Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Grizzlies at Warriors Preview: Missing Pieces

Posted By on Wed, Nov 20, 2013 at 10:37 AM

Tony Allens mastery of martial arts earned him the right to sit out tonights game at Golden State.
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Tony Allen's mastery of martial arts earned him the right to sit out tonight's game at Golden State.

Tony Allen is going to miss tonight's road game against the Golden State Warriors while he serves his suspension for, y'know, kicking Chris Paul in the face Monday night, but he's not the only key player who'll be missing from action: Stephen Curry will also be out with a concussion which he suffered Monday night against the Jazz.

The absence of Allen means Quincy Pondexter will probably start in his place. Pondexter has struggled on and off all season, but has lately picked up his game a little, maybe because of his awesome black facemask.

Other fun fact about tonight's game: the game Curry is missing due to a head injury is his own bobblehead night at Oracle Arena.


What're the odds?

At any rate, tonight's game gives the Grizzlies a chance to complete a 4-0 sweep of their West Coast road trip that seemed completely impossible a week ago. Four games in six nights, all of them on the road, including a game against the Clippers on the second game of a back to back? Forget about it. The discussion was about whether they'd go 1-3 on the trip or 2-2. About how if they were lucky, they probably wouldn't lose all four games.

This Grizzlies team has come alive on this trip. I still think their success is masking future issues with the rotation—I think eventually Calathes will be the backup point guard, and eventually Ed Davis is going to have to get some playing time to reduce the load being placed on the frontcourt starters. But for now, this group is playing well, and more importantly, they're playing with purpose. No longer are they wandering around like they're underwater watching the other team move the ball around, feet glued to the floor. They're playing like the Grizzlies, and that has everybody feeling better.

Whatever issues this team is going to have going forward—and I can think of a few: poor offensive play at the small forward spot, Ed Davis' continued need to step up and play better, the fact that Bayless is much better off the ball but is still being used as a backup point guard, et cetera—it appears that motivation is no longer one of them. The decision to buy in to the Joerger Era is no longer one of them. Marc Gasol playing like a hefty Byron Mullens is no longer one of them.

So, win or lose, tonight's Grizzlies game will feature a Grizzlies team that has started playing like a Grizzlies team (including a drop to 27th in the league in pace, of course). And this early in the season, I think that's all anybody really wanted to see.

Game Notes

   • I expect the Grizzlies' bigs' dominating play to continue tonight, since the Warriors (as we saw previously when the Grizzlies beat them at FedExForum) don't really have anyone who can guard them. David Lee gets eaten alive by Zach Randolph almost every time the two meet each other, and Marreese Speights defended so poorly the last time these two teams met that Mark Jackson had to play the Corpse Formerly Known As Jermaine O'Neal instead. Look for the Randolph/Gasol/Koufos triumvirate (The Triumvirate is a great band name) to do serious work tonight.

   • With Curry out, the Warriors' perimeter threats are going to have to work that much harder: Klay Thompson and Andre Igoudala (and Harrison Barnes, too) have their work cut out for them. It'll be interesting to see whether the absence of Tony Allen or the absence of Steph Curry plays a bigger part in tonight's game.

   • I'd like to see Nick Calathes get some run against the Warriors again; he played a lot of minutes against them last time because Jerryd Bayless was out. He acquitted himself very well, and I think he's much better as a backup ballhandler than Bayless. Bayless proved last year that he was much more effective off the ball—and that was with Keyon Dooling at the point, not Calathes, who is a much more able (if reckless) passer. "Reckless" can be fixed. The stifling effect that playing at the point has on Bayless' game probably can't. I'd like to see Calathes get some run tonight.

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