[Thanks to CowBearsFan for today's game preview. I'll be at the UC tonight, so follow during the game for hot hot tweets. -ed.]
The Bulls have their home opener tonight against the Memphis Grizzlies, the surprise team out of last year's Western Conference playoffs. We're taking a two game win streak back home to the UC. The Grizzlies (1-2) are looking to find a bit of rhythm after losing their first two games and finally got their first win of the season against Houston Friday night after Z-Bo dropped 23 and 9 on Houston. This is a match-up I myself have a particular interest in as it may be a game I'll be watching live in a little over two weeks.
The big question of the season on the Memphis Grizzlies was how Rudy Gay would fit back in after the Grizzlies changed the identity and focused on getting the ball inside after his season-ending shoulder surgery last year. He's acclimated himself very well this season, averaging 16.7 points over 3 games and has recorded double digit rebounds every game so far. If there's a strength on this Memphis team, it's rebounding, as Gay, Marc Gasol, and Z-Bo are all averaging over 8 rebounds a game. However, they're missing a few key guys as Darrell Arthur (out for the season with a torn Achilles), Mike Conley (out for tonight with a sprained ankle; on that note, their starter is likely to be Jeremy Pargo as they recently traded Greivis Vasquez to New Orleans for Quincy Pondexter) and Xavier Henry (out for a month or so) are not playing tonight.
My keys for the game:
1) Our bigs need to slow down Z-Bo and Gasol if we want to have any chance at this. Jo kind of got bullied by Demarcus Cousins in our last game against Sacramento. Z-Bo and the not Gasoft brother are bangers and no matter what assignment he draws tonight, he's got to be effective defensively. Jo doesn't have to do it alone though, as we've got guys on the bench (specifically, Asik) who match up well against their bigs. Neutralizing their inside attack will be pivotal as the Grizz are shooting 17.9% from deep this year, so keeping them from pounding us inside will be huge.
2) The MVP has to dominate Jeremy Pargo. When you come up with matchups that favor us this strongly, we have to take advantage. Derrick needs to realize he has a Pargo across from him, and then destroy his pride in front of his brother. Jeremy's filled in admirably for Mike Conley, averaging 11 points and 5.3 assists a game.
3) Take care of the basketball. I know, cliche, but the Bulls are averaging 16 turnovers a game while the Grizzlies are forcing 19 a game. Last year, the Grizzlies led the league in forced turnovers and were second on points off turnovers, so this team is good at turning defense into offense.
As I said earlier, I want to go see this matchup on MLK day, so I hope the game is an interesting implication of what I'll see live in 15 days, but with the weakest matchup on the floor going in our favor (a Pargo vs the MVP), I believe we have a great shot in taking this game going away.