Game On: Grizzlies @ Pelicans

Published: March 12, 2014

The New Orleans Pelicans will try to extend their three game winning streak at home tonight when they welcome the Memphis Grizzlies to town. Despite the fact that the Pels are headed for another losing record and the Grizzlies are fighting for a playoff berth, New Orleans is actually 3-0 against division rival Memphis this season (but 0-9 against the other three teams in the Southwest Division). That being said, the last time that the Pelicans faced the Grizzlies was back on January 20th, when Memphis fell to 20-20 after losing to New Orleans. Since then, their finally healthy squad has kicked things up a couple notches, winning 17 of their past 23 games and climbing into the 7th spot in the Western Conference. The Grizzlies’ last two games have been especially impressive, as they were able to score over 100 points against the Bobcats and then hold the Trail Blazers to under 100 points (both double-digit victories). The Pelicans match up with them better than most other playoff-caliber NBA teams, but completing the season sweep will be no easy task now that Memphis is finally back to nearly full strength.

Tonight should give New Orleans their toughest test from Memphis; Randolph left after 8 minutes with an injury in game one, Gasol didn’t play in game two, and Gasol had returned from injury a few days before game three. This time, everyone is healthy and they’re rolling. In fact, between the two teams’ most recent meeting and now, the Grizzlies are 7th in the NBA in net rating, 8th in total rebound rate, and one of only three teams allowing less than 100 points per 100 possessions on defense. Despite this hot stretch, New Orleans should have a decent chance to sweep Memphis – on the second night of a back-t0-back – out of the Smoothie King Center tonight. Here’s how they get it done.

  1. Avoid careless fouls. Despite scoring the 4th most points in the paint per game, the Grizzlies average the second fewest free throw attempts per field goal attempt in the NBA, and that number has actually gone down since the Pelicans last faced them on January 20th. Marc Gasol is the only player on their team who is particularly good at getting to the line, so New Orleans needs to make sure they maintain their discipline on everyone else, especially Zach Randolph. The Pelicans’ foul-happy centers can give any opposing big man a big day at the free throw line, but doing so against a team that is typically so bad at getting there in the first place would be bad news for New Orleans.
  2. Let Anthony Davis go to work. The Grizzlies allow the third fewest points in the paint per game in the NBA, largely thanks to the work Marc Gasol does on opposing centers and general rim protection. However, Davis provides major match-up problems for the Grizzlies, and if they truly feature him in the offensive game plan tonight, it is possible that Randolph may spend a lot time watching the game from the bench in foul trouble. After all, the best way to keep Randolph off of the free throw line is to keep him out of the game altogether. Feed AD the rock, sit back, and enjoy the show.
  3. Play conservative on defense and box out. In the Grizzlies’ 23 games since their last meeting with the Pelicans, they have allowed the third fewest points off of turnovers per game in the league, and the Pelicans simply do not have enough quality perimeter defenders to justify gambling on turnovers. This strategy becomes even more appealing given the fact that Memphis is one of the league’s better offensive rebounding teams. The Grizzlies are a completely average offensive team; don’t give them opportunities to be better than that.

Go support your Pelicans tonight, people. Tickets are currently selling for as low as $2 on Stubhub for what should be a pretty good basketball game. Let’s get that winning streak to 4 in a row!


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