Who: Memphis Grizzlies (40-27) at Miami Heat (Very Good)
When: Friday, March 21st, 6:30 PM CST
Where: American Airlines Arena, Miami, FL
Watch and Listen: Sportsouth, 92.9 FM, 680 AM
Discuss: 3SOB on Twitter / 3SOB Forum, Grizzlies Message Boards
Okay, let’s kick this thing off with a bit of trivia. What’s the Grizzlies’ win percentage against the Miami Heat since the formation of the big three?
Would you believe me if I told you 60%? Yep, which is as good as any team in the league has performed against them over the span. Now of course, being in the Western Conference, the Grizzlies have the luxury of playing Miami only twice a year (once in the lockout shortened season), and in turn certainly benefit from a diminutive sample, but relative success against the two time champions is nothing to sneeze at, right? Anyways, the Grizz have made the most of their schedule lately, having gone 8-2 in their last ten, which makes for a good cushion heading into one of the more daunting back-to-back draws conceivable. Heat on the road tonight, and if that’s not nasty enough, they head home directly after to take on the Pacers tomorrow. Keep your oxygen tanks handy, Grizz fans.
Mike Conley vs Mario Chalmers
The Grizzlies could certainly use a big game from number 11 tonight. With LeBron, Wade and Bosh lurking at their respective positions, the Grizz have to win the matchups that they can get. This is not, however, to say that Mario Chalmers is anybody to sleep on. The Heat point guard will always be remembered for how he burned Memphis with a 3-point heave to send the Tigers to OT in the NCAA Finals (Sorry for bringing it up), but fortunately he has not yet been able to translate his skills to success against the Grizzlies. His scoring totals vs. our Grizz in the “Big 3″ era are as follows: 2, 7, 1, 5, 9. If he’s not dialed in offensively, he still contributes to Miami’s attack by generating steals to push the break, but Mike Conley is one of the best in the league at protecting the rock. Good matchup for the Grizz, on paper.
Courtney Lee vs Dwyane Wade
Courtney Lee stormed through the flood gates post-trade, and has his play has tailed off considerably since the All-Star break since. Before the break, Lee was averaging 13.9 points per contest in a Grizzlies jersey, and shooting 50.5% from the floor and 34.4% from three. Since the break, he’s at 9.8 points per game, shooting 46.8% from the floor and just 30.2% from three. Dwyane Wade may be approaching the twilight of his career as far as health and injuries are concerned, but when he’s able to get on the court, his ability has not skipped a beat. Wade’s all-around game is an absolute nightmare to gameplan against, especially when you have to worry about LeBron roaming. Pick your poison.
Tayshaun Prince vs LeBron James
I swear I’m not being lazy, but I really don’t have to discuss this one, do I? Okay, cool. Just try to stay between him and the basket, Tay.
Zach Randolph vs Chris Bosh
People tend to sleep on Chris Bosh since he accepted his role as the third banana in Miami, but don’t count me in that group of individuals. Bosh has still got the ability to be the number one option of half of the teams in today’s NBA; he just channels it differently in Miami. Generally speaking, his ability to play the “stretch 5″ for Miami is an integral piece of keeping the floor wide open for LeBron and Wade to create havoc in the paint. He’s even developed a killer 3 point shot this year. Just look at the dude’s shot chart:
Granted, the degree of difficulty shooting jumpers in Miami’s offense is lesser than elsewhere (just ask Mike Miller), but it’s impressive nonetheless, and Bosh will have Zbo all over the place trying to hold him down tonight.
Marc Gasol vs Greg Oden
I’ve been hesitant to make any proclamations of the sort, but with that 20 point, 10 rebound, 4 block performance against the Jazz on Wednesday night, I might be safe saying that Marc Gasol is back! The scoring numbers may wax and wane depending on the flow of the game, but Marc’s impact on the offense does not. It may be preferred to have him putting the ball in the basket — as Quincy Pondexter stated in his color commentary session against Utah, the Grizzlies are a different team when #33 is aggressive on offense — but even when he’s not, he’s been making plays passing the ball lately. Plus, the block numbers have been excellent, with 10 over the last three games. Miami has been interesting with how they’ve handled the starting lineup lately, but even though he got the night off against Boston on Wednesday, Mike Conley’s old pal Greg Oden has been implanted into the first unit’s center spot in games that he has played and will continue to do so going forward.
Off the Bench:
Firstly, I, for one (and probably many), am of the mind that James Johnson should be playing every night. But if there was ever a matchup in which James Johnson should be playing, it’s probably this one. Johnson is one of the few players in the league with the requisite breed of size, strength, and athleticism to keep up with and possibly frustrate LeBron James, so long as he avoids foul trouble. Secondly, I’m interested to see the type of reaction that Mike Miller receives in his return to American Airlines Arena, and moreover how that holds up after he #Let(s)ItFly on them! On a serious note, Miami of all teams would know not to leave him alone on the wing. The Miami Heat have a deep and diverse bench of specialists, who thanks to the prowess of their big 3 can simply focus on operating comfortably within their given roles, which makes it a such a great place to extend and revive careers. Shane Battier, Ray Allen, Norris Cole, Michael Beasley, and of course, the human coloring book Chris “Birdman” Andersen are a lot to handle.