Game time: 7:00pm
Where: Time Warner Cable Arena - Charlotte, NC
TV: Fox Sports South and NBA League Pass (Two consecutive games on TV? What is this madness?)
For the first time since their historic opening night comeback victory against the Milwaukee Bucks, the Charlotte Hornets return to the floor to take on the Memphis Grizzlies and honor Bobby Phills as his jersey is raised to the rafters once again. The city remains on a high after the win Wednesday night, but make no mistake: the team needs to play better to have any chance at a win this evening.
Shooting was far from ideal. The Hornets shot 40.6 percent from the field, 28.6 percent from deep and just 69 percent from the free throw line, all while allowing the Bucks to shoot better than 48 percent from the field. They looked sluggish on offense for the majority of the game, as the team would give Al Jefferson the ball and shooters would fail to rotate over when Big Al was be double teamed. The bench looked lost at times. The defense, for the majority of the game, gave up too many easy baskets.
Against the Bucks, you can get away with that kind of play. Against the Grizzlies? Not likely.
The good news is even with all those negatives, the team still won, thanks in very large part to Cardiac Kemba Walker. There were other positives as well. The play of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. The near triple-double and hustle of Lance Stephenson. The sharp shooting of Marvin Williams. The fact that the team had 50 rebounds and only 10 turnovers in an overtime game. The resiliency of the team in general. Things to build upon.
OK, enough about the Hornets for now. Let's talk about Memphis. The Grizzlies are 2-0 on the season and are on the second game of a back-to-back after taking down the Indiana Pacers 97-89 last night. Marc Gasol has been the story of the first two games, having scored 32 and 20 points respectively, while averaging 7.5 rebounds, 2 steals and 2 blocks a game. Gasol has always been known for his defensive game. If this is a sign that he has developed an offensive game as well, watch out. Speaking of offensive games, Zach Randolph is one of the few players in the league whose back-to-the-basket offensive repertoire is close to Big Al's. Mike Conley has been doing a great job running the point and Tony Allen is averaging 4(!) steals a game (Yes, I know it's a two game sample. That's still impressive).
Second year head coach David Joerger's success coaching in the NBDL has translated well so far to the NBA, as the coach lead the team to a 50-32 record last year and earned himself a three-year contract extension.
Likely Starting Lineups
Hornets: Kemba Walker / Lance Stephenson / Michael Kidd-Gilchrist / Marvin Williams / Al Jefferson
Grizzlies: Mike Conley / Courtney Lee / Tony Allen / Zach Randolph / Marc Gasol
Matchups to Watch
Marvin Williams vs. Zach Randolph: This may be the most important matchup of the night, as whichever power forward gains the advantage on the offensive end will give his team a huge advantage. If Williams is able to shoot as well as he did Wednesday night, it will force the Randolph and the tough Memphis D to spread out more and give Jefferson more room to work. On the other side, Williams is going to have his hands full against Randolph. Not only is Z-Bo's offensive game one of the better ones in the league under the basket, he also has more than 20 pounds on Williams. The Hornets are going to have to do some work in order to slow him down.
Al Jefferson vs. Marc Gasol: Old school NBA fans will be drooling while they watch this matchup. One of the best low post scorers in the league takes on one of the best low post defenders. Forget this game, can we get the two to play a game of 21? I'd pay to watch that.
Hornets bench vs. Grizzlies bench: The Hornets' bench's struggles have been well documented to this point, so not much more is needed to be said there. Meanwhile, the Grizzlies are bringing the likes of Tayshaun Prince, Beno Udrih and the still somehow playing basketball Vince Carter. Which bench can give the advantage their team needs while their starters catch a breather?