Tonight marks the second of two matchups between the Brooklyn Nets and the Memphis Grizzlies. The first ended badly for Brooklyn, a 101-77 laugher loss that was over by halftime. This Grizzlies team is a different one than the one that tore the Nets asunder in January, after striking a trade that sent small forward Rudy Gay to the Toronto Raptors, acquiring Ed Davis from the Raptors, and Austin Daye & Tayshaun Prince from the Detroit Pistons.
Here’s three things to watch in tonight’s contest:
1. Post wars. In acquiring Ed Davis, the Grizzlies bolstered their already-solid big man core of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph. The Nets have the best big man in the bunch in Brook Lopez, but after Lopez the Nets’ rotation is comprised of a rotating cast of castoffs; Reggie Evans, Kris Humphries, Andray Blatche, and Mirza Teletovic aren’t as talented as any of the Grizzlies’ “big three.” All four (Evans in particular) have issues against long post players — hello Ed Davis — and all four have issues against talented post players — hello Zach Randolph. Lopez’s scoring should be able to play Gasol’s overall game to a draw, but the Nets will need surprise contributions defensively from their bigs to contain Memphis’s low-post game.
2. Ice the Iso. Without Joe Johnson, the Nets ended plays in isolations just 11.2% of the time, below their season average of 13.3%. That’s a number they should hope continues to trend downwards, because the Grizzlies are the best team in the league at defending isolations. The isolation is, as we and others have discussed at length, generally an ineffective last-ditch play, and without their best isolationist on the floor, it would behoove the Nets to continue their drive-and-dish ways — the Nets spotted up 33 times against Houston, and while the Grizzlies are good at defending spot-up shooters, it’s still a better option than chopping into the lane and hoping to score over and through their defense.
3. Deron Williams. This should just be a running “thing to watch” at this point: how are his ankles? How’s the lift on his jumpshot? Is he getting into the lane? How are his ankles? Is he creating for others first or himself? How is he adjusting to being “the” member of Brooklyn’s Backcourt in the game? Is he running & creating an offense, or is he throwing ideas at the proverbial wall to see what sticks? And, finally, how are his ankles?