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Game Preview: Miami Heat @ Memphis Grizzlies

Hello All, Friday night, the un-augmented Heat will take on the Grizzlies in Memphis. The Heat has won four straight heading into this matchup with the surprising Grizz, who are 27-26 and solidly in the race for the 8 seed in the superior Western Conference. Dwyane Wade is questionable (at best), however, and the Heat will have a VERY tough time beating a good team without him. After all, the Grizzlies ain’t the Nets. SIDENOTE: Wouldn’t the Grizzlies have been smart to play in to the natural FedEx affiliation in Memphis? You know, orange and blue jerseys and a team name like "The Delivery" or something. How many Grizzly bears you think there are in the greater Memphis area? And yet, I digress. PROJECTED STARTERS Heat PG Alston SG Wade (?) SF Richardson PF Beasley C O’Neal Grizzlies PG M. Conley (Donkey to Greg Oden’s Shrek) SG O. Mayo SF R. Gay PF Z. Randolph C M. Gasol Well, the Grizzlies have a young, exciting lineup that can score in a variety of ways. Adding Ronnie Brewer at the deadline gives them a defensive presence on the perimeter to put on guys like Wade. Randolph is money around the basket and a guaranteed double-double. Gay and Mayo are great second and third options…the Heat NEED Wade in this game more than most, if for nothing else than his defense. Gasol has turned in to a legitimate NBA center and not just "Pau’s fat brother". For the record, Wade said something along the lines of "I jumped and felt something pop in my leg" when describing his injury. Always a good sign when a once-in-a-lifetime franchise player who is almost unmatched in his importance to his team felt a "pop" in his leg, right? Man, maybe Riley and the Heat should have thought about trading for Amar'e Stoudemire or Carlos Boozer at the deadline…oh, wait…is it hot in here or is it me? Anyway, I’m sure the Daequan Cook Era will be great! STATISTICAL BREAKDOWN Effective Field Goal % The Heat is 17th in the league at 49.3%; the Grizzlies are 16th at 49.5%. EDGE: Even Turnover % The Heat is 2nd in the league at 12.9%; the Grizzlies are 20th at 14.7%. EDGE: Heat Offensive Rebound % The Heat is 17th in the league at 26.2%; the Grizzlies are 1st at 31.8%. EDGE: Grizzlies (Big) Free Throw Rate The Heat is 17th in the league at 29.9%; the Grizzlies are 9th at 31.6%. EDGE: Grizzlies KEY TO THE GAME The Heat has to stop Zach Randolph. He has been perhaps the biggest surprise in the league and a fringe MVP candidate. He is perhaps the best offensive rebounder in the league and that is reflected in the team’s ranking. He has somehow become a team leader AND convinced Gay and Mayo that they can benefit themselves AND the team by taking secondary roles. The Heat need someone that can force him off the block defensively and draw him away from the basket offensively. In other words, they need Amare Stoudemire. Michael Beasley can do the latter, but not the former (he's a bit light in the pants to bang with Randolph, no?). The Heat could try to use O’Neal on Randolph for spells, but that would leave either Beasely, Udonis Haslem or Joel Anthony on Marc Gasol. Ouch. Not to mention, that would mean O’Neal and Anthony are on the court for long stretches together. Honestly, this is one of the Heat’s toughest individual matchups and is the key to the game on Friday. Oh, that and #3 playing. Always guard the inbound passer.