This Wednesday, two teams that are fighting an uphill battle for the final playoff spot in the NBA Western Conference will square-off on Bourbon Street where the New Orleans Hornets play host to the Memphis Grizzlies.
Memphis Grizzlies (30-30, 11th in Western Conference) @ New Orleans Hornets (31-30, 10th in Western Conference)
NBA odds (*note lines are approximations as they have not been posted at the time of writing)
Spread: New Orleans -3
Money Line: New Orleans -150, Memphis +120
PG: Mike Conley vs. Darren Collison
– Mike Conley is a steadily improving young point guard. In his third year out of Ohio State, Conley has averaged just over 10 points and 5 assists a game. The Grizzlies have a lot of ball handlers on the team and play a lot of isolation and post up games so Conley’s assist total may be misleading of his performance. Conley has improved his assist total every year and his three point shooting has followed suit (43%, 149 attempts).
[adinserter block=”1″]- Darren Collison has filled in remarkably for injured All-Star and team leader, Chris Paul. While Paul heals up from minor knee surgery, the rookie 2nd round pick has caught the brunt of the minutes and has performed better than anyone but maybe Collison himself has expected. Starting for the whole month of February, Collison averaged 21.6 points, 8.3 assists and 3.9 rebounds a game. That is hardly a performance expected out of a rookie second round pick. What is expected however is the 4.8 turnovers a game that Collison also averaged.
– Conley is good and improving and Collison seems to be a real steal for the Hornets, especially if Paul leaves via free agency after his contract is up. Collison is asked to do a lot for the Hornets and Conley is not the type of guy who can stop him consistently.
SG: O.J. Mayo vs. Marcus Thornton
– O.J. Mayo is an emerging talent in the NBA in his second season. Mayo has averaged 17.7 points with just over 3 rebounds and assists a game. Mayo is a 38% three point shooter but is becoming known as a great defender with his athletic 6-4 frame. Mayo is coming off a poor performance against the Trail Blazers Monday when he had 9 points and 4 turnovers.
– Marcus Thornton is another rookie second round pick (drafted by Miami) that has been a shot in the arm for New Orleans this year. In February, Thornton averaged 18.8 points with 3.8 rebounds and 1.8 assists while missing four games due to injury early in the month. Thornton’s defense is very raw and can be exploited if attempted.
– Thornton will have a real test in O.J. Mayo defensively in this game. If Mayo decides to spend a lot of time driving on Thornton in this game, it may be a big day for Mayo and a long night for Thornton.
SF: Rudy Gay vs. Peja Stojakovic
[adinserter block=”2″]- Rudy Gay has been an enigmatic player in both his college and NBA career. His offensive skill is elite but his shooting is just average mainly because of his below average three-point shooting (32.6%) and insistence on taking them (144 attempts). Gay has the reputation of being a lazy defender and a bad decision maker with poor shot selection. Gay really is a great midrange player and is explosive going to the hoop which he should do much more of. Still, Gay averages 20.2 points and 5.8 rebounds a game and has to be accounted for when on the floor.
– Peja Stojakovic is on a noticeable decline now at age 32. The once great Yugoslovian was never a great defender, but is a liability now. He has always been known for being a great shooter but now is just above average at best (38.5% 3PT, 41% FG).
– Although Peja may get some open looks on Gay, Gay should have the better game as he is far more athletic and has a crazy wingspan. Gay can hit all of those crazy shots he takes, and if he’s on he can be unstoppable, much like Vince Carter in that way. Peja will offer little resistence.
PF: Zach Randolph vs. David West
– Zeebo has had a tremendous season after finally escaping the disaster that is the New York Knicks. After watching Zach play with no effort whatsoever for years it surprised a lot of people, but really pisses off a lot of Knicks fans… like me. Zach has averaged 20.6 points and 11.9 rebounds a game but the real improvement has been the incredible tenacity on the offensive boards where Zach gets 4.4 a game, a career high. Zach was an all-star this year to further irritate all remaining Knicks fans. Can’t really blame Zeebo I guess, the Knicks were a train-wreck…are…just counting down those days to LeBron hitting free agency…yeah, so…
– David West has put up another solid year but has seen his scoring and rebounds slip a little from last year. West’s ability to both bang down low and hit the 18-20 footers that stretch the defense. West had a 40 point 10 rebound night in a win against Orlando last week and if left alone, can do that again.
– Expect these two Power forwards to have an epic battle with both having a big impact on the game.
C: Marc Gasol vs. Emeka Okafor
– Marc Gasol has impressed in his second year in the NBA. Slimming down in the offseason, Gasol has been a big reason for the Grizzlies success. He has averaged 15 points and 9.4 rebounds a game. Gasol’s low post game is improving and has showed much of the talent that has made his Brother the All-Star that he is.
– Emeka Okafor was once a second overall pick the NBA Draft and was debated about being the top pick over Dwight Howard at the time. That all seems foolish now as Emeka has proved to be just an average center that can handle undersized and lesser athletes but not much more than that. Howard abused Okafor last week in te Hornets win, but that was in large part of what David West did, rather than anything Okafor did.
– Gasol is a top athlete, but has the size and scoring ability that Okafor will have trouble with. Okafor brings next to nothing offensively.
The Grizzlies are a better team than New Orleans without Chris Paul in the lineup. New Orleans will get an added boost from playing at home, but they have lost four of their last five. Both teams are on the outside looking at the playoff picture and oth need this game. Expect to see Memphis take this one over the young backcourt of the Hornets.
Final: Memphis 108 – New Orleans 99.
Sportsbook Review: Take Memphis and the over.
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