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Game Preview: Memphis Grizzlies vs. New Orleans Pelicans

After a tough loss against the Atlanta Hawks, Memphis arrives in New Orleans in desperate need of rhythm and a run of success. How do they get there against Anthony Davis and the Pelicans?

Marc Gasol vs. Anthony Davis = MUST SEE TV.
Marc Gasol vs. Anthony Davis = MUST SEE TV.
Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

2014/15 NBA Season
25-10 (11-6 road)
17-18 (11-5 home)
January 9th, 2015
Smoothie King Center, New Orleans, LA
7:00 PM CDT
Fox SportSouth / 92.9 FM ESPN
Possible Starters
Mike Conley PG Jrue Holiday
Courtney Lee SG Eric Gordon
Tony Allen SF Tyreke Evans
Jarnell Stokes PF Anthony Davis
Marc Gasol C Omer Asik
2014/15 Advanced Stats
94.0 (27th) Pace 95.1 (22nd)
105.3 (T-10th) OEff 105.5 (9th)
102.0 (11th) DEff 105.8 (25th)
49.7 (18th) RebR 50.7 (11th)


Memphis- Zach Randolph (Knee), Questionable.

New Orleans- NONE

For more on the New Orleans Pelicans, check out SB Nation's The Bird Writes.

The month of January has started for the Memphis Grizzlies much like December went for almost the entire month: very up and down. The Zach Randolph injury has exposed a major weakness for the Bears of Beale Street (PF depth), and being 2-2 through 4 games in January is less than ideal, especially as the Western Conference continues to get more and more competitive. While Z-Bo's return is imminent, the fact remains that these Grizzlies have come down to earth some since their red-hot start to the season. Memphis is 10-8 since the start of December, a far cry from the 15-2 record Memphis boasted during October/November.

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As the Grizzlies try to turn things around, they visit New Orleans to face a Pelicans team that can create all sorts of issues for this Memphis roster. Anthony Davis is having an MVP-caliber season, leading the Pelicans into the playoff conversation almost halfway through the 2014-2015 campaign. Jrue Holiday is having an above-average-at-worst season, Tyreke Evans is finding himself, and Davis/Asik and the other New Orleans bigs have made life miserable in and around the lane for the Grizzlies in the past.

Not an easy night in the Big Easy. How to pull out a tough win down on the Bayou? 3 Keys.

1. Defend the Three Point Shot.

It seems as if Memphis struggles with leaving three-point assassins wide open at the most inopportune times. Kyle Korver in the Grizzlies' last game is a great example; regardless of the player, leaving a stud shooter like Korver open from range seems to be a poor decision when trying to pull out a win. The Pelicans also have players capable of scoring from beyond the arc; 4 players on their roster are shooting 34% or better from three this season. Two in particular, Ryan Anderson and Eric Gordon, are long range specialists who can hurt you when left alone on the arc.

While scheme may dictate helping in the lane to an extent, leaving shooters open leads to momentum-shifting moments in favor of the opposition. The Grizzlies cannot allow for the Pelicans' perimeter threats to get going if they hope to limit the overall offensive efficiency of New Orleans.

2. Be Smart in Defensive Match-ups

Jon Leuer has shown an inability to defend in the post consistently due to poor leverage and a lack of size. He probably should not be banging down low against the bigger bodies of the Pelicans. Anthony Davis is a one-man wrecking crew; it may be in Memphis' best interest to keep the young Jarnell Stokes away from "The Brow". Tyreke Evans is an explosive athlete capable of getting to the rim quickly; Vince Carter and Tayshaun Prince may not have the footwork at this point to keep Tyreke at bay.

The Pelicans are without a doubt a tough match-up for Memphis. This is a game for Dave Joerger as head coach to especially focus on getting his guys in positions to succeed by helping them avoid certain match-ups. Let Leuer and Prince play with Anderson, Jarnell with Asik, Marc Gasol with Davis. Allow Tony Allen to shut off the water for Tyreke. Be selective with your rotations and lineups.

3. Get Davis Off His Game

How do you limit the effectiveness of Anthony Davis? You keep him out of rhythm on both ends of the court. On offense, whoever is defended by Davis needs to work away from the rim to negate Davis' elite rim protection some, but must still be willing to attack AD so that he has to work on the defensive end. Davis is still not big enough to consistently take the banging on the post, so aggressive lane work could frustrate "The Brow" and get him in foul trouble early. Davis averages almost 1 more whole foul in Pelican losses than in wins; this is an example that attacking and forcing Davis to be more physical than he is prepared to be at this point works.

When Davis is on offense, the Grizzlies have to be aggressive as well. Use your body and your fouls wisely, force him to show his mid-range game, and do not give him opportunities to use his athleticism. Boxing out on the glass is also vital; Davis is capable of flying in and making highlight plays on the offensive boards in particular. Physicality is key, but Memphis also cannot get frustrated. Davis is so good right now that you won't be able to fully stop him, you just have to try to contain him.

The Prediction

Anytime New Orleans shows up on the Grizzlies' schedule, it's nerve racking for many. Their length and athleticism give Memphis fits, and it always seems like one of their non-Anthony-Davis players has a huge impact on the game that swings things their way, despite Memphis beating NOLA the last time these two teams saw each other. While New Orleans will lead at times throughout this game,  the Grizzlies will be able to shut down the Pelicans when needed most and score the ball against a below average defense enough to pull out a win.

Memphis 103, New Orleans 97

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