Memphis Grizzlies 2012-13 Schedule: Monthly Breakdown and W-L Predictions

Dave LeonardisContributor IIIAugust 6, 2012

Memphis Grizzlies 2012-13 Schedule: Monthly Breakdown and W-L Predictions

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    The Memphis Grizzlies are a balanced collection of young talent and cagey veterans. They aren't among the NBA's elite, but they are dangerous enough to make a lengthy playoff run if someone gets hot.

    To give perspective, the 2012-13 Grizzlies are somewhere between the 2009-10 Thunder and the 2010-11 Oklahoma City team in terms of progression. The '09-'10 Thunder gave the Lakers everything they could handle before L.A. knocked them out in the first round. The next year, the Thunder made it to the conference finals, but showed they weren't ready for prime-time just yet.

    A year later, the Thunder made the NBA Finals.

    The Grizzlies are among the three or four best teams in the West, eerily similar to their opening day opponent, the Los Angeles Clippers. Both teams are dark horses as championship contenders but will more likely end up being tough outs come playoff time.

    Memphis didn't make many changes this offseason. Guard O.J. Mayo, who went from the team's starting two guard to a sixth-man role in the span of two years, left for Dallas. His void will most likely be filled by rookie Tony Wroten Jr.

    The team will also welcome back promising young big man Darrell Arthur. He missed all of last season with a torn ACL. His return gives Memphis much-needed depth in the frontcourt.

    The Grizzlies are led by a talented trio in small forward Rudy Gay and interior bangers Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. Those three, combined with some solid role players, should be good enough for Memphis to eclipse the 50-win mark this season.

    For them to go further than last year's first round exit, however, a few things need to fall into place. Here's a breakdown of the team's schedule with a look at key games and matchups.

October/November Schedule

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    Wednesday, October 31 vs. Los Angles Clippers

    Friday, November 2 @ Golden State Warriors

    Monday, November 5 vs. Utah Jazz

    Wednesday, November 7 @ Milwaukee Bucks

    Friday, November 9 vs. Houston Rockets

    Sunday, November 11 vs. Miami Heat

    Wednesday, November 14 @ Oklahoma City Thunder

    Friday, November 16 vs. New York Knicks

    Saturday, November 17 @ Charlotte Bobcats

    Monday, November 19 vs. Denver Nuggets

    Friday, November 23 vs. Los Angeles Lakers

    Monday, November 26 vs. Cleveland Cavaliers

    Wednesday, November 28 vs. Toronto Raptors

    Friday, November 30 vs. Detroit Pistons

Key October/November Games

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    Wednesday, October 31 @ Los Angeles Clippers

    The 2012-13 season kicks off for Memphis the way last season ended, with a matchup against the Los Angeles Clippers. Last year's first-round series went seven games and was epic all the way through. Los Angeles made a couple more moves this offseason than Memphis did with the additions of Jamal Crawford and the return of Lamar Odom. Both teams are still evenly matched and I see this one coming down to the wire in a good early test for teams that are poised to take the next step.

    Sunday, November 11 vs. Miami Heat

    Truth be told, I thought this is what Game 1 of the NBA Finals was going to be before the start of last season. As it turns out, I was wrong. Still, a game between Miami and Memphis in the early going is a nice clash of styles. The Heat are stacked on the wing with elite players like LeBron James and Dwyane Wade while the Grizzlies have the advantage on the inside. If the Grizzlies can control the boards and limit Miami's role players (since they won't be able to stop LeBron), they could steal this one.

    Wednesday, November 14 @ Oklahoma City Thunder

    Memphis follows up a matchup with the defending champions with a game against the NBA Finals runner-up. That's a tough stretch in the span of four days. Unlike against Miami, Memphis won't have a significant advantage in the paint against Oklahoma City. The Thunder possess their own solid duo in the frontcourt with Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins. As good defensively as guard Tony Allen is, Memphis is going to have trouble slowing down the Thunder's offense. It will be especially hard coming off four quarters of trying to keep up with the Heat. It's a good test, but it's one I don't think they'll win.

    Friday, November 23 vs. Los Angeles Lakers

    The Lakers are basically an older version of the Thunder. They have elite big men in Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol to counter Memphis' combo of Zach Randolph and Pau's brother Marc. Los Angeles also has a dynamic scoring guard tandem in Kobe Bryant and the newly acquired Steve Nash. If there's a silver lining here for Memphis, this one will take place at home. How the Grizzlies will fare, however, will depend on how good the Lakers are early on as Nash gets acclimated to his new team.

