Monday, March 14, 2011

Deflections: Tonight's Game, Standings Watch, Links, etc.

Posted By on Mon, Mar 14, 2011 at 11:27 AM

The Blake Show: It's taken nearly five months, but tonight Grizzlies fans finally get their first of two up-close looks at Blake Griffin, the power-dunking Los Angeles Clipper who is enjoying one of the most productive and most exciting rookie seasons in the sport's history. Griffin is averaging 23 points, 12 rebounds on 4 assists on 51% shooting on the season. And he's doing it like this:

Crucial Game/Standings Watch: With their last-possession home loss to the Knicks Wednesday and their season-worst domination at the hands of the Miami Heat Sunday, the Grizzlies have lost back-to-back games for the first time since early February, when they followed an overtime road loss to Houston with a more thorough defeat to the Lakers. A loss tonight would be the first full-fledged losing streak since a three-game slide in mid-December.

The Grizzlies have been fortunate not to lose ground the past few days, with Portland ahead of them and Phoenix, Utah, and Houston behind them all also on two-game losing streaks. But you can't expect that to last. And the Grizzlies particularly need to reassert their home dominance after losing two of their past three on the FedExForum court. With a rough road schedule looming — Knicks, Celtics, Bulls — the Grizzlies can't afford many slip-ups at home the rest of the way.

The Grizzlies playoff odds, per ESPN's John Hollinger was down to 68% yesterday morning. Good odds, but the worst it's been in weeks. The Suns' home loss to the Orlando Magic has pushed the Griz back up to 72% this morning. A win tonight could be a big boost given some of the other games on the schedule: The Suns play at the Rockets, meaning, with a win, the Grizzlies will add a game on the loser and hold ground with the winner. Meanwhile, the Jazz have to be considered vulnerable at home against the surging Philadelphia 76ers. Looking up, the Grizzlies can gain a game on the loser of tonight's Nuggets-Hornets game.

What to Look For Tonight: If the Grizzlies typically get an edge from extra possessions created via offensive rebounding and forced turnovers, they may only be able to depend on one of those elements tonight. On the season, the Clippers, with an imposing frontline roation of Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, and Chris Kaman, have been a better rebounding team than the Grizzlies. The good news is that the Clippers have been the league's second most turnover-prone team.

With leading scorer Eric Gordon out (wrist), the Grizzlies perimeter defense will need to focus on trade-deadline acquisistion Mo Williams, a streaky shooter who torched the Grizzlies for 25 points in a 92-86 road loss against Cleveland earlier this season.

On the Grizzlies end of the court, I have a feeling that this would be a good night to get a boost from O.J. Mayo, who scored a team-high 19 off the bench against the Heat Sunday.

The Clippers have won five of their past six games, including victories over Boston and Denver, so this could be a tough one.

Rudy MRI: Rudy Gay will have his follow-up MRI today on his injured left shoulder, so we'll soon have a better sense of his timetable for return. Fans can hope for the best, but I wouldn't make any assumptions about Gay's return.

Link Roundup: Rob Mahoney had a nice piece on Tony Allen's defensive value in the New York Times.

CBS Sports' Matt Moore looks ahead to a complicated summer for the team.

CNNSI's Chris Mannix talks Grizzlies.

Zach Randolph talks to HoopsHype.

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