Who: Memphis Grizzlies at Miami Heat
When: 7:00 PM CST
Where: American Airlines Arena, Miami, Florida
Records: Memphis (38-18), Miami (41-14)
Media: ESPN, 92.9 FM, 680 AM
Forums: 3 Shades of Blue, Grizzlies Message Board
Memphis enters this game on an eight game winning streak but questions have risen again about the team’s offense. After scoring over 100 points in three successive games for the first time since November the Grizzlies have failed to score more than 90 points in four successive games including a mere 76 points in the win at Brooklyn. Defense, the team’s bread and butter, has been outstanding however holding every team to 84 points or less in all four games. What offense there has been has come from the inside as Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph have established themselves as the Grizzlies main offensive threats. Newly acquired Tayshaun Prince and Austin Daye along with a healthy Quincy Pondexter have improved the Grizzlies perimeter shooting but the team continues to force the action inside as their first and second options.
Miami is on a 12 game winning streak against a much tougher schedule than the Grizzlies have played. With wins over the Rockets, Clippers, Lakers, at Oklahoma City and at Chicago there has been no question about the quality of opponents during the Heat stretch. Led by Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh and LeBron James, who is having one of the best seasons ever in the NBA, the Heat have defeated all but 3 opponents by 1o or more points as well. Miami is winning despite a height challenged line up with Chris Bosh and Udonis Haslem manning the interior and former Grizz SF Shane Battier backing them up. The Heat have simply overpowered opponents despite the lack of size. The Heat are 5th in the league in scoring and 12th in defensive scoring and are 3rd in the league in point differential at 7.2 PPG. The one weakness is rebounding where the Heat rank dead last in the league. Well rebounding and their dancing.
Expected Starting Lineups:
Mike Conley vs Mario Chalmers
Mike Conley has stepped up big in most games during the Grizzlies stretch but has shown cracks in his armor of late. In the last five games Conley has seen his FG% decrease to 40.0% and his 3 point accuracy drop to 35%. Conley has not lost a step defensively averaging 2.6 SPG. That defense has helped turn the tide in more than a few games when his shot wasn’t falling. Chalmers has been picking up his offense in the last five games averaging 11.6 PPG on 52 FG% and 47.6% from the arc over the stretch. When Chambers can make an impact on offense it just adds to teams struggles stopping the Heat’s big three scorers.
Tony Allen vs Dwayne Wade
Dwayne is no longer the leader of the Heat but he has passed that title without sacrificing his game. The Eastern Conference starter is averaging 25.1 PPG on 55.4% shooting over the last 10 games. Wade has never been a perimeter shooter and is not one this season either but his physical attacking style has been nearly unstoppable of late. Tony Allen has made a name for himself on defense but will be severely challenged in this matchup. Allen prefers to out-muscle his opponent but Wade thrives on contact getting to the line 4.4 times a night over the last five games. Allen has found a shooting stroke in February but this is March and Allen was back to his erratic shooting at the end of the month. Still Allen’s forte is defense not offense.
Tayshaun Prince vs LeBron James
LeBron James is the best player in the NBA. There isn’t much of a question left in that regard. James is averaging 29.7 PPG on an incredible 62.9% from the floor. He’s shooting 41% from the arc this season. He averages a team high 7.3 APG (more than Mike Conley) and 8.1 RPG (more than Marc Gasol). He has too much power for most small forwards to guard him and too much speed when teams try to put bigger players on him. His performance this season has been nothing short of remarkable. Rudy Gay held LeBron to only 20 points, 10 rebounds and 6 assists in their first meeting this season but Gay is gone. Tayshaun Prince has helped the team in many ways but is could be in big trouble in this matchup. His goal has to be to slow not stop LeBron and hope the rest of the team can do their jobs.
Zach Randolph vs Udonis Haslem
Haslem is outsized at PF but is better than any other option for fighting under the basket for the Heat. A scrappy player Haslem gets by more on effort than talent but the effort is always there. Averaging only 18 MPG over the last 10 games, Haslem has still managed to grab 5.9 RPG in those games. Haslem is not a natural scorer but knows his game well enough to average 61.5% from the field. Zach Randolph was a huge factor in the Grizzlies come from behind win against Dallas Wednesday night. After suffering a mini slump in January, Randolph is averaging 17.2 PPG and grabbing 11.5 RPG in his last 10 games including the 22 point, 10 rebound game against Dallas. When Zach is hitting shots everything works better for Memphis.
Marc Gasol vs Chris Bosh
Marc Gasol rediscovered his shot in the last three games hitting 20 if his last 36 shots after struggling with the increased pressure after the Gay trade. Gasol is not a natural force on offense, preferring to use his excellent passing to defer to others but in the remade Grizzlies attack he is expected to carry a larger role. Overall this season Gasol is just having an average season but his recent run has shown the potential to be much more than previously except in brief glimpses. Chris Bosh started for the Eastern Conference all-stars but is not a natural center. Bosh is more of a jump shooter than banger and takes advantage of teams over-playing James and Wade to get easy looks at the basket. His 54.4 FG% is a career high but Gasol is being mentioned among the best defensive centers in the league. It’s a classic brawn vs finesse matchup.
Miami has certain advantages most other teams can’t match. A beautiful beach filled with models for one. That is the only way to explain the plethora of talent that has accepted pay cuts to play for the Heat. Well that and the opportunity to win a bunch of rings I suppose. Ray Allen took less money to leave Boston. Former Grizz Shane Battier did as well. Rashard Lewis, Former Grizz Mike Miller and help round out the star-studded bench. The Heat’s bench is older than most but the talent is unquestioned. Memphis can’t attract big name FA’s to their bench and must do with cast-offs and rookie contracts but has managed to put together a decent group. Led by Jerryd Bayless, Quincy Pondexter and Darrell Arthur, the Grizzlies bench has received a major uplift in the Rudy Gay trade with long-range threat Austin Daye and big man Ed Davis. The group is still getting comfortable with each other but have helped the team win games they used to lose.