    The assumption here is that Nash and the Lakers start off strong. This game becomes increasingly difficult if Los Angeles manages to swing a deal for disgruntled Magic center Dwight Howard.

    October/November W-L Prediction: 10-4

    Wins: Warriors, Jazz, Bucks, Rockets, Knicks, Bobcats, Nuggets, Cavaliers, Raptors, Pistons

    Losses: Clippers, Heat, Thunder, Lakers

Preview and Predictions for October/November

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    Best One-on-One Matchup of October/November

    The battles between the Gasol brothers are always fun, mainly because of the contrast in styles. For me, it goes back to the opening day matchup between the Grizzlies and Clippers. The duel between Zach Randolph and Blake Griffin is the best individual showdown of the month in terms of two guys playing the same position.

    Griffin is younger and significantly more athletic than Randolph. However, Z-Bo is one of the most physical interior presences in the post and he is going to use that big frame to try to break Griffin down. Memphis has a few early games against the upper crust of the NBA, but the blossoming rivalry between Memphis and that other Los Angeles team is always fun to watch.

    Best Case Scenario for October/December

    The NBA schedule-makers were kind to the Grizzlies in the season's opening month. Outside of the four games highlighted in the previous slide, there aren't many tough contests for Memphis early on. The Grizzlies are good enough to make light work of the NBA's cellar dwellers. However, the optimal approach to this month would be for Memphis to steal a couple wins from any of those four big matchups mentioned earlier.

    Worst Case Scenario for October/December

    The biggest thing that can derail Memphis would be injuries to one of their big men. Zach Randolph went down with a knee injury last year and the team wasn't the same without him (especially with Darrell Arthur already out). The Grizzlies aren't especially deep up front, so they can't afford to lose any size.

    Another problem would be if they struggle putting away young teams on the rise like Golden State or Utah. The schedule is favorable for Memphis early, but it gets rough pretty quickly. The Grizzlies need to compile some easy wins before the season's heavy lifting begins.

December Schedule

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    Saturday, December 1 @ San Antonio Spurs

    Tuesday, December 4 vs. Phoenix Suns

    Friday, December, 7 @ New Orleans Hornets

    Sunday, December 9 vs. Atlanta Hawks

    Wednesday, December 12 @ Phoenix Suns

    Friday, December 14 @ Denver Nuggets

    Saturday, December 15 @ Utah Jazz

    Monday, December 17 vs. Chicago Bulls

    Wednesday, December 19 vs. Milwaukee Bucks

    Friday, December 21 vs. Dallas Mavericks

    Saturday, December 22 @ Houston Rockets

    Wednesday, December 26 @ Philadelphia 76ers

    Saturday, December 29 vs. Denver Nuggets

    Monday, December 31 @ Indiana Pacers

Key December Games

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    Saturday, December 1 @ San Antonio Spurs

    Just like last month, the Grizzlies draw a difficult task early this month. Memphis' first game of December comes against the San Antonio Spurs, the team it upset in the first round two seasons ago. The Spurs are a tough draw for any team because they are so good defensively and are difficult to beat in San Antonio. The key for Memphis won't be so much stopping Tim Duncan inside as much as it will need to stop point guard Tony Parker.

    Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley Jr. continues to improve, but he's really going to need to step it up to shut down one of the game's best point guards.

    Friday, December 14 (on the road) and Saturday, December 29 (at home) vs. Denver Nuggets

    With Denver locking up shot-blocking center JaVale McGee long term, the Nuggets could be ready to take the next step and join Memphis in the Western Conference's second tier. If that's the case, the two games Memphis draws against Denver are going to be important. The Nuggets are a solid collection of young talent but have no defined star. Point guard Ty Lawson and small forward Danilo Gallinari are the team's two best players and it will be interesting to see how they match up with Memphis' core.

    Once again, it's up to Conley to slow down another speedy point guard in Lawson. It's two good games between a couple rosters filled with underrated talent. Both teams will benefit going forward if they can pull off wins against the other.

