Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Unibrow Cometh: Grizzlies vs. Pelicans Preview

Posted By on Wed, Nov 6, 2013 at 9:27 AM

Jerryd Bayless probably saved the Grizzlies bacon against the Celtics Monday.
  • Larry Kuzniewski
  • Jerryd Bayless probably saved the Grizzlies' bacon against the Celtics Monday.

The Grizzlies look to maintain their undefeated record at home tonight when the newly-christened New Orleans Pelicans (née Hornets) come to town tonight for what is already the third divisional game the Grizzlies have played in the young season so far. The Pelicans come into town 1–3, with losses to the Pacers, Magic, and Suns, and a win in New Orleans over the Bobcats.

World-beaters they aren’t, but the Pelicans do have one weapon which could prove effective against the Grizzlies’ porous interior defense: Mr. Unibrow himself, Anthony Davis. In his second year in the league, Davis is so far averaging 22 points and 12 rebounds a game, and his length and athleticism around the rim make him a force to be reckoned with even given his relative lack of experience. The Grizzlies have struggled to stop guards from penetrating the paint so far this year, and they’ve also let opposing bigs do more damage than is usual for a Memphis Grizzlies defense. If they’re not focused on containing Davis—and all the while keeping the Pelicans’ guards away from the rim, because, after all, this is a team that features Jrue Holiday (acquired from Philadelphia in a draft-day trade for Nerlens Noel), Eric Gordon, and Tyreke Evans.

The Pelicans aren’t a great team yet, but they’re making moves in the right direction, trying to build a contending team in a division seemingly full of them. The Grizzlies shouldn’t have much trouble with them, but then, they shouldn’t have had much trouble with the Boston Celtics on Monday night either, and that game was far closer than either team probably expected it to be.

It remains to be seen how long it’s going to take the Grizzlies to get their act together on both ends of the court. Monday night against Boston, it seemed like the whole team was settling. Someone on Twitter—I can’t remember who or I’d just embed the tweet (UPDATE: it was Peter Edmiston)—said that the game resembled a 1/16 matchup in the NCAA tournament, where the top-seeded team didn’t even bother to prepare for the game. That’s how it felt. I won’t say that the Grizzlies weren’t playing hard, but it’s indisputable that their execution wasn’t what it should have been. If it hadn’t been for Jerryd Bayless’ 4th quarter explosion, the game could have ended in a manner that was… much less pleasing to the Griz faithful, a fanbase which already feels a little more panicked than they should be after four games.

I’m going to keep repeating the “It’s early in the season” mantra for a while. I don’t know that anything that happens in October or November is really indicative of the true character of a team. After all, the 76ers are 3–1 and have beaten the Bulls and the Heat. Things aren’t settled yet in the NBA. While every game counts, every game is not the final word in how good or bad a team is, and it’s still early enough that I’m not going to be seriously concerned about the direction in which the Grizzlies are headed until they make it out of what looks to be a tough November schedule.

Speaking of which: the Grizzlies are at home tonight against the Pelicans, they’re at home against Warriors on Saturday, and then five of the six games after that are on the road for the classic Grizzlies Early Season West Coast Road Trip (hey, remember the time Allen Iverson went on one of those and didn’t come back?). After a Monday in Indiana and a Wednesday home game against the Raptors—and the newly eyesight-adjusted Rudy Gay’s first chance to, well, see the Memphis crowd—it’s four games in six days, including facing the Clippers in L.A. on a SEGABABA[1], which is as tough of a draw as it gets in the Fall 2013 NBA. This week of home games is important for the Grizzlies because they’re going to be pushing a giant boulder up a hill for much of the next two weeks, and establishing their identity in the current home stand would go a long way toward making that less of a death march.

It should be a good game tonight. The Grizzlies and the Pelicornets always seem to play each other well, regardless of how good or bad either team is, and I expect tonight’s game to be no exception, especially given the Grizzlies’ peculiarly inchoate nature at the moment. I just hate that I won’t get another look at Kelly Olynyk’s Mike-Miller-rivaling hair.

  1. Remember, that’s the second game of a back to back, as termed by excellent Spurs blog Pounding the Rock. And technically, the Grizzlies’ four-game-in-six-night trip is a FOGASINI. Just… read the Lexicon. I think the acronymic shorthands for the NBA’s scheduling arrangements are particularly useful.  ↩


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