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Memphis Grizzlies vs Utah Jazz preview: Bully ball time

The Grizzlies follow an easy win over the hapless 76ers with a home game against the worst team in the West, the Utah Jazz. They will look to roll over the weak kid on the block in their march toward the playoffs.

Hold me back, bro!
Hold me back, bro!
Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports
2013/2014 NBA Season
39-27 (20-14 home)
Won 1
22-46 (8-27 road)
Lost 5
March 19th, 2014
FedEx Forum, Memphis, TN
7:00 PM CDT
Fox SportsSouth/ 92.9 FM ESPN
Possible Starters
Mike Conley PG Trey Burke
Courtney Lee SG Gordon Hayward
Tayshaun Prince SF Richard Jefferson
Zach Randolph PF Marvin Williams
Marc Gasol C Derrick Favors
2013/14 Advanced Stats
92.3 (30th) Pace 93.7 (27th)
103.0 (T-17th) OEff 100.4 (23rd)
102.0 (9th) DEff 108.5 (30th)
Injury Report
Jazz - n/a

Grizzlies - Quincy Pondexter (Out, Foot)

Keys to the game

Guard the shooters Utah's starting 5 features 4 guys who are willing to shoot the 3 a lot - Burke, Hayward, Jefferson, and Williams. Burke (34%) and Hayward (31%) have not been efficient shooters this season but Williams (38%) and Jefferson (42%) can definitely hurt you. With Z-Bo's history of struggling to guard stretch 4's, Marvin Williams worries me the most. The Jazz don't shoot a ton of 3's on average, but went 11-24 in their last visit to Memphis on December 23rd. It's a big reason that game was close, and you can bet they'd like to replicate that success again.

The Grizzlies will likely look to stay on the shooters more, as well as probably play more perimeter-oriented defenders at the 4 (Leuer, Dr. JJ, possibly Prince).

Defense and ball control Despite the large difference in records, these teams are similar statistically in some ways - slow paced, don't shoot the 3 particularly well overall, below average offensive efficiency. They are, however, very different is some key ways. The Grizzlies have been one of the best defensive teams in the league since Gasol's return and are in the top 10 overall for the season. Utah is dead last. Utah is below average in rebounding and turning the ball over, and the Grizzlies are among the best in both. Defense and controlling the ball - aka Grizzly basketball - are what should spell victory for the Grizzlies.

Battle of the Bench Bigs

Enes Kanter has been very solid for the Jazz this year off the bench, averaging 12.1 points and 6.8 rebounds in 25 minutes per game. Utah likes to pair him with Favors for a change of pace from stretch 4 Williams or with high-flying Jeremy Evans, who has become an impact bench player in his own right this year. It will be interesting to see how Joerger uses Koufos, Ed Davis, Leuer and James Johnson to match up with the Jazz bench.

A bad time for a slump

Gordon Hayward is an interesting study - going back to his days at Butler, he alternates being a good 3 point shooter or a bad 3 point shooter year to year:

3PM 3PA 3PT%
Butler (08-09) 69 154 44.8%
Butler (09-10) 47 160 29.4%
Utah (10-11) 35 74 47.3%
Utah (11-12) 55 159 34.6%
Utah (12-13) 102 246 41.5%
Utah (13-14) 72 231 31.2%

For you old baseball fans, it's like Bret Saberhagen, who was known for being one of the best pitchers around, but only every other year. It's a strange phenomenon. Unfortunately for Hayward, it's coming in a contract year - and this after he reportedly was looking for in excess of $12 million per season during last offseason's contract negotiations with Utah. One can only surmise that his value will have dropped a bit after his most marketable skill - being a 6'8" 3 point shooter - took a hit this year. Maybe not though - next year he's scheduled to be a good shooter again!

Tough row to hoe

The Jazz will be glad to be done with their current stretch of games. The Grizzlies will be the 5th straight opponent who is currently on track for the playoffs. The Jazz lost the previous 4, including a 124-86 shellacking at the hands of the Rockets.

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

The Jazz have exactly as many wins (11) in 27 games vs. the East as they do in 41 games vs. the West.

The Bottom Line

The Grizzlies should win this game. Utah is the worst defensive team in the NBA, is terrible on the road, and has struggled within the Western Conference. Utah does have shooters and will likely try to exploit the Grizzlies tendency to rotate off shooters. If they get hot from deep it could be close, but otherwise look for the bench to get a lot of minutes tonight.