7pm, Time Warner Cable Arena
SportSouth/WFNZ 610 AM
LINEUP:[eztable width=”600″ colwidth=”10|295|295″ colalign=”left|center|center”] Pos.,CHARLOTTE HORNETS,MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES
PG,Kemba Walker, Mike Conley
SG,Lance Stephenson, Courtney Lee
PF,Marvin Williams,Zach Randolph
C,Al Jefferson,Marc Gasol
Gerald Henderson – Day to Day
Lance Stephenson – Day to Day
1. Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph sliced up Minnesota on Wednesday night to the tune of 57 points, combined, on 24-33 (72.7%) from the floor. Oh. My. Goodness. So, how do the Hornets slow this bully-ball down?
Michael Kaskey-Blomain (@therealmikekb): The Hornets best chance at slowing down the dominant bully-ball of Gasol and Randolph is to pack the paint, put bodies on them, and make the Grizzlies’ other, perimeter players beat them. Now, that is likely easier said than done, as the Grizzlies have potent perimeter players, and Z-Bo and Gasol aren’t just going to lay down to increased paint presence. But limiting the damage the duo does will be the Hornets best opportunity to win. Make Mike Conley, Tony Allen, and Vince Carter beat them from the outside. This is one of those games where Charlotte can utilize some of the big bodies they have. Would expect to see a lot of minutes between Zeller, Jefferson, Maxiell, and Biyombo.
Also, make them work on the other end. Al Jefferson is a beast on the block himself, and if he can make Gasol and Randolph work, maybe get them into foul trouble, it will potentially slow the duo down on the other end.
James Plowright (@jamesplowright): Al isn’t a terrible match up defensively against Gasol, Jefferson normally has more trouble with the quicker more athletic guys. However, Gasol likes to set up out of the post and act as a pivot in the offense, he is one of the better passing big men in the league. Jefferson rarely leaves the paint while playing defense, this could potentially lead to Gasol having too much space and being able to dissect the Hornets interior defense with crafty passes. I would allow Jefferson to leave the post a little more for just one night, the Grizzles don’t exactly have many fast/athletic guys who will blow past him. Randolph on the other hand is going to be a real handful for Marvin Williams and Cody Zeller, neither match up well and give up a lot of size/strength. It might be worth doubling Randolph in the post, the Grizzlies are reminiscent of last years Bobcats, despite adding Vince Carter and Jordan Adams they don’t really have the shooting to make you pay for doubling. Forcing Randolph to get his touches out of the post will also help the Hornets frontcourt keep Randolph off the offensive boards. Keep an eye on Jason Maxiell maybe spending some time guarding Randolph, he is likely the only Hornets front court player with the physique that could match up against him.
Spencer Percy (@QCHspencer): If the ball makes it’s way to the high-post or low-block to Gasol or Randolph, consider yourself in trouble. Pack the defense in more than usual, be very wary of gap-defense, and get your arms in passing lanes. Switching some block-to-block screens may not be a bad idea in an attempt to front some post-entry angles. If the Hornets just let Memphis throw the ball in to Gasol all night and play through the low-post they’ll be in for a long night. Clifford is not the kind of coach that likes to throw double-teams on any player, but tonight may be the game to consider that when Marvin Williams is guarding Randolph.
All-in-all, this will take a Herculean defense effort from the Hornets. Communication and energy, two things we didn’t see from this bunch Wednesday night.
2. What’s the key matchup Charlotte needs to attack tonight in order to get the offense back on track after a disappointing opening night showing?
MKB: I would like to see Lance Stephenson go at Courtney Lee and be aggressive on the offensive end. Stephenson struggled scoring the ball during his debut in Charlotte, which was to be expected, but part of what makes him so dangerous is his aggression. If he can go at Courtney Lee and get a couple buckets early, the rest of the Hornets offense might be able to feed off of his energy and produce points more consistently than they did in the opener.
James: A Kemba/Marvin pick and roll should be the go to move if the team are struggling for scoring. Zach Randolph is similar to Al Jefferson in the fact is he is slow moving his feet and doesn’t like leaving the post. If Williams can pop after setting the screen he should be open fairly often, the same can be said for Cody Zeller, but his jump shot isn’t as reliable yet. If Randolph does start coming out to challenge the shot both Marvin and Cody have the ball handling and speed to drive passed him.
Spencer: There’s no word out of Charlotte on Stephenson’s status for tonight, so I’m assuming he’s playing, although slightly surprised. If he is healthy (didn’t look it Wed.) then Lance needs to attack Courtney Lee as much as possible. And then when Joerger slides Tony Allen over to check Lance, MKG needs to attack Lee. Lee is the weak-link defensively for this stout Memphis lineup – attack him with everything you can until the Grizz defer to Tayshaun or VC off-the-bench.
3. Identify the key statistical category for Hornets tonight, and tell us why.
MKB: The Hornets dominated the boards on Wednesday against the Bucks, and they should aim to do the same against Memphis. Charlotte out-rebounded Milwaukee 50-35, and the disparity in rebounds allowed the Hornets to stick around until they were able to complete the comeback. Against a team with an extremely formidable frontcourt like Memphis, limiting second chances is key, so rebounds will again be an important category for Charlotte.
James: The 2013/14 Bobcats ranked 30th in turnovers per game last year, this was a staple philosophy of Clifford’s, the Grizzlies weren’t far behind finishing ranked just 27th. Memphis have been one of the best defensive teams in the NBA in recent years, Mike Conley, Tony Allen and Marc Gasol spearhead their half court defense and create a truly fearsome opponent. With the Hornets addition of Lance Stephenson they should really look to score in transition before the Memphis defense is set. For this to happen they need to try and force a high number of turnovers, this means active hands and reading the passing lanes, while staying in position to defend. If the Hornets can score at a high rate in transition it might have the bonus affect of forcing Memphis to sit one of it’s two lumbering bigs of Gasol and Randolph, this would greatly benefit the Hornets when they do settle into their half court game.
Spencer: The Grizzlies have operated at a 48.5% rate from-the-floor through two games. That’s efficient. Charlotte must limit the turnovers and blitz the defensive glass. If you give Memphis extra chances, they will take advantage, and they’ll bully you physically in the process.
Lance, Kemba, and MKG need to look for opportunities to push the rock tonight – hunt for chances to score before Memphis can set their defense.
Coach Clifford on if he expects the double on Jefferson: “Gasol is such a good individual defender that they don’t double a lot, but we worked on it a lot just in case. ”
Charlotte’s second unit can’t possibly play any worse than they did against Milwaukee and Memphis’ starters have played a TON of minutes in their two games. Memphis off a back to back will either have to play tired-leg starters or dip into a weak bench. Charlotte takes advantage in the latter stages of this game and wins 87-84.