up and collect a win with minimal effort.  This is the NBA.  That mindset will bite you in the butt.

Play your game When it comes to advanced stats, the 76ers are bad at basically everything.  They are the worst offensive efficiency team in the league, the 3rd worst defensively, worst in true shooting percent, 5th worst in rebounding, worst in turnover rate, and 5th worst in assist rate.  The one thing they're high in the league in is pace - 1st overall, and by a goodly margin.  They run.  A lot.  It's a volume based offense, a polar opposite of the Grizzlies' slowest-in-the-league pace.  The Grizzlies would be wise to exploit the inefficiencies by keeping the pace slow and competing on possessions.

Win the point guard battle Michael Carter-Williams has been one of the few bright spots for the Sixers this season, averaging 16.8 points, 5.6 rebounds and 6.3 assists per game.  He doesn't shoot a high percentage - 39% from the field, 27% from 3 - but is big and athletic, and could give Conley some matchup problems with that combination.  Conley is coming off something of an off night (10/6/6 on 4-12).  If Conley can win this matchup and set the tone for the Grizzlies, it should swing the pendulum decidedly in their favor.

Murder She Wroten vs. Little Nicky

Much was made about Tony Wroten's breakout performance early in the season, a triple-double on November 13th.  The press, including certain Yahoo writers with a grudge against the Grizzlies front office, gleefully noted that Grizzlies basically gave away Wroten.

Well, that was Wroten's only triple-double of the season.  In fact, that was his only double-double of the season thus far.  He's averaging 13.4 PPG game in only 24.4 minutes per game, so he must still be a really good scorer, right?  Eh, not really.  He's a terribly inefficient shooter - 42% from the field and 21% from 3, and he takes a lot of 3's.  Even with a somewhat improved shot selection as the season has progressed, his true shooting percentage is 11th-worst among shooting guards.

So how does he score so much?  It's simple. He's a ballhog.   He has the highest usage rate of any shooting guard in the league - higher than DeRozan, James Harden, Dwyane Wade, Monta Ellis, Ginobili, everybody.  In fact, he's 13th overall in the league, just behind Kevin Love and Blake Griffin.

Around that same time, pundits and Griz fans alike were wondering what the Grizzlies were thinking with Nick Calathes's PER hovering under 2 and him playing timid, out of control basketball.  Since the calendar turned to 2014 though, Nick has been nothing short of rock-solid for the Grizzlies.  He filled in solidly during Conley's absence last month.  He's hitting open 3's when he gets them.  He's dishing out assists and keeps improving at reducing turnovers.  For the month of March, he has a 5-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio.  Wroten, by comparison, has a nearly 1-to-2 assist-to-turnover ratio for March and has yet to even get a 1.5-to-1 assist ratio in a month.  He always turns it over as much or more than he assists.

The bottom line is this: while Calathes struggled early and Wroten has put up big total numbers, Calathes has proven to be the better fit for the Grizzlies' needs and has shown more and more as the season has worn on, while Wroten has continued to be the same talented, inefficient, turnover-prone player he's been.  Sometimes in basketball, like in investing, it make sense to ride out the rough stretches in the market to reap the rewards later.

Joe's neat-o fact-o-the-day

The Sixers' 19 game losing streak is tied for the 11th longest in NBA history, and is the 76ers 4th losing streak of 19 games or longer.  That is the most of any NBA franchise.  The closest?  The Clippers with 3. (see, you can smile through those tears)  A loss tonight would tie the 76ers franchise record with 20 straight and move into a tie for 7th longest of all time.

The Bottom Line

This is a game the Grizzlies should win.  Let's hope for no crazy rotations (like, I dunno, playing Tayshaun Prince for 35 minutes. I'm not bitter.), no major injuries, and the Grizzlies not playing down to their competition.   If the Grizzlies just play their game, they should come back home holding onto 8th place and having gone 3 of 4 in 4 games in 5 nights.  That's a good road trip even with the disappointing Raptors loss.