    Monday, December 17 vs. Chicago Bulls

    This game won't be as significant as the showdown between these two in Chicago next month. That's because the Bulls might be without point guard Derrick Rose for the first game as he recovers from knee surgery. Still, the Bulls are among the best teams in the East even without D-Rose, and the Grizzlies could take advantage of the former MVP's absence here by stealing a win.

    With Rose out, the two teams are a bit more evenly matched. The Grizzlies need to use the home court to their advantage and benefit from Chicago's injury misfortunes.

    Monday, December 31 @ Indiana Pacers

    The Pacers are the Eastern equivalent of the Grizzlies. They are both just under the cream of the crop in their respective conferences but have the talent to make life difficult for the league's upper echelon. Talent wise, they are equal as well. The Pacers have a slight edge in the Danny Granger-Rudy Gay matchup, but the Grizzlies are better on the inside. This one could get interesting.

    December W-L Prediction: 10-4

    Wins: Suns (twice), Hornets, Hawks, Jazz, Bulls, Bucks, Mavericks, Rockets, Nuggets (at home)

    Losses: Spurs, Nuggets (on the road), Sixers, Pacers

Preview and Predictions for December

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    Best One-on-One Matchup of December

    A couple of years ago, the matchup between Zach Randolph and Tim Duncan would have gone to Duncan. But it's now 2012 and Duncan isn't the dominant force he once was. He's still good but not to the point where a battle with Z-Bo is must-see TV. In fact, I see Randolph getting the better of "The Big Fundamental" in their individual matchup.

    For me, the best one-on-one will take place in the final game of the month when Memphis travels to Indiana to face the Pacers. Danny Granger has emerged as one of the game's best small forwards, but Rudy Gay is right up there with him. Injuries have kept Gay from being a household name, but I think the duel between him and Granger is a nice battle between two under-the-radar talents.

    Best Case Scenario for December

    The schedule is about to get brutal for Memphis so the Grizzlies will need to come up big this month when the things aren't as rough. The Grizzlies face tough tests against San Antonio, Chicago, Dallas, Philly and Indiana, but those are winnable games. It's hard to see Memphis finishing the month without a loss but, with so few bumps in the road in December, the Grizzlies could be in line for a huge month.

    Worst Case Scenario for December

    For starters, if Derrick Rose is back in time for the game against the Grizzlies, I don't like Memphis' chances of winning that one. While there's no definite losses on tap for December, there aren't many gimmes either. The two games against Denver will be tough, as will their meeting with Dallas. Phoenix and New Orleans are much improved and Memphis can't afford to take them lightly.

    The Grizzlies' December dominance will depend on who's healthy and what young teams are playing well after the season's first month. This could be a big month for Memphis or a huge disappointment.

January Schedule

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    Wednesday, January 2 @ Boston Celtics

    Friday, January 4 vs. Portland Trail Blazers

    Sunday, January 6 @ Phoenix Suns

    Monday, January 7 @ Sacramento Kings

    Wednesday, January 9 @ Golden State Warriors

    Friday, January 11 vs. San Antonio Spurs

    Saturday, January 12 @ Dallas Mavericks

    Monday, January 14 vs. Los Angeles Clippers

    Wednesday, January 16 @ San Antonio Spurs

    Friday, January 18 vs. Sacramento Kings

    Saturday, January 19 @ Chicago Bulls

    Monday, January 21 vs. Indiana Pacers

    Wednesday, January 23 vs. Los Angeles Lakers

    Friday, January 25 vs. Brooklyn Nets

    Sunday, January 27 vs. New Orleans Hornets

    Monday, January 28 @ Philadelphia 76ers

    Tuesday, January 31 @ Oklahoma City Thunder

Key January Games

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    Wednesday, January 2 @ Boston Celtics

    The importance of this game depends on how good this aging Celtics team proves to be. If the Celtics show their age, the Grizzlies can go into Boston and tear them up. However, if we learned anything from Boston last year, it's that you can never count this team out. Rajon Rondo took another huge leap into NBA stardom in last year's playoffs and, unlike his fellow elite point guards, he's had the summer to rest.

    The Grizzlies could try to slow down Rondo by putting defensive specialist Tony Allen on him, but that leaves Mike Conley Jr. to defend the combo of Avery Bradley (assuming he's healthy) and Jason Terry. Another factor will be how much Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce have left in the tank and whether they can muster up enough to compete with Zach Randolph and Rudy Gay.

