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Memphis
showed a lot of determination and grit but not enough control in the crucial points of the 4th quarter in losing at San Antonio Friday night. Led by O J Mayo and Rudy Gay the Grizzlies actually won a 3rd quarter and showed a lot more patience early in the game in making the extra pass to get easy shots rather than settling for long range jump shots. Mike Conley was on fire shooting 6-7 from the field but was a liability defensively as Roger Mason and George Hill, not to mention the return of Tony Parker, all had their way against the Grizzlies point guards.

Oklahoma Citylost a heart-breaking game at home on a last second shot by former Grizzlies player Mike Miller. Oklahoma City has been led by Kevin Durant and Jeff Green all season but neither player has any inside game leaving the Thunder without any credible interior play. The other problem for the team with the worst record in the NBA is that their backcourt is struggling to make shots. Former Grizz Earl Watson is shooting below 34% and first round draft pick Russell Westbrook is in the same neighborhood. However they are solid defensive players unlike Durant and Green. The Thunder rely completely on the 3 pt shot. Durant, Green and Wilkins all shoot a higher percentage from the arc than the floor and Westbrook isn’t far off.

Point Guards: Mike Conley vs Earl Watson

This is the 1st of many interesting match ups in this game. Many Grizzlies fans will remember Earl Watson as the protagonist back up PG for the Grizzlies during the early seasons of the team in Memphis. While never actually starting Watson’s play created turmoil on the team as JWill’s back up. Mike Conley is now the starter in Memphis but he too has his protagonist in Kyle Lowry who is very similiar to Watson in the way he plays. If you have ever wanted to know what a Conley vs Lowry match up would look like should watch this one closely. Conley’s speed should give him an advantage over Watson but Earl is a crafty vet who knows how to counter that advanatage. The difference should come down to Watson’s physical play against Conley.
Advantage: Oklahoma City

Shooting Guards: O J Mayo vs Damien Wilkins
Mayo has been incredible so far his rookie year and should easily win the Western Conference rookie of the month after this game. He has scored with amazing ease from inside and outside but hasn’t quite learned how to draw fouls to get to the line. His defense has been spotty as he learns what players like but he still surprises the vets with his quick hands which create turnovers. Wilkinsshould be in his prime at 28 yrs old but is playing like he is much older than that. Wilkins is a good defensive player but far better guarding the SF than a combo guard like Mayo. He is a veteran however and will realize if he can slow down Mayo the Thunder have a real shot at stealing a road win in this game. That just won’t be enough to match O J’s talent.
Advantage: Memphis

Small Forwards: Rudy Gay vs Kevin Durant
Interesting match #2 as Rudy and Kevin are lifelong friends from their daysgrowingup in Baltimore. Last seasonRudy dominated thematch upknowing how to slow down Durant andsimply playing better inevery aspect of the game. This season Durant is no longera rookie and shouldput up a better showing. Durant is shooting better than Gay this year but despite his superior heightand college reputation isn’t rebounding as well. Rudy has been playing much better of late after a slow start but will need to continue to get inside Durant’s head in this game. Whoever wins this match could determine who wins the game. They are both that important to their teams.
Advantage: Memphis

Power Forwards:Darrell Arthur vsJeff Green

Interesting match up #3 has Darrell Arthur of Kansas against Jeff Green of Georgetown. Both have impressive college pedigrees and are considered more workman type pros than elite players. The difference is that the Thunder are expecting a lot more from Green and his is undersized to play the four in this league. That is a bad combination. Green barely breaks 40% from the field but hits 45% from the arc so Arthur can’t let him slip out to the line unmanned. Arthur has been going through a down patch after some impressive early games including a lot of trouble with fouls. That happens with rookies. His scoring won’t be that important in this game as his defense and rebounding.
Advantage: Oklahoma City

Centers: Marc Gasol vs Nick Collison

Marc Gasol has been consistently average lately. That isn’t bad for a rookie center in the NBA but he has to be more in this game. Gasol has a tremendous size advantage over Collison but the former Jayhawk is experienced and knows how to get the most out of his decisive speed advantage over Gasol. If the Grizzlies look to Gasol early and often there is little Collison can do about it especially without any other bigs on the court to help out but the Grizzlies haven’t been going in that direction very often. Collison has a nice shot out to 15 ft which will force Gasol away from the basket more than he is comfortable doing. The question is can Collison avoid foul trouble long enough to take advantage of Gasol’s lack of speed.
Advantage: Memphis

Benches: Memphis vs Oklahoma City

These two teams are among the youngest and worst teams in the league so neither team is looking toward their bench for big lifts. Russell Westbrook, this season’s #4 draft pick, has had about as much trouble shooting as Mike Conley has but shoots a lot more than Mike. Don’t be fooled by that 11 ppg average since he is shooting only 31% from the field and even worse from the arc. Chris Wilcox had a nice game this week but for an interior player is shooring only 42% from the field and 52% from free throw line. Lowry, Warrick and Milicic need to have a good game but they have been among the most erratic players on the team so far especially in the 3rd quarter. Quinton Ross may log a large amount of minutes since the Thuder rely heavily on perimeter shooting which is Ross’ specialty.
Advantage: Memphis
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