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Memphis Grizzlies vs. Brooklyn Nets Game Preview

The Memphis Grizzlies are a season best 9 games above .500. They are only a half game back of the 8 seed and 2 games back of the 6 seed in the Western Conference. Their march to the playoffs continues tonight against a Brooklyn Nets team that is 19-8 since January 1st and are 11-2 at home during that stretch.

Mike Conley will have to take advantage of a weakened Deron Williams for Memphis to win tonight.
Mike Conley will have to take advantage of a weakened Deron Williams for Memphis to win tonight.

2013/2014 NBA Season
34-25 (16-11 road)
Won 2
29-29 (17-11 home)
Won 3
March 5th, 2014
Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York
6:30 PM CST
Fox SportsSouth/ 92.9 FM ESPN
Possible Starters
Mike Conley PG Deron Williams
Courtney Lee SG Shaun Livingston
Tayshaun Prince SF Joe Johnson
Zach Randolph PF Paul Pierce
Marc Gasol C Mason Plumlee
2013/14 Advanced Stats
92.2 (30th) Pace 94.1 (26th)
102.9 (17th) OEff 103.0 (16th)
102.6 (12th) DEff 104.3 (T-17th)

Injury Report-

Brooklyn- Brook Lopez (Out, Foot), Kevin Garnett (Out, Back updated)

Memphis- Quincy Pondexter (Out, Foot), James Johnson (Day-to-Day, Ankle)

For the Brooklyn perspective, check out NetsDaily.

How are you feeling this morning, Grizz Nation?

Head ache? Stomach pains? Calling in to sick because of a self-imposed ailment? The usual after effects of the celebration of Mardi Gras, which culminated with Fat Tuesday yesterday. Mardi Gras, the celebration of indulgence before the lean times of Christianity's Lent begins, is a wonderful time for many not just in New Orleans. Thousands upon thousands of people allowed for the "bonne temps" to roll in places like Mobile, Alabama, St. Louis, Missouri and Mississippi's Gulf Coast. Even in Memphis, the fun of Mardi Gras can be experienced on Beale Street.

The Grizzlies should cut out some bad habits for the coming Lenten season.

The times are especially good in Hoop City because the Memphis Grizzlies are on a roll. 21-8 since 2014 started and comfortable above .500 is far from the depths of despair that was 10-15 just a few months ago. As well as the Grizzlies have played during this stretch of games, their competition in the West has been almost as successful. It will take achieving even another level of success, such as a prolonged winning streak, to put themselves squarely in the playoff picture for good.

As the playoff chase continues tonight in Brooklyn, the Grizzlies would be wise to take a page out of Lent's playbook and pick some things to quit for the next 40 days (and beyond) so that their hunt for the postseason ends on a positive note. In that spirit, here are 3 things the Grizzlies should cut out and improve on both tonight and in the future.

Cut Out the Fouls

Memphis, for all of its defensive exploits, has a tendency to foul just a bit too much. The Grizzlies have fouled the opposing team 19 times a game on average over the last 20 games, a time span in which they have gone 14-6. Their opponents are shooting 20 free throws over that time frame, and the number has been on the increase in more recent games; it is up to 22.6 free throws per game the past 5 games.

Whether it has to do with poor officiating, a lack of foot movement, reaching or a combination of all three, fouling has become an increased issue across the Grizzlies roster, especially among wing players. Memphis would be wise to emphasize better rotations and playing passing lanes more than slapping at the ball to create turnovers. Otherwise, the Nets and other opposing teams will continue to get increased opportunities at scoring the ball from the charity stripe.

More James Johnson at the 4

Lent isn't just about cutting things out, it also can be a focus on improving yourself. A way this Grizzlies team can improve itself is by putting its best athlete in a position where mismatches are bound to happen. James Johnson's main weaknesses as a player right now are his tendency to foul (4 fouls on average in 21 minutes of play) and his inability to shoot the three (24% for the season.)

The foul issue is not as troubling; while it needs to be cleaned up (see above) he will rarely play the necessary minutes to be in "foul trouble." Shooting the three point shot that poorly is an entirely different matter. With Dr. JJ at the PF spot instead of Ed Davis you can rest assured the three point line will be defended; Johnson leads the NBA in blocked three point attempts. He also will be able to take just about every back-up PF in the NBA off the ball and to the rim. Here's an example from a game against the Suns showing "Kid Dynomite's" explosive potential.

Blocked threes, or turnovers in general, lead to transition opportunities, which the Grizzlies need to spark and continue offensive runs.

Bloodsport showed against the Clippers recently he can defend the likes of Blake Griffin; that capability makes him that much more valuable moving forward, especially in the game tonight in which Paul Pierce and other smaller bodies will see minutes at the 4 position.

Less Beno Udrih on the Bench

While it is certainly nice to have a veteran PG on the roster as insurance just in case, it would be nice to have a better idea of what Beno Udrih can actually do with the roster around him. This is in no means a call for Nick Calathes to get less minutes; on the contrary, Calathes should be the true back-up PG. It is more a though of figuring out how much of an impact Udrih can make in limited minutes.

You never know until you try. A few minutes here and there will at least give fans and the front office alike a glimpse at what the Grizzlies have in Udrih in a game-time situation. Practice is one thing, but game speed is something entirely different.

The Prediction

The Nets have been hot since the start of 2014, and players such as Andray Blatche and Deron Williams have led the way in terms of production. Between those two and the acquisition of Marcus Thornton before the trade deadline, the Nets have shooters and are able to play small ball with the best of them.

In order for the Grizzlies to win this game, they will have to find ways to take advantage of mismatches created by these smaller lineups. Whether it is Zach taking Paul Pierce in the post or James Johnson and Tony Allen making sure Marcus Thornton and company are limited from range, Memphis needs to play their style of basketball and not allow the smaller Nets to get going from outside. The Grizzlies will grind out a win in Brooklyn behind a top performance from Mike Conley, who will take advantage of the weakened ankles of Deron Williams.

Memphis 98, Brooklyn 94