    Friday, January 11 vs. San Antonio Spurs to Wednesday, January 23 vs. Los Angeles Lakers

    This is where things get brutal for Memphis. On January 11, they will start a 12-day wild ride of eight games against some heavy hitters. Making matters worse, those eight games alternate between home and away and will have the Grizzlies racking up some frequent flier miles. It starts at home against the Spurs.

    From there, they will travel to Dallas to face the Mavericks. After that, they'll host the Clippers. Then it's out to San Antonio for another clash with the Spurs. It gets a little easier with a home game against Sacramento, but even that game will test Memphis' will.

    The Grizzlies get a taste of the Eastern Conference a day later, when they will go to Chicago to face the Bulls with the potential return of Derrick Rose a possibility. Next, they start a brief home stretch that includes the Pacers, Lakers and Nets. Yikes.

    A couple other things to keep in mind is that the Grizzlies have a three-game road trip that will see them face Phoenix, Sacramento and Golden State before this stretch even starts. Plus, Memphis ends with month with road games against Philadelphia and Oklahoma City. This is where we find out how good Memphis is.

    January 25 vs. Brooklyn Nets

    I separated this game from that brutal stretch because we don't really know how good Brooklyn is going to be. The assumption is that, with all the wheeling and dealing they've done this summer, Brooklyn will emerge from the NBA's basement and into the East's elite. That's not a certainty and, even if Brooklyn is much improved, Memphis is still better.

    While Memphis will have a tough time with Deron Williams, especially after coming off a rough eight-game stretch, the Grizzlies will make due by taking advantage of Brooklyn in the paint. Brook Lopez and Kris Humphries are solid young big men, but they aren't good enough to keep up with Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph just yet.

    Again, this game comes down to what Nets team shows up and how much the Grizzlies have left after a difficult two weeks.

    January W-L Prediction: 10-7

    Wins: Trail Blazers, Suns, Warriors, Spurs (at home), Clippers, Kings (at home), Pacers, Nets, Hornets, Sixers

    Losses: Celtics, Kings (on the road), Mavericks, Spurs (on the road), Bulls, Lakers, Thunder

Preview and Predictions for January

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    Best One-on-One Matchup of January

    With 17 games on the docket for the first month of 2013, there were plenty of choices to pick from here. The one that intrigued me the most is the battle at power forward between Zach Randolph and LaMarcus Aldridge. Randolph has reached his career peak while Aldridge continues to improve. Both are solid shooting big men who can dominate the glass. It will be a nice showdown between two vastly underrated power forwards.

    In fact, the Portland game will feature a bevy of interesting individual matchups. Rookie Damian Lillard against rising point guard Mike Conley Jr could be exciting, as could Rudy Gay vs. Nicolas Batum.

    Best Case Scenario for January

    The Grizzlies' season could be determined by how they handle the month of January. More importantly, it will hinge on how they handle that vaunted eight-game stretch starting against San Antonio on January 11. As it stands, I have them going 4-4 during that 12-day period. However, for Memphis to do better than that, a couple of things need to happen.

    First, Mike Conley Jr. has to go up a tier and establish himself as one of the game's best point guards. Currently, I put Conley in the third tier category with guys like Ray Felton, Jeremy Lin and Jameer Nelson. Five years removed from being the fourth overall pick, Conley needs to be in that Brandon Jennings/Steph Curry/Ricky Rubio group.

    Second, Tony Allen needs to put on a defensive showcase worthy of serious consideration for the Defensive Player of the Year award. Allen's the team's best perimeter defender and the West is filled with elite guards. During that eight-game stretch, Allen will lock horns with guys like Kobe Bryant, Manu Ginobili and O.J. Mayo. He needs to lock those guys down to give Memphis a chance.

    Getting out ahead of those tough two weeks is just the first step. The Grizzlies will also need to pull off wins against teams like Philly and Oklahoma City to close the month and make the league take notice.

    Worst Case Scenario for January

    The case can be made for Memphis losing every game of that eight-game stretch. In fact, the three-game road trip prior to playing San Antonio isn't a lock either. Another obstacle for Memphis will be if Brooklyn becomes the powerhouse some expect them to be after a wild offseason. This is a month filled with title contenders and young teams on the rise. When it's all said and done, predicting Memphis to go 10-7 in the year's opening month could be mighty generous.

