Boston: 104.6 points/100 possessions (13th)
Memphis: 102.2 points/100 possessions (20th)
Boston: 98.1 points allowed/100 possessions (6th)
Memphis: 104.1 points allowed/100 possesions (15th)
Probable Memphis starters: Mike Conley Jr., Ovinton J’Anthony Mayo, Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol
Don’t skip out on this game. The Grizzlies gave the C’s two difficult matchups last year, including one of the C’s most entertaining regular season wins and one nightmarish loss. Tonight should be fun.
Plus, this game is going to show you something you’ve never seen before. Are you sitting down? Okay. Tonight, Tony Allen will hurl a pass 20 feet out of bounds and the Celtics will get the ball. Let it wash over you.
There are a couple of weird trends going on this season for Les Grizz. Basically everything they’re doing is the opposite of what they did last season, even though TA was their only major personnel change. Let’s open the curtains on the Small Sample Size Theatre for a second:
WHAT THE GRIZZLIES DO WELL:
Turnover differential. The Grizzlies have the best turnover differential in basketball right now despite finishing 19th in the league in 09-10. This is because they A) do not pass the ball under any circumstances (50% of baskets assisted, compare to Boston’s 68%) and B) Mike Conley has decided to start playing defense for some reason. He’s third in the league in steals. Anyway, don’t expect them to lose the number one spot after tonight.
WHAT THE GRIZZLIES DO POORLY:
Offensive rebound rate differential. The Grizz have actually gone from best to worst in this category, even though Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph are posting three-year highs in ORR and they’ve played Phoenix, a team whose center prefers to hang out 20 feet from the basket, twice. It’s not that they’re not pulling down offensive boards, it’s that they’re allowing a ton. Gasol’s been a little weak on the defensive glass this season because of an ankle injury, but most of this trend is probably just a fluke.
PLAYERS WHO MAKE ME WORRY:
Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. With Jermaine back in Boston to enjoy the end of leaf-peeping season, this is a pair that could give the C’s frontcourt some trouble tonight. KG could handle Randolph on his own, but he might have to help Shaq with Gasol. I predict Gasol will step back and hit a few 8-footers tonight and then, ten seconds later, Shaq will lurch forward to contest them. If KG gets involved with Gasol, that could make Randolph dangerous, because he can hit from all over the place.
Gasol has been slowed down with a bad ankle, so his usage has slipped and his defensive rebound rate, the percent of DRs that go to him when he’s on the floor, has slipped from last year’s 20 to 14. I don’t think we can read into that any more than we can KG’s DRR of 32, third in the league to board eaters Reggie Evans and Kevin Love. Gasol is still a point of concern on the boards.
Here’s a game where Semih Erden might actually be of some value. He moves around pretty well for his size, and he’s seen Gasol before. Somehow Turkey didn’t play Spain in this summer’s FIBA tournament, but they did hand Spain one of its two losses in the 2009 Eurobasket and, according to this Spanish box score, Semih had 11 puntos and held Gasol to only 5 puntos before Gasol left the game with 6 faltas. I bet Semih is hoping Doc is aware of this and gives him minutes. This is how the game plan meeting today will probably go:
Doc: Okay, guys. How are we going to limit Marc Gasol tonight?
(Semih gathers his courage and raises his hand to tell Doc that he owns Gasol and that he wants the start tonight).
Doc: Yes, Semih?
(Semih opens his mouth but then realizes he does not know how to speak English).
Semih (sad): Nert-zing.
Ray: He said “Nothing.”
Very sad story there. Missed opportunities all around.
FACT: Shaq only played in one Cleveland-Memphis game last season. Zach Randolph had 32 points and 14 rebounds in that game and the Cavs lost even though LeBron dropped 43. Doesn’t LeBron on the Cavs seem like a billion years ago?
PLAYERS WHO DO NOT MAKE ME WORRY:
Rudy Gay: Third in the league in points per game, directly related to his being third in the league in minutes played. Dude is not efficient. Also his attitude on defense could be described as “What is defense?”
Mike Conley, Jr. Fifth offensive option among the starters. 20th best assist rate in the league this season, two spots behind Rodney Stuckey, who will give his teammates the ball when they pry it out of his cold, dead fingers. And this performance has earned him eight million dollars a year for the next five seasons, even though he would have been a restricted free agent after this year and would have gotten an offer sheet of perhaps half that.
FACT: The Grizzlies are run by an owner whose only professional experience is as a computer salesman.
WHAT WE WANT TO SEE FROM BOSTON TONIGHT:
Hard to say. We’ve seen how well it works for the playoffs when the C’s save their energy in inconsequential games, especially when they have guys out with injuries. So maybe we want them not to try very hard.
But if we want them to win this game, we want to see Pierce and Ray exploit the total defensive apathy of the Grizz wings, and we want Rondo to chew up Mike Conley so bad that after the game Conley walks into the Grizzlies front office and tears up his contract as everyone respectfully slow-claps, not a dry eye in the room.
This is hard, because this feels like this one could potentially be an energy-saver for the C’s with their depleted frontcourt. But I don’t want to look like an idiot calling a Grizzlies win in my first prediction. I think Pierce will be the difference tonight.
Celtics 103, Grizzles 98