Miami Heat started their 6-game road trip on Friday when they beat the Atlanta Hawks by 95-89. Tonight a tough and gritty Memphis side will be hosting the NBA champions.
Dwyane Wade was out against Atlanta and is listed as day-to-day with a cold. Mike Miller started in Wade’s spot against the Hawks, and will most likely do the same tonight, letting Ray Allen come off the bench. Allen has looked very solid in his 6th man role so far, averaging 14.7 points per game on 59% shooting from 3-point range.
LeBron James banged knees with Josh Smith in the game against Atlanta, which forced both players to walk off to the half-time break early. While LeBron came back and iced the game with a jumper in crunch time, he said that his knee was a little sore after the game. James is expected to play, even with a slight knock, and the Heat will definitely need his contribution.
Both teams are on a 4 game winning streak, as the Grizzlies have won every single game since dropping their season opener against the Clippers.
Despite losing OJ Mayo to Dallas, Memphis remain a very dangerous team. The front court of Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph and Rudy Gay is one of the scariest in the NBA. Memphis have been one of the better rebounding teams this season, with Zach Randolph leading the league in rebounds per game. Miami, on the other hand, rank 26th in the league so far in rebounding. It will be important for the Heat to keep the rebounding as even as possible and limit second chance opportunities.
While Rudy Gay is averaging over 19 points per game so far, he hasn’t been very efficient, shooting less than 40% from the field. Gay can score in almost any way, so keeping his offense out of rhythm will be key.
So far the Grizzlies have gotten decent contributions off the bench by Speights and Bayless, but Miami’s bench is looking significantly stronger on paper. When the Grizzlies’ starters are resting, Miami’s bench will need to take advantage.
Mike Conley loves playing the passing lanes, and is one of the best in the league when it comes to steals. Collectively the Grizzlies are currently leading the league in steals, so taking care of the ball will be essential for Miami.
Overall, the Grizzlies have been well geared to counter Miami’s style of play, having won 6 of their last 9 meetings. Memphis away is always a hard nut to crack, and Miami will truly have to grind it out in a game that promises to be very even.