February Schedule

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    Friday, February 1 vs. Washington Wizards

    Tuesday, February 5 vs. Phoenix Suns

    Wednesday, February 6 @ Atlanta Hawks

    Friday, February 8 vs. Golden State Warriors

    Sunday, February 10 vs. Minnesota Timberwolves

    Tuesday, February 12 vs. Sacramento Kings

    Tuesday, February 19 @ Detroit Pistons

    Wednesday, February 20 @ Toronto Raptors

    Friday, February 22 vs. Orlando Magic

    Sunday, February 24 @ Brooklyn Nets

    Wednesday, February 27 vs. Dallas Mavericks

Key February Games

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    Tuesday, February 12 vs. Sacramento Kings

    With only 11 games on tap for the month of February, there aren't many dates of importance for Memphis. However, the contest against the Sacramento Kings could be a trap game for the Grizzlies going into the All-Star break. Sacramento is a young and hungry team that can match Memphis' physicality in the paint. DeMarcus Cousins and rookie Thomas Robinson are going to give Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol all they can handle.

    In the backcourt, the Kings have some good young guards in Tyreke Evans, Marcus Thornton and Isaiah Thomas. The Kings may be a year or two away from playoff contention, but they could cut their teeth against a veteran Grizzlies team that was where the Kings are now not too long ago.

    Wednesday, February 27 vs. Dallas Mavericks

    The Grizzlies only have three games this month against teams that were in the playoffs last year. Dallas is one of those teams. The other two, Atlanta and Orlando, might not return to the postseason this season. Depending on what you think of Brooklyn, the game against Dallas to close out February might be the only tough game on Memphis' February schedule.

    Division games are always tough to begin with because there is a lot at stake. The race for first place will be taking shape around this time, and Dallas and Memphis are expected to battle for that top spot. That makes grabbing a win against Dallas at home in February especially important. Dallas lost some talent this summer, so there's a chance they join Atlanta and Orlando on the outside looking during the playoffs.

    There's also a chance Dallas surprises people with their revamped roster and give the Grizzlies a tough game.

    February W-L Prediction: 6-5

    Wins: Wizards, Hawks, Timberwolves, Pistons, Raptors, Magic

    Losses: Suns, Warriors, Kings, Nets, Mavericks

Preview and Predictions for February

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    Best One-on-One Matchup of February

    Mike Conley Jr. draws some exciting individual matchups against some point guards on the rise. The showdowns with guys like Jeff Teague and Kyle Lowry will be nice. The same for his matchup with Jameer Nelson. The one I find the most interesting will happen in the first game of the month against Washington.

    Conley Jr. will go up against former No. 1 overall pick John Wall. Both men are talented, athletic point guards who have yet to live up to the lofty expectations that come with their high selections. Wall has been a victim of a terrible supporting cast while Conley Jr. has just been slow to develop. It will be a good clash between two young point guards trying to climb up the ranks.

    Best Case Scenario for February

    The Grizzlies can really benefit going forward from this month. They get 11 games in 27 days, only three of which against last year's playoff teams. You can make the case that Atlanta and Dallas are worse than they were last year and Orlando will no doubt take a hit when Dwight Howard is traded. That leaves only Brooklyn as the lone serious threat to Memphis' February dominance.

    I have them at 6-5 mainly because I think this is where the younger teams hit their stride and take advantage of veteran teams who take them lightly. However, a 9-2 showing in February isn't out of the question for Zach Randolph and company.

    Worst Case Scenario for February

    With the way Dwight Howard has flip-flopped in his demands, he could still be in Orlando by the time they play Memphis. That would make the Magic a more formidable opponent at the end of the month. While Dallas has lost some talent, the Mavs will still be competitive. Young teams like Sacramento and Toronto can give Memphis a fight.

    All in all, I think Memphis will have a good month. However, there's at least a puncher's chance that they are staring at a losing record for the month of February.

