This Friday edition of “Fo’ with the Foes” – Philadunkia’s advanced scouting series which with the help of an accomplished journalist from around the NBA beat or blog world, previews upcoming 76ers’ games – features tonight’s opponent, the Memphis Grizzlies, who defeated the Miami Heat on Wednesday night, own a 6-4 record in their last 10 games and are currently 1 game back in the standings for the eight seed in the Western Conference playoff race.
After the jump, I’ll look a Fo’ key items for tonight’s game. Additionally, we’ll get a little more insight into this Memphis team the Sixers face tonight from our colleague Chip Crain at 3 Shades of Blue.com, as Chip will answer Fo’ questions on his Grizzlies from us here at Philadunkia.
Here are Fo’ key items I will be watching for tonight from the Sixers end…
1) The Opening Quarter for Memphis: The Grizzlies are 1 game out of the 8th spot and 1.5 games out of the 7th spot, so they should be playing inspired basketball. However, they just defeated the Heat on Wednesday night and on the horizon are important road games at LA Lakers (Sunday) and Phoenix (Monday). The NBA betting line on this game has the Grizzlies minus 12 points, so they are a heavy favorite. This game is a classic trap game for the Grizzlies, so let’s see how Memphis handles things tonight. The opening quarter could tell us a great deal on this front.
2) Thad in Memphis: For the Memphis native this will be a homecoming game and I want him to go off. Since Hinkie jettisoned Turner and Hawes at the trade deadline, #21 has been a beast on the court. In his last 10 games Thad is averaging 18.7 points and 5.7 rebounds per night. It would be great if Thad, the veteran 76er who unfortunately has had to endure this awful season, came out tonight and just lit up the Grizzlies in front of his family and friends. He deserves a special night after putting up with the season of the tank.
3) Henry Sims vs. the Grizz Bigs: On Wednesday night, Sims had another big game (22 & 8; 66% on FGAs) and while I believe he’ll be a contributor for the Sixers next season, I want to watch how he performs vs. the Memphis bigs. Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph comprise one of the best frontlines in the Association and I’m curious to witness how Sims measures up.
4) MCW to Keep Rolling: A near triple-double (19-9-8), 54% shooting from the field and only 3 TOs on Wednesday night against Toronto kept MCW’s recent hot streak going. I want that trend to continue until the final horn of this tanking season because I want Carter-Williams to leave no doubt as to who should win the 2013-14 NBA ROY Award.
Q&A with Chip Crain at 3 Shades of Blue.com:
Philadunkia: Memphis has dropped four of their last seven. What have been a few of the issues for the Grizz over that stretch?
Chip Crain @ 3 Shades of Blue.com: It isn’t really that hard to understand. The Grizzlies played 7 games over 11 days in three time zones and over a mile in elevation changes covering a large part of the country for south Texas to Washington state to Minnesota. It didn’t help playing 3 teams fighting for playoff position during that stretch (at Golden State, at Portland and at San Antonio). That accounted for 3 of the 4 losses. At Minnesota was the 4th loss and the team looked exhausted in the last game of the five game road trip. It was a scheduling struggle as much as anything else.
Philadunkia: In the last week, the Grizzlies split their matchups with San Antonio (L) and Miami (W). What, if anything, did you learn about the team from those two games?
Chip Crain @ 3 Shades of Blue.com: It is easier to beat a short-handed Miami team who played the night before in Miami than the Spurs at the end of a 7 games in 11 days in 7 cities set. The Grizzlies are a team that needs energy to outwork teams because they don’t have the shooters capable of carrying a team when their energy is low. Clearly the Grizzlies are much tougher to bear after getting a few days off to rest than they are traveling all over the Western part of the country without rest.
Philadunkia: Memphis features a stellar defense (3rd in the NBA in pts. allowed — 94.5 per). The Sixers defense is awful and that’s being kind. So we are always looking to pick up a few pointers for Brett Brown. What are a few of the keys to the Grizzlies solid effort at that end of the court?
Chip Crain @ 3 Shades of Blue.com: Find a Marc Gasol to anchor the interior defense. Seriously. The Grizzlies were 10-13 without Gasol and gave up over 98 points a game while he was out. With Gasol they are among the best defenses in the league. Philly has made a nice start in that direction drafting Noel but having him out all season has delayed his impact. Throw in perimeter defenders like Mike Conley and Tony Allen and you have a great defensive team.
Philadunkia: Do you predict that the Grizz will make the playoffs or need tee times for April 17th?
Chip Crain @ 3 Shades of Blue.com: My heart says yes the Grizzlies will make the playoffs but my mind says not so fast. The Spurs helped out a lot beating Dallas Thursday night and could give another boost by defeating the Suns tonight. Memphis also benefits from the Suns and Mavs playing Saturday. Assuming the Grizzlies beat Philly and win at the Lakers it will come down to their last two games (at Phoenix and Dallas to end the season). They need to win at least three of the games and get help from San Antonio.
Thanks to Chip for his time and answers.
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