Saturday, December 7, 2013

Quick Look: Grizzlies vs. Warriors

Posted By on Sat, Dec 7, 2013 at 12:38 PM

Nick Calathes may be called upon tonight if Tony Allen sits again.
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Nick Calathes may be called upon tonight if Tony Allen sits again.

Tonight's game marks the third time the Grizzlies have played the Golden State Warriors this season, and the second time the two teams have played in Memphis. Without question, Golden State is a good matchup for the Grizzlies—when the Grizzlies are healthy. The matchup of Andrew Bogut and Marc Gasol at center can be fun to watch, but Gasol has an undeniable edge on Bogut, and Zach Randolph loves nothing more than embarrassing David Lee at every opportunity.

Without Gasol—and potentially without Ed Davis, who sprained his left ankle in Thursday night's loss to the Clippers and at time of this writing was still classified as "day to day" (and aren't we all?)—the matchup changes a little. The Warriors haven't beaten the Grizzlies since 2010, but if Zach Randolph is still a little rusty returning from his toe injury, and Randolph, Kosta Koufos, and Jon Leuer are the only three bigs that the Grizzlies have to work with, even the Warriors' subpar bench bigs (led by the abominable Marreese Speights, having a monumentally bad season) might be enough to make a difference simply because they're not going to have to play so much.

Tony Allen also missed Thursday's Clippers game with a hip contusion he suffered Tuesday against the Suns. If for some reason Allen can't go again tonight (I don't expect him to miss another game) look for the Grizzlies to play Nick Calathes more than usual. Calathes' length made him a tricky defensive matchup for Steph Curry the first time these two teams played (Jerryd Bayless missed that game with a tweaked knee) when the Grizzlies stomped the Warriors using a tightened rotation mainly featuring Koufos, Miller, and Calathes off the bench.

It's still too early in the season to call any game a "must win," but this is an important game. The Warriors, with a record of 11-9, are eight in the Western Conference standings, and the 9-9 Grizzlies are eleventh. These are the sorts of games that add up as the season goes on and the playoff standings start to shake out, and the Grizzlies have to be careful not to give up too much ground while Marc Gasol is still on the mend. In this year's West, .500 is not likely to be good enough to get a team into the playoffs, and the Grizzlies are there right now, treading water. These games at home against an opponent on a road SEGABABA are key games the Grizzlies need to win to keep their heads above water.

The matchups tonight aren't as favorable for the Grizzlies as they usually are, but if the Grizzlies can replicate what they've done to the Warriors in previous encounters—drag the pace down to glacial through defensive execution, creating stops and forcing the Warriors to run halfcourt sets—they should be able to make it a close game, and that's all they need to be able to get the win: to not get down 15 and have to fight back. They've done that a lot this year, and it has rarely worked in their favor.

But either way, we shall see.

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