March Schedule

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    Friday, March 1 @ Miami Heat

    Sunday, March 3 @ Orlando Magic

    Wednesday, March 6 vs. Portland Trail Blazers

    Friday, March 8 @ Cleveland Cavaliers

    Saturday, March 9 vs. New Orleans Hornets

    Tuesday, March 12 @ Portland Trail Blazers

    Wednesday, March 13 @ Los Angeles Clippers

    Friday, March 15 @ Denver Nuggets

    Saturday, March 16 @ Utah Jazz

    Monday, March 18 vs. Minnesota Timberwolves

    Wednesday, March 20 vs. Oklahoma City Thunder

    Friday, March 22 @ New Orleans Hornets

    Saturday, March 23 vs. Boston Celtics

    Monday, March 25 @ Washington Wizards

    Wednesday, March 27 @ New York Knicks

    Friday, March 29 vs. Houston Rockets

    Saturday, March 30 @ Minnesota Timberwolves

Key March Games

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    Tuesday, March 12 @ Portland Trail Blazers to Saturday, March 16 @ Utah Jazz

    As if starting off the month on the road against Miami wasn't tough enough, this four-game road trip is only going to make matters worse for Memphis. It starts off in Portland for the second meeting in eight days with the Trail Blazers. Then, Memphis travels to Los Angeles for an always-tough game against the Clippers a day later.

    After that, they'll try to catch their breath in the thin air of Colorado when they play the Nuggets. They will close the trip in Utah against the Jazz. That's a brutal week for the Grizzlies. All four of those teams have the speed and athleticism to make Memphis run until their tongues drag the floor.

    Even after the road trip, life doesn't get easier for Memphis. Minnesota comes calling two days after the Jazz game. From there, they get games against Oklahoma City, Boston and New York in the same week. These are the type of tough stretches good teams must overcome to prove they are ready to contend for a title.

    Wednesday, March 27 @ New York Knicks

    Tough road games are the story of Memphis' March schedule. Madison Square Garden is a tough place to play and this is a very good Knicks team. New York has reigning Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler at center to keep Memphis from pounding the ball inside. On offense, it will be interesting to see how much better Carmelo Anthony is this season after a record-setting Olympic performance against Nigeria.

    The Grizzlies have no real advantages here. Even the matchup between Ray Felton and Mike Conley Jr. is a draw, at best. Still, going on the road and playing a team like the Knicks is the type of test the Grizzlies need late in the season to get them ready for the playoffs.

    March W-L Prediction: 10-7

    Wins: Magic, Trail Blazers (at home), Cavaliers, Hornets (twice), Timberwolves (at home), Jazz, Celtics, Wizards, Rockets

    Losses: Heat, Trail Blazers (on the road), Clippers, Nuggets, Thunder, Knicks, Timberwolves (on the road)

Preview and Predictions for March

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    Best One-on-One Matchup for March

    I think any point guard against Ricky Rubio is fun to watch. The two games against Minnesota will offer a number of good one-on-ones. Besides Rubio vs. Conley Jr., there's Brandon Roy vs. Tony Allen and Kevin Love vs. Zach Randolph.

    Rubio vs. Conley Jr. is my choice because it's a nice contrast of styles. Conley Jr. is a solid defender and Rubio is a creative playmaker. It will be interesting to see if the Spaniard can get things going with Conley Jr. on his heels. It also gives us a reason to keep a closer eye on Rubio, which is never a bad idea.

    Best Case Scenario for March

    For starters, the Grizzliers could open the month on a high note by stealing a win on the road against Miami. More importantly, they need to come up big when they go on the road for the four-game trip I mentioned earlier. There's a good chance that two of those four teams will make the playoffs. The case can be made that all four will be there. You need those kind of quality wins on the road.

    It will also be huge if Memphis can pull off a victory against the Thunder as well as go into MSG and beat the Knicks. Both of those are tough tasks, but things aren't going to get any easier from this point forward.

    Worst Case Scenario for March

    The Grizzlies continue to establish themselves as a very good, but not great basketball team. They'll beat lesser teams handily but prove to be outmatched by teams like Miami and Oklahoma City. They'll coast their way into a cushy playoff spot but also struggle to pull out wins against quality opponents. The March schedule is filled with games where Memphis has to show what they're made of.

    The Grizzlies will probably secure a playoff spot by the end of the month. However, young, athletic teams will expose their lack of speed and depth beyond the starting five.

