Who: Memphis Grizzlies vs. New York Knicks
When: Friday, November 16, 8:30 PM CST
Where: FedEx Forum, Memphis, TN
Records: Memphis (6-1), New York (6-0)
Media: ESPN, 92.9 FM, 680 AM
Forums: 3 Shades of Blue, Grizzlies Message Board
Memphis has got to be relishing the chance to play spoiler to yet another scorching media-darling opponent. In fact, a victory tonight would yield sit the Grizzlies at 7-1, which would be the top win percentage in the league. They look to cap off the stretch from Hades with a strong performance at home against the New York Knicks tonight. Instead of entering this meeting in a worn down state, they’re looking stronger than ever after consecutively defeating the two respective conference representatives of last year’s finals, and doing so in rather convincing fashion. In the process, Memphis has sent the fan base as well as the alert media into a euphoric frenzy, as aspirations have suddenly risen to that of title contention. To be fair, if you’ve watched this team lately, it’s hard to argue to the contrary. I feel like I’m repeating myself in these successive previews, but the results have been largely the same. The bench continues to be wildly productive, Marc Gasol continues to display laser-like court vision out of the post, Tony Allen and Quincy Pondexter are playing lock-down defense (limiting Grizz killer Kevin Martin to 7 points last game), and Zach Randolph is posting double doubles in his sleep. Speaking of Randolph, he and Kendrick Perkins were tossed late in Wednesday night’s game for getting into a spat, and the league is allegedly probing for information regarding some purported extra-curricular post-game activity involving the two. The degree of validity to any of this is up in the air, so I’m not going to comment any further, but while I love Zbo’s chippiness, he’s going to have to keep himself in check, because the Grizzlies are playing too well right now and cannot afford to have him get into any trouble. As a side-note, the Grizzlies are hosting a canned food drive for the Mid-South Food Bank tonight.
New York, the National Basketball Association’s lone undefeated team strolls into Memphis to butt heads with potentially the only team that is riding as much momentum as they are. They have most notably been reaping the benefits of having true point guards run the show for a change. The impact of the additions of Raymond Felton and Jason Kidd cannot be understated. After the state of flux that was the 2011-12 season, characterized by Linsanity, injuries, a coaching change, and a fire extinguisher punching incident, they have really picked things up going forward. Amar’e Stoudemire is hurt again, and while I do not know how true it holds, they have found their groove, which has given way to suspicions that the team is better off without him. Rasheed Wallace has come back from the dead, characteristic of the roster’s composition as a “finely-aged” group, as even their rookie is 35 years old (Argentine point guard, Pablo Prigioni). In spite of this, they’re managing to keep the pace ratcheted up with their excellent ball movement and three point shooting. Last night against the Spurs, they finally looked human, but playing a team like San Antonio can do that to you. Instead of rolling over down double digits in the 4th, the Knicks dug deep and pulled out an impressive comeback victory, spearheaded Kidd and Felton’s collective floor leadership.
Things to watch for: The Knicks, like the Thunder, tend to play their best ball when they opt for the “small ball” lineup, positioning Carmelo Anthony at the 4. They play a breakneck pace, spread the floor with shooters, and when they can’t get a good look, let Carmelo fire away. Defensively, reigning DPOY, Tyson Chandler is as solid an anchor as any, as compensation to allow them to run with the small lineup. Again, as it was the case with the Thunder, the outcome is likely going to come down to which team can impose their will upon the other. If you get into a shootout, 9 times out of 10, the guy with the better guns will come out the victor. What I’m saying is we don’t want to challenge them to a shootout. The Grizzlies’ shooting has improved, but Steve Novak, JR Smith, and co. are straight assassins. Enforce the grind inside, and ride our frontcourt to lucky number 7th -straight.
Matchup of the Night: Rudy Gay vs. Carmelo Anthony – The battle of the Baltimore boys. Rudy Gay has had a lot on his plate this week, drawing matchups against Lebron James, Kevin Durant, and now Carmelo Anthony. All three, hardly arguably the top three small forwards in the league, pose unique threats for the talented Grizzlies swingman, and he has proven to be up to the task thus far. Rudy averaged 24.5 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists over the past two contests, looking to be just as elite as his counterparts. Carmelo has got the frame of a bull and likes to go iso all night long, which can be a real drain on his opponent. Expect a hefty dose of one-on-one action between the two.