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Preview: Grizzlies vs. Hornets

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The Grizzlies will thank their fans for what has been an incredible 2010-11 regular season tonight during their Fan Appreciation Night game against the New Orleans Hornets presented by First Tennessee. Tipoff is 5pm.

The season started off with a bang as the team celebrated their 10th Anniversary season, and with the playoffs on the horizon, it looks like the party isn’t about to stop.  Each fan in attendance tonight can likely select different moments from throughout the season that will likely end up on the list of the most memorable moments the next time the Grizzlies celebrate an anniversary.  Whether it was Rudy Gay’s game winner over LeBron James and the Miami Heat in November or the way Tony Allen ignited the crowd with his antics that resulted in his very own cheer cam, the 2010-11 home schedule has had something for everyone.

Before the 2010-11 campaign turns to the second season however, the Grizzlies have one more matter of business during their home regular season schedule.  The Grizzlies have put together one of their most impressive home records in franchise history, proving that no team wants to come to Beale Street to play one of the most talented young teams in the NBA.  Tonight against a New Orleans team that they are battling for positioning in the Western Conference postseason picture, fans can be assured of a game that preview the playoff-like intensity that they will experience when the Grizzlies make their return to the postseason.  The Grizzlies stomped the Hornets the last time these two teams met in New Orleans, but the Hornets are a proud bunch of players and aren’t about to go quietly.  The Grizzlies need to be aggressive early and look to dominate the paint from the start.

Here are a few things to watch for in tonight’s contest…
What to do, what to do?:  By clinching a spot in the postseason on Friday for the first time since 2005-06 the Grizzlies also created an interested quandary for themselves. With three games to go in the regular season they are currently a game behind tonight’s opponent, the New Orleans Hornets, for the seventh seed in the Western Conference.  The seventh seed could also mean a potential date with the Los Angeles Lakers in the first round, which most teams would want to avoid considering the championship experience and motivation for their third straight win that the Lakers own.  The Grizzlies certainly will do what they can to win each of their remaining three games, but as Grizzlies Head Coach Lionel Hollins said at his postgame press conference on Friday night, he would confer with the team’s head athletic trainer, Drew Graham, about the need to rest his players over the next couple days as they head into the postseason.

Matchup of the night:  The matchup of tonight’s game is certainly going to come at the point guard position, where Mike Conley will match up with Chris Paul.  Already a strong candidate for the Most Improved award, Conley has shown signs this season that he is nowhere close to being done improving his game.  He is not on the level of his opponent tonight, Paul, but he has shown this year more than ever that he has the tools to be an elite point guard in the NBA.  Conley has taken a major step forward this season, and fans in attendance at FedExForum will see tonight that the gap between Conley and Paul has narrowed considerably.  If Conley can keep Paul in check the Grizzlies will have an excellent chance of coming away with a win tonight.

Stat of the night:  The Grizzlies and Hornets are currently two of the hottest teams in the league heading down the stretch.  Memphis has won eight of their last 10 contests, while the Hornets have won six of eight, including their last three straight.    

Check out more Game Notes for tonight's matchup.