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Preview: Grizzlies vs. Nuggets

The Grizzlies welcome in the NBA’s highest scoring team to FedExForum tonight in a match-up that has added drama due to the uncertainty of the Carmelo Anthony situation. The Nuggets have had a productive season thus far despite a variety of distractions involving trade discussions concerning Anthony. Head coach George Karl set a historic milestone back in December when he earned his 1000th career victory and Anthony was named to another All-Star game despite the constant speculations. When these teams first met at the Pepsi Center on Dec. 5 Denver was able to squeak out a tight 108-107 win. In that contest the Grizzlies held Anthony to 13 points on just 4-of-20 shooting from the floor. Memphis trailed by 21 in the second quarter yet fought back to lead by one heading into the final period. Ultimately, shooting only 64 percent from the charity stripe proved to be costly for the Grizzlies down the stretch. Nuggets center Nene Hilario is having a career-year averaging over 15 ppg, so the Grizzlies will have to be aware of him tonight. Meanwhile in an astonishing stat, seven Denver players currently hold double figure scoring averages. The Grizzlies have been playing superb basketball as of late. A road win over the Oklahoma City Thunder this past Wednesday without forward Rudy Gay and Friday night’s victory over the Bucks without Zach Randolph proved that this is the toughest Grizzlies team to hit Beale Street in years. A victory over the Nuggets tonight would be valuable to a Grizzlies ball club that continues their push towards their preseason goal of reaching the playoffs.

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

Here today, gone tomorrow?:

The drama surrounding Carmelo Anthony’s potential departure from the Nuggets has been a constant theme of the 2010-11 regular season, perhaps surpassing the number of blogs and opinions that have been offered on the situation when compared to LeBron James’ departure from Cleveland in the offseason. A few weeks ago the possibility of not having to see Anthony in this contest was very real. The Nets were in hot pursuit, with the Knicks not very far behind. Then the Lakers jumped into the fray supposedly this week with a rumor about a straight up deal for Andrew Bynum. With the trade deadline around the corner the question remains whether the Anthony deal that has been speculated all season will ultimately go down. The Grizzlies will again face the Nuggets on Tuesday, Feb. 22, two days before the trade deadline. Will tonight be the last time that the Grizzlies face off against one of the best scorers in the game as a member of the Nuggets? All of the basketball community will soon find out.

Matchup of the night:

This match-up between Rudy Gay and Carmelo Anthony will draw the most interest tonight. Both Baltimore, Maryland natives, Gay and Anthony have had terrific seasons thus far. Gay scored 24 points to out-match Anthony in the team’s first meeting this season. Anthony is still one of the league’s best scorers who just produced a 50-point performance earlier this week. Besides having an all-around variety of offensive moves, Anthony is most dangerous in the mid-range. His one liability however has always been his defense. Gay’s game is continuing to blossom but one thing has been evident throughout the entire season, and that is when Gay matches up against the best he always seems to rise to the occasion.

Stat of the night:

Since starting the season 8-14 (includes games ofDec. 7), Memphis has the seventh-best record in the NBA (4th in the West), winning 21 of its last 33 games (.634). Of the teams that have been hotter than the Grizzlies over that span, all are currently division leaders.