Game on: Pelicans vs. Grizzlies

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Published: December 1, 2015

Well, the calvary has arrived! Tyreke Evans and Norris Cole are questionable tonight, but they’re expected to play “unless something bizarre happens” according to coach Gentry. But that doesn’t mean anything, right? I mean this team has never had bizarre luck with injuries…

Anyway, here’s to hoping! Seriously, it does sound like Tyreke is going to play according to one of his recent tweets. Naturally, it remains to be seen exactly how this changes things for the Pelicans. Some very smart folks seem to think that the team has systemic issues that go beyond the injuries. Other very smart folks think we should withhold judgement until we see the full team play. Reasonable minds can disagree.

Frankly, I’m not all that worried about it. Tyreke and Norris coming back certainly aren’t going to hurt things in the long run. Yes, I’ve said before I think they’ll need some time to adjust, and we may see some more growing pains as they learn the system. Still, more talent is preferred to less in the NBA, and the Pelicans desperately need the extra talent right now.

The Pelicans take on the 10-8 Memphis Grizzlies at home tonight. Though Memphis did have a rough start to the season, they’ve turned things around and have gone 7-2 in their last 9 games. While it may have been premature, it is easy to see why people were ready to count Memphis out. The Grizz don’t fit the mold for what most consider winning basketball in 2015. Sure, they’ve said they are going to take more 3s this year, but they still have the 3rd lowest 3 point attempt rate in the league. They are playing a bit faster (95.1 possessions per 48), but they are still only 22nd in the league.

In other words, I’m not totally convinced that the Grizzlies have undergone a full make over. The one big change we have seen is to their defense. According to basketball-reference.com, the Grizzlies have the 14th highest defensive rating in the league. That might not seem too bad, especially to a Pelicans fan, but this is a team that historically has been amazing on defense. Maybe they really are slipping. Maybe some of their numbers are still a bit off due to that one terrible game against Golden State.

Historically, I’ve really liked this matchup for the Pelicans. Over the last two years, the Pelicans lead the series 5-3, which is pretty impressive if you consider how good the Grizzlies have been.

Things to Watch

  • Evans and Cole – This is more of a wishful thinking point. That is, I hope they are a thing for us to watch.
  • 3 Pointers – The Grizzlies don’t take a lot of 3s, and they aren’t particularly good at hitting them. This is good news as the Pelicans are pretty bad at defending them. If the Grizzlies do get a lot of open looks and hit them, we’re in trouble. You can’t help out a team like that.
  • Omer Asik – This seems like the perfect matchup for Asik, but he only played between 21 and 30 minutes in all 4 games against Memphis last year. The fact of the matter is that Gasol is probably too good for most traditional bigs to matchup 1 on 1. The optimal strategy may be for the Pelicans to keep doing what they’ve been doing and play AD at the 5. I wouldn’t expect to see Asik play more than 12 minutes tonight based on what we’ve seen, but I’ve been wrong before.
  • Zach Randolph – He’s off the injury report and expected to play tonight. If the Pelicans do try and counteract the Grizzlies’ size by going small, it could be a tough night for whoever gets the assignment against Z-Bo. I think the best you can hope for is to force him to move on defense. Maybe that will tire him out on defense and the boards.
  • Offensive Rebounds – The Pelicans just don’t go for offensive rebounds. It isn’t part of their scheme. It probably wouldn’t matter tonight anyway as the Grizzlies are a very good defensive rebounding team. Still, that only makes every offensive rebound even more precious. The Pels need to take advantage of those limited extra opportunities.
  • Mike Conley – I’m not sure what to make of his season so far. His offensive numbers are pretty much in line with what we’ve come to expect, but some of his advanced defensive numbers are down.
  • Jrue Holiday – Jrue has been underwhelming this season. The return of Tyreke may provide a spark for Jrue. He’s always preformed better on offense with another ball handler in the backcourt. This assumes that Gentry will play them together tonight. I have no reason to believe they won’t, but there is a lot we don’t know due to all the injuries.

That’s all I’ve got for now. I’ll be on the site’s twitter account tonight, and I’ll have the recap up after the game.

 

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