Who: Memphis Grizzlies (45-32) vs Miami Heat (Very Good)
When: Wednesday, April 9th, 7:00 PM CST
Where: FedEx Forum, Memphis, TN
Watch and Listen: ESPN, 92.9 FM, 680 AM
Discuss: 3SOB on Twitter / 3SOB Forum, Grizzlies Message Boards
Not sure what it is about timing, but the Grizzlies schedule has an affinity for surrounding matchups against the Miami Heat with tough games. The last time the Grizz played Miami, it was followed by a bout with the Indiana Pacers, while this time the Heat come on the heels of the Grizzlies getting their doors blown off by the good ol’ San Antonio Spurs. When the good guys traveled to Miami in March, they did everything right except pay attention to that guy, oh what’s his name, Ray Allen? The Grizzlies have to be more diligent in guarding the arc and protecting the ball with the national audience watching as they try to leverage tonight’s opportunity to help them squeak into that 8 seed in the West. It will be up to the Grizzlies to capitalize on the fact that the Heat endured a tightly contested loss to the Brooklyn Nets last night, and make some much-needed strides in the direction of earning those playoff stripes. Miami on the other hand does not have much on the line, but does have home court advantage within its grasp due to the Pacers’ free-fall.
Mike Conley vs Mario Chalmers
Mike Conley was relatively quiet in the last meeting with the bad boys from South Beach, shooting just 4-12 from the floor, and essentially mirroring Mario Chalmers’s production as far as the point guard battle was concerned. Conley did however rack himself up a nice total of 3 steals, but his freelancing defense was not without risk. Chalmers dropped a trio of three-pointers in the last meeting, and is dangerous if left open — pick your poision, though, it’s Miami.
Courtney Lee vs Toney Douglas
Dwyane Wade has sat out the last seven games for Miami with the combination of a hamstring injury and rest purposes. With the Pacers in turmoil, the Heat have the luxury of prepping their guys for the postseason by affording them an ample reduction to the wear and tear of the season’s rigors. The unheralded Toney Douglas has assumed the starting gig in his steed, but he’s a nifty player to have in the backcourt with his three-point shooting and “better than you would think” defensive intensity. Lee had been back on track before his 1-7 stinker against the Spurs, but on the bright side at least he was shooting the ball. It’s going to be of the essence to get him in rhythm through these last five games.
Tony Allen vs LeBron James
Much has been made of Tony Allen’s discontent with his lack of minutes in recent days, but with Tayshaun Prince, who did a phenomenal job of defending LBJ last time out, nursing his sprained ankle, the Grindfather will certainly not be short on opportunity to shift the balance back in his favor. Against San Antonio on Sunday night, he squandered that opportunity by chucking away possessions, but he may be getting the chance to prove himself again tonight by checking the best in the game. LeBron was irate at the no-call on his dunk attempt that was blocked by Mason Plumlee as time expired against the Nets last night, so you have to hope for the Grizzlies’ sake that the vengeance is not channeled into this one.
Zach Randolph vs Shane Battier
This is more than likely going to be where the Grizzlies’ ability to stay in the game is decided. Back in March, Zbo went vintage on the Heat logging a 25 and 14 line, at a clip of 60% from the floor. If our old friend Shane Battier is the guy to check Randolph, I’m not quite as optimistic as the size differential would suggest. In my estimation, Zbo struggles moreso with the smaller, crafty guys that can counter his moves in the post than he does against the guys who have him overmatched with length. Still, if there’s any advantage the Grizzlies have against a team like Miami, it’s on the block.
Marc Gasol vs Chris Bosh
When I previewed Grizzlies/Heat last time out I spent a great deal of time praising Chris Bosh’s all-around scoring prowess, and particularly his evolving ability to knock down the long ball. It must have inflated his ego a bit, as he fired away from beyond the arc to the tune of 1-6, contributing to a 4-15 night from the field. In other words, I should probably do the same again, right? Bosh never gets enough love for just how much his versatility enables the Heat to run the system that they do, and sometimes you forget just how dynamic of a player he really is. Marc Gasol is in for a long night if he’s going to be busy stretching for Bosh on the pick-and-pop and spot up jumpers at the 3-point line, and hasn’t been aggressive enough at the basket to dish it back out on the other end — but hey, tonight would be as good a time as any.
Off the Bench:
#LetItFly. At minimum, one of those guys pictured above will. The problem is, the Heat have Allen, Rashard Lewis, the entirety of their starting lineup, and heck, even reserve rim protector Chris “Birdman” Andersen (hey, he’s hit a couple) capable of burning you by means of the three-point variety, which is a lot for Mike Miller and the rest of the Grizz to make up for. Speaking of the rest of the Grizz, this would appear to be as good an opponent as any to give James Johnson some burn against, to match up with James. The Grizz are deep, but with all the weapons that Miami has at its disposal, and how well they all know their roles, it’s hard to give this to the good guys.