Friday, February 8, 2013

Game 49 Preview: Grizzlies vs. Warriors

Posted By on Fri, Feb 8, 2013 at 9:18 AM

The Grizzlies return home for a big one tonight against the Golden State Warriors, a team only half a game back of the Grizzlies in the Western Conference playoff standings.

As always, when time permits, three thoughts:

Center Andrew Bogut is back for the Warriors.
  • Center Andrew Bogut is back for the Warriors.
1. Meeting Down at the Crossroads: These two teams have both struggled after strong starts. After opening 14-3, the Grizzlies have gone 16-15 since. The Warriors started 21-10 and have gone 9-9 since. And these declines have happened for reasons that are simultaneously similar and divergent.

For the Grizzlies, the great early start was driven by an unexpectedly and perhaps unsustainably explosive offense that garnered lots of national attention. That offense has now slid — and had plummeted well before the recent trades — from the Top 5 to 23rd in points per 100 possessions. For the Warriors, long a defensive sieve, it was a surprisingly — and perhaps unsustainably — stingy defense, even in the absence of center Andrew Bogut, that drove their rise up the standings. That defense has now tumbled from the Top 10 down to 17th in points allowed per 100 possessions.

2. Defending the Three: For the Grizzlies however, defense has actually been a bigger problem than offense of late. They gave up 10-24 three-point shooting to Atlanta in Wednesday night's loss, much of that in transition. If that doesn't tighten up tonight it could get ugly against a Warriors team that leads the NBA in three-point percentage at 39% (Atlanta is fourth at 38%).

The Warriors feature the best shooting backcourt in the NBA in Steph Curry, who has been dealing with more ankle woes of late, and Klay Thompson, who has been the Warriors' biggest individual indicator of team success, scoring 18 points on 45% in wins and 14 points on 37% shooting in losses.

3. Who's Going to Play?: Both teams have some rotation/lineup questions heading into tonight. For the Warriors, Bogut didn't play Wednesday night at Oklahoma City on the second night of a back-to-back but is expected back against the Grizzlies. He's played well upon his return, but him minutes have been limited to about 25. Sixth man Jarrett Jack, who's had a great season, also missed Wednesday with arm and shoulder issues and seems more doubtful for tonight.

For the Grizzlies, there aren't any injury questions — Quincy Pondexter will be back soon, but not yet — but there are questions about how the rotation is shaping up in wake of trade. The starting lineup plus Jerryd Bayless and Darrell Arthur are givens. Lionel Hollins has been using Austin Daye as his eighth man while playing Ed Davis less than pretty much anyone expected and limiting the roles of both Tony Wroten Jr. and Chris Johnson. But the return hasn't been good on Daye's minutes so far and Davis is just far too established a producer to be limited to single-digit minutes. One suspects we're still a few games away, at least, from settling on bench roles, so it'll be interesting to see what might change tonight.

Ticket Giveaway: We've got a pair of lower-bowl tickets to tonight's game. The drawing is at noon. You'll have to be able to pick-up the tickets at the Flyer's offices, downtown, before 5 p.m. Enter here.

Around the Web: Too much Grizzlies stuff to keep track of lately, but I definitely recommend two Xs and Os-heavy pieces from ESPN.com's Beckley Mason that looked at some of the systemic problems with the Grizzlies' underachieving offense. The first is about the lack of movement. The second is about poor spacing.

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