Who: Memphis Grizzlies vs Orlando Magic
When: 7:00 pm CST
Where: FedEx Forum, Memphis, TN
Records: Memphis (40-25), Orlando (37-28)
Expected Starting Lineups:
Memphis – Mike Conley, Tony Allen, Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol
Orlando – Jameer Nelson, J J Reddick, Jason Richardson, Ryan Anderson, Glen Davis
Memphis concludes the season tonight with a possibility of finishing with the highest winning percentage in franchise history and the 5th most wins despite playing 16 fewer games than normal. An amazing accomplishment especially since the team’s only all-star entering the season missed 39 of the 66 games.
Oh and by the way, the Grizzlies can clinch home court advantage in the first round with a win tonight.
The Grizzlies accomplished this with a total team effort. Marc Gasol stepped up his game. Rudy Gay returned to his pre-shoulder injury form and Mike Conley, Tony Allen and O J Mayo combined for one of the more dangerous backcourt combinations in the league. New faces Marreese Speights, Dante Cunningham and Quincy Pondexter stepped in a played major roles despite not having the benefit of a pre-season.
Most importantly, Head Coach Lionel Hollins didn’t allow the team to feel sorry for themselves, insisting on supreme effort despite the injuries and demanding schedule. Instead of allowing the slow start to the season and all the other excuses to define the team, he insisted on the same grit and grind effort every night in spite of it and the results are evident. The season is a success regardless of the playoffs.
Orlando took a different approach to the season. From Dwight Howard distraction with his contract situation to his clash with the front office over the team’s talent to his blow up with Head Coach Stan Van Gundy the Magic have been a team on the decline all season.
It is too bad since the Magic were very competitive this season led by the emergence of Ryan Anderson and the continued development of players like J J Reddick, the Magic were the 3rd best Eastern Conference team until the late season swoon dropped them to 6th place.
Offensively, the Magic are a team based on the philosophy of dumping the ball inside to Dwight Howard and leaving everyone else on the three-point line looking for open looks. Defensively they pressure the ball knowing that Dwight Howard was behind them to distract anyone’s shot who beat their man off the dribble. Without Howard in the lineup the team has looked lost, lacking both their swagger and their intensity.
Prediction: While the Grizzlies are likely going deep into the bench looking to rest the players expected to contribute the most in the playoffs. The Magic are looking to find some momentum heading into the playoffs. However the Grizzlies are playing for more and that will make the difference.