Brooklyn looks to go above .500 against Memphis

Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to .500. It took a while, but Brooklyn finally reached that mark with a wire-to-wire win against the hated Chicago Bulls. It was a great win for Brooklyn after getting embarrassed twice by Chicago on national TV. At 29-29, the Nets find themselves in the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference playoff race.

Making the Wednesday night visit to Barclays will be the Memphis Grizzlies. After a slow start, Memphis has been on a tear and find themselves within striking distance of catching the Warriors for the sixth seed. They're currently in the ninth seed, but they do end the year against the seventh & eighth seeds, Phoenix and Dallas (they're 3-0 vs. the Suns but 0-3 against Dallas). They did the Nets a favor on Monday night by beating fifth seeded Washington on the road. With Phoenix's loss to the Clippers on Tuesday night, Memphis can move into a tie for the eighth seed.

This is the second meeting between the teams this season. At the end of November, these teams met up in Memphis and Brooklyn came away with a 97-88 win. The rosters are looking different from that first matchup as the Nets have added Marcus Thornton and the Grizzlies ex-Net Courtney Lee.

The season so far

How has the 2013-2014 season been for these teams? Let's find out

2013-2014

Brooklyn

Memphis

Record

29-29 34-25

Pace

94.06 92.2

Offensive Efficiency

103 102.9

Defensive Efficiency

104.3 102.6

Offensive Rebounding percentage

22.2 27.7

Turnover rate

15.3 14.5

Assist rate

16.6 17.3

Rebound rate

47.4 51.6

Free throw rate

31.6 24.6

Effective Field Goal percentage

50.1 49.1

Opponent Effective Field Goal percentage

50.5 49.7

On the injury front, Kevin Garnett missed Monday's game due to back spasms and is a game time decision for tomorrow night.

It looks like Deron Williams is back to playing like he was during the second half of last season. After dealing with injuries and suspect play for much of the first half. He's coming off a pretty solid game against the Bulls and was able to stifle Chicago's comeback attempt with a key three pointer in the fourth quarter. The point guard matchup between Williams and Mike Conley is very intriguing. Conley is the Grizzlies' facilitator and has been having another good season, averaging a career high 17.6 points a night along with close to seven assists along with it. He's most effective driving to the basket and will look to put pressure on Williams and his fellow Net defenders.

The Joe Johnson-Courtney Lee matchup is another interesting one to keep an eye on as well. Johnson is coming off a great game against Chicago on Monday night including three from deep. Quiet as it's kept, Johnson has been having his most successful season from deep since his last season in Phoenix. On the other side, Lee has settled in nicely with his new team. Since the trade, Courtney has been on a tear, averaging career highs in points per game (13.3) and True Shooting percentage (60.4). He's been started all but two games since joining Memphis and his ability to space the floor should help Randolph out against the Nets. More importantly for this contest, Lee has been a solid defender throughout  his career and ought to get Johnson when Tony Allen isn't on the court.

Garnett being less than 100 percent poses a major problem for Brooklyn against one of the league's best rebounding teams. Led by Zach Randolph, Kosta Koufus and friends, the Grizzlies have collected about 52 percent of the available rebounds on the floor, good for sixth best in the league. With Garnett likely out, look for rookie Mason Plumlee to get the start once again. Plumlee is energetic, but has a bit of a foul trouble. He is averaging a team high five fouls per 36 minutes and will have his hands full dealing with Randolph. This game also represents the toughest opponent for newest Net Jason Collins.

Memphis' defense has taken a step back this season, but that can be explained. Defensive Player of the Year Marc Gasol missed twenty-three games due to his sprained MCL and noted defender Tony Allen missed 21 games due to a hand injury. Even with that, Memphis is still in the top half of the defensive rankings and have been one of the league's best since January.

Somewhat surprisingly, Mike Miller has appeared in every game this season and has already surpassed his minutes total from last season. Unsurprisingly, he's been shooting lights out. He leads the team in shooting with a 60.4 True Shooting percentage and is another person that provides lots of floor spacing for Memphis. I thought he would have been a great addition for the Nets when he was on the free agent market, but he ended up joining Memphis. With the way he's played so far, he might be able to hang on for a few more seasons.

Player to watch: Marc Gasol

Gasol missed some time earlier in the season due to a sprained MCL, but has been having a decent season despite it. He's struggled offensively, so Joe Mullinax over at Grizzly Bear Blues walked through what Gasol needs to improve on and concluded:

In order for the Grizzlies to make a run as the roster gets healthy, Marc will have to adapt his offensive game and become more focused on getting in the paint, to the free throw line and use his size more than he usually would. Coach Joerger would also be wise to utilize his front court depth more than he has so far this month when Marc is struggling so that the team does not suffer for it.

As Joe alluded to, Marc is much more effective in the paint. This year he's converted on 70.7 percent of his attempts inside of the restricted area compared to only 38 percent from the midrange area. He was much more successful from outside of the paint last season, but I wouldn't be too worried about Marc. As playoff time nears, Marc figures to get stronger and stronger and as a result more effective from the floor. He's still a great passing big man and his 3.8 assists a night are good for second best on the team.

If everything goes well, Gasol should be in line for a big evening. The Nets are a small bunch and a poor rebounding team. Both of hose factors bode well for Gasol, and when he's not looking to set up his teammates, he should be anchored in the low post. Teams have had some success against Marc on the inside, so look for Williams to drive at him whenever the opportunity presents itself.

From the Vault

Slide on back to 2011 and catch Zach Randolph and the Grizzlies earn the franchise's first ever playoff series victory.


More reading: Grizzly Bear Blues

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