April Schedule

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    Monday, April 1 @ San Antonio Spurs

    Wednesday, April 3 @ Portland Trail Blazers

    Friday, April 5 @ Los Angeles Lakers

    Sunday, April 7 @ Sacramento Kings

    Tuesday, April 9 vs. Charlotte Bobcats

    Friday, April 12 @ Houston Rockets

    Saturday, April 13 vs. Los Angeles Clippers

    Monday, April 15 @ Dallas Mavericks

    Wednesday, April 17 vs. Utah Jazz

Key April Games

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    Monday, April 1 @ San Antonio Spurs to Sunday, April 7 @ Sacramento Kings

    It gets ugly early for the Grizzlies in the final month of the regular season. Memphis opens up April with a four-game road trip that starts in San Antonio. From there, the Grizzlies draw the Blazers, Lakers and Kings in the span of six days.

    The game against the Spurs could have division implications, making it extra important. A win against the Lakers would also be good for momentum going into the postseason.

    Monday, April 15 @ Dallas Mavericks

    This is another game with divisional importance. Obviously, it depends on where Dallas, Memphis and San Antonio are in the standings at the point in the season. It's still important to beat a division rival late in the season. Memphis is a 50-win basketball team with a chance at the Southwest title. A win against Dallas can only help its chances.

    Grabbing some extra wins late in the season is crucial, especially when it comes to seeding. Three wins were the difference between the third seed (Memphis) and the sixth seed (Denver) last season. It is important that Memphis finishes strong and nabs as many home playoff games as it can.

    April W-L Prediction: 5-4

    Wins: Trail Blazers, Kings, Bobcats, Rockets, Jazz

    Losses: Spurs, Lakers, Clippers, Mavericks

Preview and Predictions for April

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    Best One-on-One Matchup of April

    Since they managed to get overshadowed the previous five months, I suppose I can throw the Gasol brothers a bone and make them the best matchup of the month. Marc Gasol is more of a banger on the inside who enjoys getting physical in the paint. His brother Pau is the exact opposite. While Pau is a good rebounder, he prefers to play with a bit more finesse.

    We rarely see duels between two talented brothers in their prime in the same sport. With how much a win against Los Angeles would mean for his team, it will interesting to see how physical Marc Gasol gets with his brother. Does he throw an inadvertent elbow? Do they foul each other hard when they come in the paint? Or will they go easy on each other in the interest of family?

    Who doesn't love a sibling rivalry?

    Best Case Scenario for April

    The Grizzlies gain momentum going into the postseason by stealing wins on the road against the Spurs and Lakers. They establish themselves as a dark-horse contender with wins against the Clippers and Mavericks and suddenly "experts" start to wonder if Memphis can make a run at the title.

    Worst Case Scenario for April

    The Grizzlies go on cruise control for the season's final month out of fear of a crucial injury. They put up somewhat of a fight against San Antonio and the Lakers, but decide to prepare for the playoffs early by mailing it in the final two weeks of the season.

    They still finish second in the division and end up right where they were last year: as the fourth seed in the West and facing a rematch against those pesky Los Angeles Clippers.

Final Predictions

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    Final Record: 51-31

    The Grizzlies will establish themselves as one of the three or four best teams in the West. They have a formidable duo up front with Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol and a good young forward in Rudy Gay. Tony Allen will get serious consideration for the Defensive Player of the Year. Mike Conley Jr. will take another step in his progress as an NBA point guard.

    The downside to Memphis is that there isn't much to like beyond that starting five. Even though the winning percentage this year equals out to the same as last year's (roughly .622), the team will miss the spark O.J. Mayo provided off the bench. The team doesn't have a proven commodity on its "B" team that it can trust to take the reins and give the starters a breather.

    That could change with some fancy maneuvering at the deadline. But who is out there that will be willing to help this team coming off the bench?

    Another key for Memphis will be health. They were without Gay for most of the 2010-11 season and were without Randolph most of last year. The team doesn't have anyone on their bench who could step in and be sufficient if someone goes down. Rookie Tony Wroten was a dynamic scorer at Washington but he was also wildly inconsistent.

    It will be nice to have Darrell Arthur back, but who knows how long it will take him to shake the rust off missing nearly an entire year of basketball. Beyond Arthur and Wroten, there's nobody to get excited about.

    A 51-win regular season is a best case scenario for Memphis. If the Grizzlies keep the core healthy, they'll be a solid four seed that can do some damage and probably make it further than last year's first-round exit.

    However, they don't have the overall talent to compete with the likes of the Lakers and Thunder, so their playoff run probably won't last past the second round unless someone emerges.