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grizzMemphishas a new coach, a new attitude and the same results they have suffered through in every game this year except the blowout win against Dallas on January 4th. It’s starting to look like it will be a cold daydown south before the Grizzlies win another game. The good news is that it is really, reallycold today. O J Mayoseems to be scaling the rookie wall after some very sub-par efforts. Darrell Arthur had a strong 3 quarters against Denver and most encouraging continued his strong play without getting into foul trouble. Rudy Gay continues to struggle but is looking more active which will likely improve his fortunes going forward.

Thunder

Oklahoma Cityhas turned their season around already since the firing of P J Carlisimo in December. It isn’t easy to tell that they are improving since the Thunder have a worse record both absolutely and at home than the Grizzlies. Pretty amazing considering Oklahoma City’s fans are among the more rabid in the league. I guess great fan support doesn’t guarantee a strong record at home. Thunder Coach Scotty Brooks looks younger than O J Mayo but is getting the team pointed in the right direction.

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Point Guards: Mike Conley vs Russell Westbrook
Both players have been given the keys to the family car this season. Conley has struggled with the responsibility while Westbrook, well Westbrook has struggled as well but in different ways. Conley has suffered from indecision and a lack of pace while running the offense. Westbrook has struggled with his outside shot (41% from the floor) but has contributed in other areas such as nearly 5 rebounds and 5 assists a game while scoring over 14 pts a night. Westbrook has great size for a PG and incredible leaping ability as well.
Advantage: Oklahoma City

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Shooting Guards: O.J. Mayo vs Desmond Mason
Desmond Mason is more ofa SF than a SG but on a team loaded with SF’s and short on just about everything else concessions have to be made. Mason has no outside shot but knows how to use his size against opponents to get shots off around the rim. Mayo will struggle containing Mason inside and Mason’s an excellent defender who will give O.J. fits trying to get his shot off. Mayo was struggling with the rookie wall but apparently has scaled it for the time being but that may not be enough in this game.
Advantage: Oklahoma City

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Small Forwards: Rudy Gay vs Kevin Durant
The marquee match-up of the game pits two Baltimore natives and long time friends. Durant and Gay grew up together, so each knows the other’s game very well. In Durant’s rookie year Gay had the upper hand but so far this season Durant has the lead and those games were played before the recent slide in Rudy’s performance. Strictly by the numbers the edge is heavily in Durant’s court but sometimes old rivalries bring out the best in players and Rudy is needing a big game. Common sense tells me to go with the numbers but I am going out on a limb here and predicting the intensity factor will go with Rudy in this game. More good news for Rudy was Lionel Hollins declaring that the Phoenix 4 strategy doesn’t look good so Rudy can finally concentrate on playing his natural position.
Advantage: Memphis

Darrell ArthurGreen
Power Forwards: Darrell Arthur vs Jeff Green
When was the last time Darrell Arthur had two fouls in the first quarter? Earlier in the season it appeared Arthur had two fouls at the 10:00 minute mark but lately that hasn’t been nearly as big an issue and Arthur has improved his play since November, somethingunique amongplayers on the team. Jeff Green is playing out of position but that ability has caused match-up problems for opponents. Green is the 3rd SF in the starting roster but has adapted to the PF role by stretching defenses with his 3 pt shooting. Arthur will be hard pressed to cover Green and help defensively in the paint. Green,aformer Georgetown player, is a strong enough defender to give Arthur fits.
Advantage: Oklahoma City

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Centers:Marc Gasol vs Nick Collison
Marc Gasol failed to score against Nene and the Denver Nuggets. The good news is that Nick Collison is no Nene. The power forward is being forced to play out of position as Oklahoma City is desperate for someone to man the inside. Gasol struggled for the first time this season against the interior strength of Denver but should be able to find it easier against the undersized Oklahoma City interior. Collison is a fighter who will give 100% but the size mis-match
Advantage: Memphis

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Benches: Memphis vs Oklahoma City
Oklahoma City’s starters are young but the bench is loaded with experienced players such as former Grizzlies Chucky Atkins (acquired this season in a trade with Denver for Johan Petro) and Earl Watson as well as former #1 pick in the draft Joe Smith and Damien Wilkins. That veteran presence gives the Thunder a solid second line while the youthful starting lineup learns to play together. Memphis’ bench is led by Hakim Warrick and Kyle Lowry but will still be without Darko Milicic who had his splint removed on his right hand but isn’t ready to start playing in games yet. The good news for the Grizzlies is that it won’t be much longer until Darko returns. Quinton Ross and Marco Jaric have seen increased playing time of late but haven’t been able to develop a strong rapport yet with the second team.
Advantage: Oklahoma City

Other Commentary:
Beyond the Arc
Grizzed by VanJulio

Blue Blitz – A Bloguin Network site

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