Memphis at Boston
Memphis: 103.9 points/100 possessions (17th)
Boston: 104.7 points/100 possessions (13th)
Memphis: 102.9 points allowed/100 possessions (10th)
Boston: 97.5 points allowed/100 possessions (2nd)
Probable Memphis starters: Mike Conley, Tony Allen, Sam Young, Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol
View from opposing bench: 3 Shades of Blue
Thumbnail: The Celtics look to keep pace with the Chicago Bulls, who continued their impressive run last night by blowing out the Hawks 114-81 on their own court. Chicago has the half-game lead atop the Eastern Conference, although the two teams still remain tied in the loss column.
As for tonight’s opponent, the Grizzlies are one of the surprise stories in the NBA this year. Currently, they are hanging on to the 8th spot in the Western Conference (although this might be more of a reflection on the decline of the Suns, Jazz and Rockets than it is on the Grizzlies’ development). Unfortunately for the Grizz, the team recently received the official word that Rudy Gay will have shoulder surgery and is done for the season, making their trade-deadline acquisition of Shane Battier all that more important.
WHAT THE GRIZZLIES DO WELL:
Score inside: The Grizzlies lead the NBA in points in the paint, averaging over 50 per game, more than 5 points better than the next-best LA Clippers in this category. The Grizzlies’ post-play is led by one of the league’s best offensive big men, Zach Randolph (20.1 ppg), and complimented by Marc Gasol (11.6 ppg), who isn’t too bad, either. With the absence of Gay from the lineup, the Grizzlies’ offense has run through the post even more in recent games. In its last two games, for example, Memphis has averaged 66 points from the painted area.
WHAT THE GRIZZLIES DO POORLY:
Shoot the 3: Memphis is 29th in the league in 3-point shooting, averaging 33% from beyond the arc. But at least they know this about themselves…they consequently shoot fewer 3-pointers than any other team in the league. However, without Gay, the Grizzlies offense can become very one-dimensional if they don’t have shooters to stretch the floor. Good thing they didn’t try to trade OJ Mayo a few weeks ago…oh wait.
WHICH GRIZZLIES’ PLAYERS MAKE ME WORRY:
Randolph: Having his best season in a contract year.
Tony Allen? In the past 10 games, TA is averaging 13 ppg and shooting 53% from the field. And he has the athleticism and defensive capabilities to give Ray Allen some trouble. I’m not saying that stopping TA is the key to success for the Celtics’ tonight. But none of the Grizzlies’ other SG’s or SF’s give me any anxiety (Battier, Young, Mayo). If Allen starts running loose and feeling confident in terms of getting to the rim, he can be a big spark for his team. We’ve seen it done before.
WHICH GRIZZLIES’ PLAYER DOES NOT MAKE ME WORRY:
Mike Conley. After a tremendous start to the season, Conley has cooled off a bit. Granted, he’s still having a nice year, with his totals at 13.9 ppg and 6.7 assists. And at 38% from 3-point range, he remains a potential deep threat for opposing defenses. But I love the matchup for Rajon Rondo. After an impressive performance in New York on Monday, Rondo has a chance to carry that momentum forward tonight. Rondo recorded 11 points and 17 assists in the Celtics’ 116-110 victory in Memphis back in November. And I think he dominates Conley tonight, particularly on the defensive end of the floor.
WHAT WE WANT TO SEE FROM BOSTON:
An early lead! Which means execution right from the opening tip-off. The Grizzlies have some decent defensive matchups tonight (TA on Allen, Battier on Pierce), so ball-movement will be the key, and that all starts with Rondo.
PREDICTION: Boston 105, Memphis 96. If this game was on the road, I might be singing a different tune. I really like the way Memphis has been playing recently. But the mere fact that this game is at home should be enough for the Celtics.