Friday, February 22, 2013

Game 54 Preview: Grizzlies vs. Magic

Posted By on Fri, Feb 22, 2013 at 9:02 AM

Marc Gasol looks to get his offense back on track against the Magic tonight.
  • Marc Gasol looks to get his offense back on track against the Magic tonight.
The Grizzlies look to extend their current five-game winning streak at home tonight against the Orlando Magic. As always, when time permits, three thoughts on tonight's game:

1. A Mismatch, On Paper: The Magic were the most active team in yesterday's relatively quiet trade deadline, moving four players out — including sharpshooter J.J. Redick — and bringing four players in in two different deals. But, because of the timing of the trades relative to tonight's game, it seems unlikely that any of the new players will be in uniform. Given that the Magic were already missing players to injury (Glen Davis) and suspension (Hedo Turkoglu), it seems like the Magic might only have eight players active tonight, with the majority of them first- and second-year players.

That's bad news for a team that was already competing for the league's worst record, going 3-26 (!) since a 12-13 start. The Magic have only one road win since mid-December and just lost by double-digits at home to the Bobcats. They're bad — and now getting worse.

So, this should be a mismatch, but while the Grizzlies are one of only eight teams that currently have a winning road record, they've been vulnerable at home lately. Since Christmas, the Grizzlies have suffered home losses to the Sixers, Blazers, Hornets, and Suns, all teams with losing records.

2. Bounce-Back for Gasol?: After I wrote so positively about Marc Gasol's offensive play in my post-break column, he's come out and gone 4-19 from the floor. Thanks, Marc! The Grizzlies won both of those games and are certainly capable of beating the Magic without production from him, but it would be nice to see Gasol break out of that mini-slump. He'll figure into perhaps the game's most interesting match-up. Second-year center Nikola Vucevic — part of the package of assets acquired in the Dwight Howard deal — has been a bright spot in a bleak season for Orlando. Vucevic is right behind Zach Randolph on the NBA's rebounding leader-board and has averaged 16 and 13 on 52% shooting this month. Vucevic is a long, active athlete who can also shoot from mid-range. A definite up-and-comer and not an easy match-up for Gasol.

3. In Rotation: If the Magic will have few options tonight, the Grizzlies suddenly find themselves with an abundance. Quincy Pondexter's return sent Austin Daye back to the bench against Toronto, though Daye's combination of length and shooting is still a weapon the team will want to find a way to deploy. Tony Wroten and Ed Davis are key to the future and have athletic assets that can't be found elsewhere on the roster, but are fighting for spot minutes with so many good players ahead of them. And Jon Leuer has barely sniffed the floor. Lionel Hollins doesn't seem to have settled on the tight, steady rotation he suggested he wanted post-trade and may not have to tonight, where the Grizzlies should have the potential for building a big lead and using the whole roster.

Deflections:

The Grizzlies were active yesterday as well, sending out one of many trade exceptions to the Miami Heat for center Dexter Pittman and the Heat's 2013 second-round pick. I wouldn't expect much from Pittman, who has played only 12 minutes this season for the size-starved Heat. But he absolutely provides the proverbial “six good fouls” from the bench and gives the team a true-center option to deploy against certain match-ups or in case of foul trouble. The more significant asset in the deal is probably the pick, even though it will be near or at the end of the draft. If second-rounders are lottery tickets, the Grizzlies have added another chance to uncover a cheap contributor.

Tonight will be Magic swingman Arron Afflalo's lone FedExForum appearance this season, which is a good excuse to grace this preview with a selection from Afflalo's high school classmate Kendrick Lamar:

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