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Grizzlies set to take on Celtics tonight

The Grizzlies will welcome the closest thing to NBA royalty to Memphis tonight as the Boston Celtics are set to make their annual trip to FedExForum. The Celtics are currently riding high after defeating the Miami Heat in a nationally televised game on Thursday, but their visit to the Bluff City won’t be a walk on the beach. The Grizzlies matchup well against the mighty Celtics, and last season, in the team’s two meetings the road team won each contest. On December 14 Boston defeated Memphis 110-105 in a closely fought battle at FedExForum. When the team’s met again on March 10 in Boston, the Grizzlies picked up arguably their best win of the season with a 111-91 victory in Beantown. The Grizzlies matchup so well with the Celtics because both teams have traditional starting lineups with players who are prototypes for each of their positions. Both teams have quick, athletic point guards (Mike Conley and Rajon Rondo), marksmen at the two spot (O.J. Mayo and Ray Allen), scoring small forwards (Rudy Gay and Paul Pierce) and power players whose main intent is to rebound the basketball and control the paint (Zach Randolph and Kevin Garnett at power forward and Marc Gasol and Shaquille O’Neal at center). The Celtics starters have more All-Star games and championships to their credit, but the Grizzlies group has as good of chemistry as any team in the league. The Grizzlies starters will need to win three of these five starting matchups, because the Celtics bench group is championship tested and will be able to create opportunities on both sides of the ball when they come into the game.

Know the situation: On paper, this should be one of the most entertaining contests of the season. The Celtics could be a prime candidate for a bit of a mental letdown in this contest after an emotional win over the Miami Heat on Thursday night. The first time the Celtics defeated the Heat this season on Opening Night they suffered a loss to the outmatched Cleveland Cavaliers in their next contest. The Grizzlies will need to hope that they have not learned their lesson and allow their thoughts to drift from the task at hand. The Grizzlies should come into tonight focused after a day off on Thursday and an effective practice yesterday. Memphis was not happy with their performance on Wednesday, as a flat third quarter led to their demise against the Mavericks. The Grizzlies will need to play 48 minutes of focused, team basketball tonight if they hope to come away with a win against one of the NBA’s elite.

Stat of the night: One of the early statistical oddities of the 2010-11 campaign for the Grizzlies has been their inability to control the glass. A strength of the team last season, when they ranked second in the league in rebounding margin at +3.8, the Grizzlies are currently being out rebounded by 6.8 boards per game through the first nine contests of the season (30th in the NBA). The Grizzlies are banking on Zach Randolph’s return to shore up this problem, and while he has averaged 13.5 rebounds per game since his return, the Grizzlies have still struggled to win the rebounding battle. This won’t get any easier against the Celtics deep frontline that is one of the strengths of their team.

Matchup of the night: There is no question Mike Conley has raised his level of play so far this season, but tonight’s matchup against Rajon Rondo will be one of his biggest challenges of the young season. Something will have to give in this matchup, as Rondo has been Stockton-esque running the Celtics offensive attack this season, averaging 14.9 assists per game to top the NBA, while Conley’s perimeter defense has taken a major leap to near the top of the NBA in steals (3.11, 2nd in NBA). Whoever wins the battle at the point position could determine which team comes away with a victory tonight.

For fans attending tonight's game, you can score a discount voucher to an upcoming Grizzlies game by making a canned food donation on the FedExForum Plaza prior to tipoff as part of the Grizzlies' Canned Food Drive presented by ACH Food Companies, Inc to benefit the Mid-South Food Bank. Learn more.