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Memphis Grizzlies at Atlanta Hawks Preview: Clash of Contenders

The Grizzlies head to Atlanta to square off against a tough Hawks team.

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
2014/15 NBA Season
25-9 (11-5 road)
26-8 (14-3 home)
January 7, 2015
Philips Arena, Atlanta, GA
6:30 PM CDT
Fox SportSouth / 92.9 FM ESPN
Possible Starters
Mike Conley PG Jeff Teague
Courtney Lee SG Kyle Korver
Tony Allen SF DeMarre Carroll
Jon Leuer PF Paul Millsap
Marc Gasol C Al Horford
2014/15 Advanced Stats
94.0 (27th) Pace 96.4 (T-13th)
105.8 (8th) OEff 105.7 (T-9th)
102.0 (11th) DEff 100.6 (T-6th)
49.6 (T-18th) RebR 48.7 (T-21st)

Grizzlies vs Hawks coverage

Opponent's Blog: Peachtree Hoops


Hawks: (none)

Grizzlies: Zach Randolph (Questionable, knee)

Know your opponent

The Hawks have been a pleasant surprise in the East, jumping out to a fast start and the conference's best record.  This isn't an anomaly just because the Hawks are in the Eastern Conference, as they have started 9-2 against the West to accompany their 17-6 in-conference record.

The Hawks, much like the Grizzlies, are led by a quick, slightly undersized do-it-all point guard in Jeff Teague.  Also like the Grizzlies, the Hawks feature a strong duo of bigs in Paul Millsap and Al Horford.  Both are winning without a superstar and in less-glamorous markets.  The advanced stats tell a similar story too - two teams efficient on both sides of the ball who have been up and down rebounding the ball.

Points of Grizzly Emphasis

Defend the three point line

One thing the Hawks have in spades is something the Grizzlies have been longing for - excellent perimeter shooting. Kyle Korver is the best shooter in the NBA, DeMarre Carroll (JYD!!!) has developed into a high-30's 3 point shooter, and Teague and Paull Millsap connect at around a 35% clip.  Bench bigs Mike Scott and Pero Antic both have shown the ability to hit from range also.

Atlanta is in the top 8 in both 3 point percentage and 3 point attempts.   Many of the Grizzlies' defensive struggles in December can be traced to playing better and higher-frequency 3 point shooting teams.   If the Hawks get hot and the Grizzlies are struggling to cover shooters, the scales will tip in Atlanta's favor.

Offensive crispness

Memphis' pace has dropped from middle of the pack early in the season down to one of the slowest paces in the league, much as we've seen in years past.  There are several contributing factors, but one seems to be a tendency to not get into sets as quickly and crisply as in the beginning of the season, which leads to extended possessions and can lead to lower quality looks.  So far, the offensive efficiency has not slipped much along with the pace, but the Grizzlies would do well to get into sets quickly and execute crisply if they wish to score against a tough Hawks defense.

Why you should watch this game

These are two contenders in their respective conferences.   There are a lot of similarities in these two teams, and it has all the earmarks of an intense matchup.  Tune in!