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Grizzlies-Nuggets Preview: Awaken the Grind

The Grizzlies head to the rarified air of the Mile High City to take on the Nuggets following two disheartening losses. Can the Grizzlies shake off their doldrums and a road back-to-back to get back on track in Denver?

Memphis Gets wha?
Memphis Gets wha?
Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Spor
2013/2014 NBA Season
43-30 (20-15 road)
Lost 2
32-41 (19-17 home)
Lost 3
March 30th, 2014
Pepsi Center, Denver Colorado
8:00 PM CDT
Fox SportsSouth/ 92.9 FM ESPN
Possible Starters
Mike Conley PG Ty Lawson
Courtney Lee SG Randy Foye
Tayshaun Prince SF Quincy Miller
Zach Randolph PF Kenneth Faried
Marc Gasol C Timofey Mosgov
2013/14 Advanced Stats
92.1 (30th) Pace 100.5 (3rd)
103.1 (16th) OEff 103.0 (17th)
101.7 (T-7th) DEff 103.6 (21st)
Injury Report

Nuggets - Wilson Chandler (out, groin) J.J. Hickson (out, ACL) Nate Robinson (out, ACL)

Grizzlies - Quincy Pondexter (out, foot)

Opposing team's blog: Denver Stiffs

Keys to the game

Take Advantage of the D In the Nuggets last 3 games - all losses - the Nuggets have given up 119.3 points per game. That's partially due to their fast-paced play, but it's also due to them struggling mightily on defense. The Grizzlies need to show up and execute on offense to take advantage of that weakness.

Lawson vs. Conley Once again, Lawson and Conley will lock horns in a battle of 2 quick near-All-star guards that can score or distribute as the game dictates. Lawson has struggled through his past 10 games, averaging 13.6 points on 36.8% shooting, while Conley has been statistically rounding back into shape with 17.5 PPG on 49.2% shooting. If Conley can win this matchup by a substantial margin, it would be big for the Grizzlies. Lawson has lit up Memphis in the past, though...

Make your free throws In 6 of their last 7 games, the Grizzlies have shot less than 65% from the free throw line, including 3 under 57%. The one exception? 15/16 against the Jazz in Utah, which was a big reason why the Grizzlies were able to come back and win that game. The Grizzlies will need to make free throws tonight when the opportunity presents itself.

The math game

With the Grizzlies' record standing at 43-30, they still are very much in play for a playoff spot. We projected a while back that the Grizzlies would need to win 47-48 games to make the playoffs. With 9 games remaining, they would just need to go 5-4 to get to 48 wins or 6-3 to get to 49 wins. Even with the Grizzlies' 2 losses, they are 6-4 in their last 10 games, so either is within their grasp. A 6-3 finish, especially if that includes wins against the Suns and/or Mavericks in the last 2 games of the season, likely gets the Grizzlies into the playoff and maybe even a 7 seed.

Not going according to plan

When Randy Foye is starting at shooting guard for you, you know things have not gone according to plan. Between injuries, roster changes, and a coaching change, Denver has struggled for much of the year. They're currently on pace to finish with 36 wins, which would make them 21 wins worse than last year's 57-25 3-seed in the west. As much heat as Joerger and the front office have taken at times, it's easy to look across at Denver and see what happens when the wheels really come off.

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

The Nuggets are 3rd-worst in the NBA in points allowed per game for the month of March with 106.3. The Grizzlies are 3rd best with 94. Despite that, their point differential is nearly identical because Denver has also scored 108.8 points per game in the month, which is 6th best. The Nuggets can score.

The Bottom Line

This is a game the Grizzlies need to keep this skid from going any further. The Nuggets are somewhat banged up, have lost 3 straight, and are playing bad defense. Lawson has been struggling. The Grizzlies have a lot on the line and should be playing with a chip on their shoulder. The Grizzlies are 11 games ahead of the Nuggets in the standings. All of those things point to a win. But. But the Pepsi Center is a good home court, it's the second game in a road back-to-back, and it's at altitude. It has all the makings of a trap game.

Now is the time for this team to show that much-publicized determination and go in and execute - momentum and fatigue and altitude be damned. Now is the time for the Grind. Let's hope we see it.