Who: Memphis Grizzlies vs. Denver Nuggets
When: Monday, November 19, 7:00 PM CST
Where: FedEx Forum, Memphis, TN
Records: Memphis (8-1), Denver (4-6)
Media: Sportsouth, NBA League Pass, 92.9 FM, 680 AM
Forums: 3 Shades of Blue, Grizzlies Message Board
Memphis‘ wheels were spinning so darn fast that they were bound to come a little bit loose in Charlotte on Saturday. However, what matters most is that they came out of the battle unscathed. A messy win is still a win. The sloppiness of the last game comes through as somewhat excusable, given the circumstances of last week, and the game’s status as the tail end of the first back-to-back of the season. The Grizzlies have put together the greatest start in franchise history, and the players’ attitudes suggest no signs of letting up. In terms of their record, they stand alone as the best team in the league for the first time in franchise history. Tip of the hat to Lionel Hollins, who is coaching his behind off, and the guys are buying in. The players are marching out on the court night in and night out aware of exactly what is expected of them. They know their roles, they’re executing within them, and most importantly, they’re embracing them. Not only are the Grizz beating teams in this stretch, but they’re beating good teams. Moreover, not only are they beating good teams, but they’re beating hot good teams. The Heat, Thunder, and Knicks squared off against the Grizzlies carrying 4, 5, and 6 game win streaks, respectively. Heck, even the Bobcats were on a three game roll when we met up with them. Tonight’s opponent is going in another direction, losing three straight, and the Grizzlies look to capitalize. The Grizzlies are about to host 5 straight opponents in (we don’t) Bluff City. The first victim is:
Denver. Denver has not quite gotten off to the start that they had hoped. On the heels of a strong first round showing against the Lakers, the Nuggets jumped out as widely regarded big winners this off-season, acquiring all-star swingman, Andre Iguodala as part of the Dwight Howard blockbuster. Expectations for the team have cooled considerably, as they have shown to be wildly streaky. Denver opened the season on a three game skid. From there they followed up with a four game win streak, and now are currently amidst another three game skid. Maybe they’re missing human coloring book, Chris “Birdman” Andersen’s presence on the bench. More realistically, it’s streaky shooting from point guard Ty Lawson and small forward Danilo Gallinari (both below 40% from the field) that has made it difficult for the Nuggets to stay the course. It appears as though the loss of Aaron Afflalo is hurting them a bit more than has been expected, as he provided them the stability beyond the arc that they now appear to be lacking.
Things to watch for: The Nuggets’ length is something that could pose a bit of a problem for the Grizzlies. Iguodala and Gallinari are two long guys out on the wings that in other words spell out yet another tough draw for Rudy Gay. Additionally, their post game is not nearly as skilled as that of the Grizz, but they do possess three viable options to roll with at the center position. With Kosta Koufos, Javale McGee, and Timofey Mozgov, the Nugs have a wealth of long, active, physical bodies to toss at Marc Gasol over the course of the night. The Nuggets like to get out in the open floor and run. That’s all good and dandy, but when you’re shooting as erratically as they have been, the thought of them spreading the floor is far less intimidating than it usually would be. If the Grizzlies can play their usual harassing defense and get the Nuggets to continue to miss their outside shots, I like our chances of victory.
Matchup of the Night: Zach Randolph vs. Kenneth Faried – Don’t let his size disadvantage fool you, Kenneth Faried is a baaaaaaad man. This is the classic matchup of gazelle vs. bull. Both players are elite rebounders, and are excellent at positioning themselves. There are few, if any post players that possess the activity and athleticism of Faried, but Zach Randolph isn’t about to be shown up on his home floor. Their battle on the glass should be a great one, to say the least.