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Preview: Grizzlies vs. Spurs

The Grizzlies welcome the San Antonio Spurs to FedExForum tonight for a rematch of what turned out to be a playoff-level intensity contest on Sunday. Although the Grizzlies walked away from Sunday’s game upset with a 95-88 loss, they have to feel good about the way they battled back in the contest. Down 41-21 at one point during the game the Grizzlies refused to allow the Spurs, who are the toughest out in the league at home, to cruise to an easy victory. They served San Antonio notice that if the two teams do meet in the postseason, as they are currently slated in the standings, the four-time NBA champions will have their work cut out for them. The Spurs have to be especially concerned with a first round matchup with the Grizzlies because of the fact that in each of the two close contests between these two teams the Grizzlies have been without the services of Rudy Gay (he missed the first overtime loss because of a league suspension and the most recent contest because of his left shoulder injury). Much of the reason for the Grizzlies success against the Spurs is their interior, as Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol pair to disrupt Tim Duncan’s efficiency. The Grizzlies will need to continue to go through their post players tonight if they hope to come away with a win. The Spurs will also be without the services of Tony Parker, who will be forced to sit out the next two to four weeks with a sore calf muscle. George Hill is a more than adequate back-up, but without their three-time All-Star point guard the Spurs could be vulnerable tonight.

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

Tough stretch:

After winning 16 of 19 contests the Grizzlies have entered into what could arguably be the toughest portion of their schedule. They are in the midst of a stretch of contests where they will play seven straight sure-fire postseason teams. Already 0-1 after Sunday’s loss, the Grizzlies will need to try to win at least three of these contests with the playoff chase heating up. Going into tonight’s contest the Grizzlies are only two games out of the five seed, but the Suns are only a half game behind the Grizzlies for the final postseason spot. It is sure to be a race to the finish over the final 21 games of the season, and with quality opponents stretched throughout the month of March the Grizzlies will have to take down some of the best teams in the league to keep pace. They have been able to knock off the league’s giants throughout the season, and they’ll need to continue to do so if they hope to make good on Grizzlies own Michael Heisley’s postseason promise.

Stat of the night:

This stat of the game comes courtesy of Grizzlies television play-by-play man Pete Pranica’s twitter account (@PetePranica). Mike Conley has recorded six blocks in his last five games. Prior to that he had recorded eight blocks in his last 56 games.

Matchup of the night:

The matchup to keep an eye on tonight is at the power forward spot, where Zach Randolph will go head-to-head with future Hall-of-Famer Tim Duncan. On Sunday these two locked in to a classic showdown, with Randolph getting the edge in statistics (24 points and 17 rebounds), but Duncan coming away with a win. Randolph is certain to be looking to even the score tonight. If Randolph can put up another big performance against one of the best defenders in the history of the NBA the Grizzlies should have a chance at coming away with a win tonight.