Preview: Grizzlies vs. Heat
The Memphis Grizzlies welcome the Miami Heat to FedExForum for one of the most anticipated contests of the 2010-11 season. The game has taken on a different look than originally expected, as a game that seemed like a chance to put the much talked about Heat under the microscope has shifted to what is going on right now with the Grizzlies. Prior to their losing streak, this unique Miami squad making their only trip to Memphis of the season was the main story line of the contest, but now, with their backs against the wall, the focus of the contest has shifted primarily on the Grizzlies. The Grizzlies have now lost five straight games, including their 89-86 loss last night to the injury stricken Wizards. The Grizzlies missed an opportunity to get off the losing track on Tuesday against a Brandon Roy-less Blazers squad and again last night against the aforementioned Washington team without rookie sensation John Wall. Now they’ll be forced to avoid the losing streak sliding to six against LeBron James and Dwyane Wade’s squad that seems to be figuring each other out after a slow start to the season. There is a lot of basketball left, but the Grizzlies have to be playing with a sense of urgency each time they hit the floor. The schedule eases up after their first month of action, but if they don’t take advantage of contests against teams without their stars as was the case this week against Portland and Washington, the Grizzlies will have a hard time creating momentum. The fact that this contest comes as the second game of a back-to-back doesn’t help matters much either. Expect the Grizzlies to come out and play well tonight with a collective focus similar to their game against the Celtics last Saturday. In that contest the Grizzlies put themselves in position to win the contest, but faltered down the stretch on both sides of the ball, starting a trend that continued throughout the week against Portland and Washington. If the Grizzlies are able to put themselves in position to win and can execute down the stretch it could provide a springboard game for this squad.
Here are a few things to watch for in tonight’s contest…
Powerball: The Heat will offer up a stiff test for this Grizzlies team, and while Miami has the talent to reach the Finals, the Grizzlies matchup well with the construct of their team. The Achilles’ heel for the Heat thus far this season has been their lack of a post presence, which is the strength of Memphis. When Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol both have their games going and are dominating the boards and the pace of the game the Grizzlies are tough to beat. The Grizzlies would be wise to get their two power players going early to combat what is sure to be an offensive onslaught from the perimeter from James and Wade. The Celtics have been able to expose the Heat’s inability to handle a big front line in their two victories against them this season. If the Grizzlies can follow a similar template they will have a chance of coming away with a big win tonight.
Stat of the night: Keep an eye on Rudy Gay to have a big game tonight. Although he will be matched up against one of the best small forwards in the history of the game in LeBron James, Gay has taken a major step towards the top tier of three-men that the likes of LeBron, Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony reside in. Gay has averaged 28.0 points in the second game of back-to-backs this season, shooting .579 from the field and .471 from behind the arc. He’ll need to put up similar numbers tonight for the Grizzlies to have a chance at a victory.
Matchup of the night: For the Grizzlies to come away with a win tonight, the one matchup that they must win is at the point guard spot where Mike Conley will be going up against Carlos Arroyo. With the influx of talent on the Miami roster, this is one spot that the Grizzlies have the clear advantage. Conley will need to be in an attacking mentality tonight and get to the rim, because the Heat’s interior defense is currently soft. If Conley can make plays for himself and his teammates in the lane the Grizzlies will put themselves in position to get back on track.
Tonight's giveaway item The first 5,000 fans at the game will receive a Zach Randolph inspired headband. Take a photo of yourself with your Z-Bo headband and share it with us via Facebook/MemphisGrizzlies or @memgrizz at Twitter.