Game On: Grizzlies @ Hornets
The Hornets continue their marathon of a seven-game home stand with a contest against the 46-21 Memphis Grizzlies.
The Grizzlies have been one of the NBA’s best teams this season, boasting the league’s 4th best winning percentage (.687) and currently the 3rd seed in the Western Conference. At the end of January, they dumped overpaid volume scorer Rudy Gay onto Toronto as part of a three-team deal in exchange for Ed Davis and Tayshaun Prince, and since then have gone 17-5, third best in the NBA since the start of February. Despite this recent strong play, they are just .001 percentage points away from falling below Denver and thus into a 4/5 matchup with the Clippers, much less favorable on paper than their current 3/6 projection against the Warriors or Rockets. Therefore, they know they can’t let up and will certainly bring their best effort in the New Orleans Arena tonight. Let’s take a look at what the Hornets have to do to have a chance to come away with their second straight win tonight.
Three Keys to the Game
- Box out. Memphis sports the #2 total rebound rate and #1 offensive rebound rate in the NBA, so the Hornets need to find their big men – particularly Zach Randolph – every time a shot goes up. The Grizzlies beat the Thunder on Wednesday night in the same manner that the Hornets beat the Celtics – an offensive rebound tip-in by Marc Gasol as time expired. This team will crash the boards on both ends, and New Orleans needs to be prepared for it. If they can prevent second chances, they should be in good shape, because Memphis’ field goal percentage in the restricted area (55.1%) is tied for second worst in the NBA. In case you were wondering, the Hornets are 5th worst in this category (56.8%).
- Protect the ball. The Grizzlies force turnovers on 17% of opponents’ possessions, second best in the league behind only the CP3-led Clippers. Conley and Allen in particular are ball hawks, and if you give them even a small window of opportunity to strip you, they will. Gordon and Vasquez need to put a great deal of emphasis on sharp passes and controlled dribble drives, or else the result could be quick transition points for Memphis.
- Force shots outside of the corners. Memphis is a pretty average mid-range jump shooting team and a below-average 3-point shooting team. However, when breaking down their outside shooting further, the difference between their corner 3-point shooting vs. the rest of their long range attempts is very significant. The Grizzlies make just 33% of their non-corner 3-point attempts, 6th worst in the NBA. When attempting corner threes, however, that percentage jumps to 39.8%, 11th in the NBA. Keep Memphis’ shooters out of the corners, and they could have trouble scoring. Unfortunately, the Hornets have defended the corner three much worse than non-corner threes this season; from beyond the arc, opponents are shooting 42.7% (5th-worst) from the corner, and 34.9% (about league average) outside of the corner.
Tonight’s game will be a slow, low-scoring affair, as these two teams each play at a slower pace than every team in the NBA besides Brooklyn. Fewer possessions means that New Orleans could have a better chance of hanging around, but ultimately the Grizzlies’ interior presence combined with their perimeter defense should allow them to get the better of the Hornets.
Final Score Prediction: Grizzlies 94, Hornets 88