There are a few interesting storylines in tonight's Magic/Grizzlies tilt. For me, the game is most significant because it's the Magic's first chance to avenge an inexcusable home loss against an inferior team. Sure, the losses to Indiana and Atlanta came first, but we haven't played those teams since then. The Grizzlies, if you recall, beat us 123-119 back in December thanks to 32 points from Rudy Gay and some timely three-point shooting from Juan Carlos Navarro. The Magic would love to return the favor, and a victory tonight would make it four-out-of-five for us.
But the teams will look a little bit different. The Grizzlies will have Pau Gasol and Mike Conley, who did not appear in the first matchup between these teams, in their starting lineup. I think the Grizzlies having Gasol is actually a positive for us; he's not a good defensive player and he's not going to want to stray from the paint to guard Hedo Turkoglu or Rashard Lewis on the perimeter. He'll likely be assigned to guard Dwight Howard, which leaves Darko Milicic -- who is prone to
bouts of stupidity mental lapses -- to check the perimeter. I like our chances with that matchup.
Likewise, the Magic will have Rashard Lewis, who missed the first game due to a sore neck. However, they won't have Jameer Nelson, who came up big against the Grizzlies the first time around (18 points, 8 assists), because he is nursing a sore right foot.
Additionally, tonight's game is the Magic's last road contest against a Western opponent. A victory would bump the Magic to 9-6 on the road against the West, a respectable number. Too bad they're just 2-4 at home against the West, but that's a concern for another time.
The Grizzlies are the league's 7th-fastest team, averaging 93.3 possessions per game, so the game should be exciting to watch. As an added bonus, both teams tonight feature All-Star Slam Dunk participants -- Dwight Howard for Orlando, Rudy Gay for Memphis -- so there's potential for a few highlight-reel slams also. (YouTube Hat-tip: Dwyer)
For further reading, check out 3 Shades of Blue's preview, which gives the Magic the edge at nearly every position; and Orlando Magic Blog's glance at Darko's disappointing season.