Monday, December 17, 2012

Game Preview: Grizzlies vs. Bulls

Posted By on Mon, Dec 17, 2012 at 9:46 AM

Joakim Noah
  • Joakim Noah
The Grizzlies return home tonight to face a Chicago Bulls team that's held up pretty well in the absence of injured star Derrick Rose, going 8-3 over their past 11 games to get to 13-9 overall, good enough for fourth place in the Eastern Conference.

The past week has been a rough one for me in terms of trying to cover the Grizzlies, but with the team back in town and my year-end work in the areas not over but nearing completion, hopefully today can be the start to a return to consistent blogging here.

In that vein, three thoughts on tonight's game, from which I'll be tweeting and blogging tonight.

1. Which Grizzlies Team Will We See?: The Grizzlies got back on track in the second half against Utah Saturday night, outscoring the Jazz 55-32 to snap a three-game losing streak and regain the energy and style of play that had been missing for much of the preceding three-game losing streak.

What went wrong in the losing streak? There were lots of issues, but here are a few indicators of overall breakdown:

Style of play: The Grizzlies were gave up more offensive rebounds than they got in two of the three losses and won the turnover battle only once. Against the Jazz, they won on the offensive boards 18-7 and were -3 on turnover differential. That's Grizzlies basketball.

Mike Conley's funk: In three losses, Conley registered 13 assists to 15 turnovers, which is wildly out of character. There was correction against the Jazz, with 8 assists and 2 turns.

Bad bench shooting: Jerryd Bayless was 2-12 in the losses. Quincy Pondexter and Wayne Ellington were a combined 0-4 against the Suns, with Pondexter not even getting a shot up in 20 minutes in the home loss to Atlanta. Ellington has generally been a little more effective of late, but Bayless' lack of offense (2-7 against the Jazz) continues to be a big concern.

Shot distribution imbalance: In the three losses, which came immediately after his dominant home performance against the Suns, Zach Randolph shot 58% from the floor but got only 38 field-goal attempts. Meanwhile, Rudy Gay got 63 attempts while shooting 38%. That's not good balance among the Grizzlies two most talented scorers. Against the Jazz, these shooting percentages were roughly the same, but more shots with Randolph's way, 16 to 13. As along as he's in a groove, Randolph has to be more prominent in the team's offense.

2. A Slow, Low-Scoring Grind of a Game?: On paper, these teams look pretty similar: Both are elite defenses (Bulls second, Griz third). Both are middle-tier offenses (Griz 12th, Bulls 20th). Both play pretty slow (Grizzlies 24th in pace, Bulls 25th). If all that holds up, but could be looking at a low-scoring defensive struggle tonight. But the Grizzlies offensive ranking and pace ranking both slipped precipitously (not a coincidence) over the past week or so. If they've gotten their recent issues sorted out, those rankings could both undersell what the Grizzlies actually are.

3. Marc Gasol and Joakim Noah: Best match-up in this one has to be in the middle, where Gasol and Noah are two of the league's most versatile centers. Both are only modest scorers, but their defend, rebound, pass (the only two centers averaging more than 4 assists per game), and do all the “little things.” Both are playing at an All-Star level, but Noah's maybe been a little better. This should be a good one.

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