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Preview: Grizzlies at Nuggets

The Grizzlies return from the All-Star break riding a wave of momentum as they enter into a matchup against a Denver Nuggets team that has a different look than the last time these two teams faced each other just over a week ago. After months and months of speculation and turmoil, Carmelo Anthony finally got his way, forcing a trade to the New York Knicks. Not having to face Anthony, and possibly more importantly, a very shortened Nuggets squad, will be very beneficial to the Grizzlies, especially because tonight marks the first game where they will have to navigate the waters without Rudy Gay (left shoulder subluxation). To make the Anthony trade happen the Nuggets had to turnover a big chunk of their roster, as Chauncey Billups, Anthony Carter, Renaldo Balkman and Shelden Williams were also included in the deal. The Nuggets got a nice haul coming back their way after all the wheeling and dealing that went on, but when looking at tonight’s game in particular, the Nuggets will be very shorthanded. The Nuggets will likely only have ten players available tonight, so the chance of the Grizzlies tripping up because of a loss of conditioning over the break or the high altitudes is not as prevalent of a story line as it would have been if the trade would not have gone through before this contest. The Grizzlies need to take advantage of the timing of this trade and pick up a win in the first game of Rudy Gay’s first extended absence from the lineup of his career. Gay is expected to miss up to four weeks from the time of the injury, which happened last Tuesday prior to the break against the Philadelphia 76ers.

Here are a few things to watch for in tonight’s contest…

Staying hot without Rudy:

The Grizzlies were playing their best basketball of the season before the break, winning 12 of 15 contests heading into the All-Star weekend. Missing Gay will be a major test for this team, but their reserves have had a knack for stepping up when called upon all season long, so expect this latest twist in the road to be no different. With Gay out of the lineup the Grizzlies will look to O.J. Mayo to recapture some of the scoring magic that helped him achieve much praise during his first two seasons in Memphis. Mayo’s up and down season has seen his scoring dip in his third season, but with Gay out of the lineup, it will be a chance for the 6-4 guard to bounce back. If Mayo can pick up some of the scoring slack that will be left by the 19.8 point-gap that Gay accounted for each night the Grizzlies should be able to barely skip a beat until Rudy’s return.

Stat of the night:

With the current season series between the Nuggets and Grizzlies tied at 1-1, Memphis is looking to do something tonight that they have only accomplished one other time in team history. If the Grizzlies win this evening they will take the season series against the Nuggets for only the second time in team history. The only other time the Grizzlies took the season series from the Nuggets was the 1997-98 campaign, when the Grizzlies won the series 3-1.

Matchup of the night:

The matchup to keep an eye on tonight will be at the point guard position, where Ty Lawson is likely to slide in to the starting role against Mike Conley. Both of these point guards’ games are based on speed, and while Lawson has been a backup to Chauncey Billups throughout his career, he is worthy of a starting role. He’ll get a chance to prove himself starting tonight. If the Nuggets hope to stay in the postseason picture a lot of the responsibility will fall on Lawson, J.R. Smith and Nene to pick up the slack in Anthony and Billups’ absence. Tonight will be an interesting test to see if the Nuggets are going to hang with the pack of teams that includes the Grizzlies for the final spot, or if they are poised to drop off.