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Memphis Grizzlies vs. New Orleans Pelicans: Martin Luther King Jr. Day Game Preview/TV Information

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On a day dedicated to a true titan of Memphis and American history, the Memphis Grizzlies will try to extend their current winning streak to three games as they welcome a familiar foe to the FedExForum for a matinee game.

Marc Gasol will have to continue to fight to make Memphis offensively viable.
Marc Gasol will have to continue to fight to make Memphis offensively viable.
Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

WHO: Memphis Grizzlies (23-19, 15-7 Home) vs. New Orleans Pelicans (13-26, 5-17 Road)

WHERE: FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee

WHEN: 1:30 PM CT

HOW TO WATCH: ESPN/Watch ESPN

HOW TO LISTEN: 92.9 FM ESPN Memphis

Injury Report-

MEMPHIS: Mike Conley (Achilles)- QUESTIONABLE.

Jordan Adams (Knee), Brandan Wright (Knee), Jarell Martin (Foot)- OUT

NEW ORLEANS- NONE

For the Pelican's perspective, be sure to check out The Bird Writes.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

It isn't just another slate of NBA games.

It isn't just another Monday.

It isn't just another random holiday that some folks get to sleep in on a day off and others don't (cough COLUMBUS DAY cough).

It is so much more, and in cities across the Association and across the country people will reflect on and discuss the legacy of a man who helped change our world for the better. Americans from sea to shining sea will serve those in need, build a playground or paint a building, give food to the hungry and hope to the downtrodden. Something as simple as holding a door open or a smile to a stranger can be a step toward that grand dream that Dr. King spoke of so eloquently so many years ago. The call to serve, to volunteer, for communities to come together regardless of race to make their piece of the planet we all share better, would make Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. proud.

In a time of increasing darkness, the memory of Dr. King acts as a shining beacon, a much needed light to guide us to a better understanding of ourselves and each other. This day is meant for remembrance, for renewal.

It isn't just another game. It is an opportunity to use a platform to reflect on a great man and the pursuit of his better dream.

The National Basketball Association has done a tremendous job making this day, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, feel special. And that movement started through, and continues in, Memphis. Events like the "Discussion on the Intersection of Race and Sports", the "Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Sports Legacy Symposium presented by The Hyde Family Foundation" with honorees Spencer Haywood, Jalen Rose and Tamika Catchings, and other activities in and around the city, show how the Memphis Grizzlies and the city of Memphis provide great examples for honoring both the man and his dream.

In between all of the festivities, the Memphis Grizzlies basketball team will play a game against the New Orleans Pelicans. It has been a season of disappointment so far for both teams, although the abyss is seemingly closer for the Pelicans, who are far away from the seven seed that many predicted they would be fighting for before the season began (seven games, to be exact, in a weaker Western Conference). The Grizzlies, while under-achieving themselves in terms of quality of play, are closer to expectations, a game and a half in front of the Houston Rockets for the six seed and only a half game behind the Dallas Mavericks for the five seed out West.

One team struggling less than the other, with neither playing particularly well consistently all season- it has all the makings of a stress-filled matinee at the FedExForum. How can the Grizzlies take this second game of their four-game season series? Three keys-

Aggressive Marc Must Stick Around

Marc Gasol was a monster against the New York Knicks, and although he may not have liked it (as Ron Tillery of the Memphis Commercial Appeal reported), he was needed to be that monster. Gasol took 29 shots, converting 15 of them, and make seven of eight free throw attempts on his way to a 37 point performance. His shot chart from that game was impressive-

Gasol Knicks

Efficient directly outside of the paint, with a majority of his attempts coming around the basket. This is when Gasol is at his best- not fading away all of the time, doing his best Dirk Nowitzki impression, but using his size and footwork to his advantage to get to the rack and take over games.

The last time Gasol was such an offensive beast was against these New Orleans Pelicans.The last time these two teams hooked up, in a 113-104 victory for the Grizzlies in December, Gasol scored 38 points on 11-22 shooting, while posting an astonishing 16-16 night from the charity stripe. He was again aggressive, again effective outside of the paint, and the team again benefited mightily from his selfishness.

As much as Marc may hate to admit it, his definition of "beautiful basketball" and "the right play" with this Memphis Grizzlies team, the team that he just signed a max contract with, is him scoring the ball at a steady clip. As the roster evolves around him the next couple of seasons that may change, but Gasol has to be the man taking on the scoring load most nights for sustained success to stay with Memphis, including against New Orleans this afternoon.

Toning Down Tyreke Evans

When you think of "Grizz Killers", guys who seem to give the Memphis Grizzlies a ton of trouble, several names comes to mind- Eric Bledsoe, Kevin Martin, just to name two. Another is Tyreke Evans, a player who gives even Tony Allen fits, and he posted a 20 point 10 assist night the last time these two teams met. Evans also had 5 rebounds and shot 2-5 from the three-point line, making him a dangerous all-around player who the Grizzlies have to keep tabs on at all times.

In Evans' last five games, he is averaging 17 points, 5 assists and 4.5 rebounds on 47% shooting while making 45.5% of his threes. If the Grizzlies cannot limit his effectiveness through forcing him into the meat of the defense and getting the ball out of his hands, he will again cook Memphis and keep the Pelicans in this game longer than perhaps they should be.

Efficient Three Point Play

Memphis only took ten three-point shots in New Orleans when they took on the Pelicans December 1st, making only two of them. New Orleans, meanwhile, took 27 threes, converting on nine of those attempts. The Pelicans average 25 shots from beyond the arc a game, good for 13th in the NBA, while the Grizzlies are 27th with 17.1 shots per game. New Orleans depends on the three for opportunities to stay in games, whereas Memphis has issues taking enough threes to keep teams honest at times.

The Grizzlies will look for good looks from range, but they do not seek them as actively as New Orleans will. Memphis must make the Pelicans pay when they are left open on the perimeter, and on defense the Grizzlies must react and get out on the shooter of New Orleans, ensuring that guys like Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson do not get clean looks.

The Prediction

The Memphis Grizzlies last won their Martin Luther King Jr. Day game that they host every year on January 16th, 2012, when they defeated the Chicago Bulls. Rudy Gay led the Grizzlies with 24 points, Marreese Speights filled in for an injured Zach Randolph and players like Josh Selby, OJ Mayo, Quincy Pondexter, and Josh Davis, played 12 or more minutes in the contest. None of those players, aside from Randolph of course, are still on the roster, showing how long it has been since the Grizzlies won on MLK Day.

In order for Memphis to get over the hump, they have to get Marc Gasol to be "the man", something that he seems hesitant to be, at least offensively. If that Marc shows up, and gets help from the likes of Z-Bo, Jeff Green, and Courtney Lee (and hopefully a returning Mike Conley?), New Orleans does not have the defensive schemes/the personnel to keep up for a full 48 minutes.

Look for Gasol's early aggression, and that of Courtney Lee and Matt Barnes (11-23 shooting the last time NOLA played Memphis), to key a Grizzlies' victory, ending the streak of MLK Jr. Day losses.

Memphis 108, New Orleans 99

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