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Preview: Grizzlies vs. Knicks

Arguably the hottest team in basketball (the Memphis Grizzlies) will go up against one of the most talked about teams (New York Knicks) in a clash of styles. The Grizzlies have improved mightily defensively this season, and their strength lies in the post. When they are able to establish Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol early they are tough to beat, as their recent opponents can attest. The Knicks on the other hand are one of the most talented offensive squads in the NBA and are currently the second highest scoring team in the league. With two of the most talented offensive players in the game in Carmelo Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire, their 106.5 points per game average can expect to rise over the final month of the season. The tale of tonight’s game will ultimately be which team can inflict their style of play on the other. With two skilled perimeter defenders in Tony Allen and Shane Battier to put the clamps on Anthony the Grizzlies can expect to make him work for anything he gets on the offensive end. The duo frustrated Kevin Durant and held him below his average on Monday and will be looking to do the same to Anthony tonight. Anthony is more of a bruiser than Durant, but the Grizzlies ability to run different defenders in waves at him should slow the All-Star down. The Grizzlies best chance of keeping Stoudemire in check will be to attack him offensively with Randolph and Gasol and force him to defend. If Randolph matches Stoudemire’s production offensively the Grizzlies will put themselves in a position to come away with a win tonight. Memphis and New York will use tonight to get acquainted to each other, as they’ll also be tipping off next Thursday in New York.

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

Is it working?:

When Carmelo Anthony got his wish and joined the Knicks at the trading deadline basketball pundits wondered whether the union of Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire would work. They said that their games were too similar, that they both liked to operate from the elbow and would ultimately be ineffective. Early returns say that the Knicks offense is just fine, as Anthony and Stoudemire have combined to average the highest output of any duo in the NBA this side of the LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. Stoudemire’s numbers have actually gone up in points (27.2) and shooting percentage (.548) during Anthony’s tenure in Gotham. They are clearly still finding individual success, but whether the pairing will help them win more games is still up in the air. Since the trade the Knicks have gone 5-3, with big wins against the likes of the Heat paired with two frustrating losses to the Cleveland Cavaliers at the same time. Despite the up and down start of this new Knicks era the talent is there to win, and with the forgotten man in the trade Chauncey Billups directing the ship the Knicks could put a scare into one of the top Eastern Conference teams come playoff time.

Stat of the night:

The Grizzlies have taken care of business against Eastern Conference opponents this season, going 14-10 overall and 9-4 at home against the East.

Matchup of the night:

The most appealing matchup of the night will be at the power forward spot between Zach Randolph and Amar’e Stoudemire. Stoudemire is not only one of the top offensive power forwards in the game today, he has also emerged as a leader, and for a portion of the season an MVP candidate. Along with ranking in the league’s top-five in scoring, the ninth year forward is also currently ranked in the league’s top-five in blocks. The 2011 All-Star has always been explosive in the post, yet it’s his improved shooting away from the basket that makes him an even more dangerous threat for opponents trying to guard him. Randolph has continued to be a double-double machine, and what he may lack in athleticism in this matchup he makes up for in basketball IQ. If Randolph can have an effective night scoring, stay out of foul trouble and keep Stoudemire off the glass then he should see a positive result in this matchup.