Memphis(45-34) has just secured a playoff spot for the first time in four years and is only 1 game behind New Orleans for the 7 seed making this a critical game. The Grizz have played well as of late and have beaten New Orleans earlier this season. Regardless this is a huge game and the Hornets will play hard so Memphis will have to execute. The Grizz have the definite advantage down low especially due to the injury of David West. Memphis has played monster defense as of late, their last 10 opponents have averaged a little below 90 points per game.
New Orleans (46-33) The Hornets, only .5 games behind the Trailblazers, are playing well and hoping to capture that much sought after 6 seed. The Hornets have gone 7-3 in their past 10 games and are playing well without key player, David West. The Hornets have had trouble against the Grizzlies this season and need to play really well if they expect to win. New Orleans will have a disadvantage down low and will need to take and make their jump shots. Containing Zach Randolph has been difficult for the Hornets, even with West, as Randolph has put up a 20-10 game in their last 7 contests.
Point Guards:Mike ConleyvsChris Paul
Paul has had a decent season averaging 16 ppg 4 rpg and 10 apg and has the clear advantage over Conley. Conley will have to play really well against Paul and take great care of the ball as Paul also averages 2.4 steals a night. Conley has played well in his past couple games, passing and rebounding well and averaging 3 steals per game. Conley has shot a bit poorly though which cant happen against Paul. Unless Conley has a huge game, the advantage in this matchup goes to Paul.
Advantage: New Orleans
Shooting Guards:Tony AllenvsMarco Belinelli
Belinelli is a one dimensional player while Tony Allen can contribute in multitude of ways. All Belinelli does exceptionally well is shoot the 3 which he does at an exceptional 41%. Tony Allen on the other hand has many dimensions to his game. First of all, Allen plays lockdown defense and can shut down most players. Allen averages a mind-boggling 1.8 steals per game despite only 20 minutes a night and records .6 blocks a night which is a good number for a 64 shooting guard. Allen isnt too shabby offensively too and is an efficient scorer and above average shooter. Belinelli is not going to get too many open shots while Tony Allen is in the game.
Small Forwards:Sam YoungvsTrevor Ariza
Sam Young is constantly improving and has become a solid player however Ariza is a more prolific scorer and has the slight size advantage over Young. Sam is going to have to play tight defense and make sure to stick with Ariza despite Trevors quickness. Ariza is infamous for taking more than his fair share of jump shots and can play very poorly when he isnt shooting well. Young has to make sure that Ariza stays out of rhythm by making sure that he doesnt get any open looks. This matchup was very close but Im going to have to give the slight advantage to Ariza.
Advantage: New Orleans
Power Forwards:Zach RandolphvsCarl Landry
Carl Landry is a solid player and decent defender but Zach Randolph has the definite advantage. Randolph will make Landry work down low and fight for every rebound. Zach is coming off a monster game against Sacramento and will have no problem pushing Landry around and racking up a high point total. Randolph has played well against New Orleans this season and will most likely have another great game.
Centers:Marc GasolvsEmeka Okafor
This is going to be a great matchup. Both Gasol and Okafor are physical players who spend a majority of their time down low. Gasol is more offensively talented while Okafor is a slightly better defender and rebounder. Both Gasol and Okafor are great shot blockers making this a close matchup. Id have to give the slight advantage to Okafor due to his more well-balanced game.
Advantage: New Orleans
O J Mayo has had his efficiency problems and has shot poorly in Memphis past two games. The team is going to need him to score especially from the perimeter in this game. Mayo isn’t the only player who can score off of Memphis’ bench but he is the team’s best perimeter shooter and the Hornets will likely dare the Grizzlies to beat them from outside in this game. Darrell Arthur will need to continue to rebound well since New Orleans is a weak rebounding team. Powe, Battier and Vasquez will all need to fill their roles as well. New Orleans bench relies on veterans Willie Green and Jarret Jack for leadership and scoring. Aaron Gray and Jason Smith are not the most mobile bigs but will bang with the best.