Hawks v. Grizzlies Preview
The Memphis Grizzlies (26-22) come to Philips Arena looking to sweep the season series with the Atlanta Hawks (25-23). The Grizzlies are on a tear of late, thanks in large part to Marc Gasol returning from injury, winning 11 of their last 14 games, including their first matchup with the Hawks, 108-101 (without Gasol) in Memphis.
The Grizzlies, when healthy, are one of the best defensive teams in the NBA thanks to having the reigning Defensive Player of the Year in Gasol as well as Tony Allen and Mike Conley, two of the league’s best perimeter defenders. Allen has missed a number of games with a hand injury and is still out, while Conley has been out for the past few games with a sprained ankle, and those losses in the backcourt are huge blows to the Grizzlies, especially if Conley is unable to go against Jeff Teague and the Hawks. Without Conley, the Grizzlies would have to rely on Nick Calathes, Courtney Lee, and Darius Morris to carry the load at the point guard position.
Even without Conley, the Grizzlies present a big challenge to the Hawks because of their length all over the floor and frontcourt size and strength with Gasol and Zach Randolph. Paul Millsap and Gustavo Ayon will start again for the Hawks and will be tasked with trying to keep them out of the paint on defense, while finding ways to attack them on offense. Coach Bud said that finding ways to spread the floor and draw Gasol and Randolph out of the paint will be important, so, along with Elton Brand and Mike Scott, Millsap and the Hawks’ bigs’ ability to knock down perimeter shots will be important to their overall success — as it has been all season.
As a team, the Grizzlies only average 95.5 points per game, but they have one of the stingiest defenses in the league allowing only 95.3 points per game. Memphis prefers a slow tempo so they can set up their defense in the halfcourt, where they are so effective, and also methodically work the ball into the post for their terrific scoring bigs. The Hawks success will rely on their ability to push the tempo and get into the offense quickly, not necessarily just in transition, as to keep the Grizzlies defense from getting set.