2012/2013 NBA Regular Season: Game 32


17-14 (8-13 on the road)
18-8 (12-3 at home)
December 29, 2012 – 6:00 PM (MT)
FedExForum, Memphis, TN
TV Altitude or NBA TV / 950 AM / 104.3 FM The Fan
Probable Starters
Ty Lawson PG Mike Conley
Andre Iguodala SG Tony Allen
Danilo Gallinari SF Rudy Gay
Kenneth Faried PF Zach Randolph
Kosta Koufos C Marc Gasol
Denver Stiffs Blogs Straight Outta Vancouver
Chandler and Stone (out) Injuries Rudy Gay (day-to-day)
The Nuggets can win the season series with a victory Stat The Grizzlies are 5-5 in their last 10 games

By this time, the Memphis Grizzlies are familiar foes for our Denver Nuggets. Each time these squads have clashed, the Nuggets have walked away the victors. Somehow, the Nuggets match up well against the Marc Gasol-Zach Randolph frontcourt, and have used their length and athleticism to frustrate them into poor shooting and turnovers, while simultaneously creating good looks and free throw attempts.

Tonight must be no different. We saw just recently in the home win over the Lakers that the Nuggets can attack unwary opponents by playing the passing lanes with Corey Brewer and Andre Iguodala’s athleticism, using their superior speed to turn careless passes into easy points downcourt. Brewer hitting 6 of 7 three pointers certainly helped, and we can hope to see more of the same from him in coming games.

With a victory tonight, the Nuggets will have won 3 of 4 games against a Grizzlies squad that has been struggling lately – and they've played five fewer games than the Nuggets. Given the Grizzlies current playoff seeding, having an early tiebreaker could loom large as the Nuggets march onwards into the soft part of their schedule in January 2013.

We already know all about the Grizzlies lineups and personnel, so I thought I might take a different approach with tonight's game and compare their prior two matchups using Dean Oliver's "Four Factors":

How do basketball teams win games? While searching for an answer to that question, Dean Oliver identified what he called the “Four Factors of Basketball Success”:

Shooting (40%)
Turnovers (25%)
Rebounding (20%)
Free Throws (15%)

The number in parenthesis is the approximate weight Mr. Oliver assigned each factor. Shooting is the most important factor, followed by turnovers, rebounding, and free throws. These factors can be applied to both a team’s offense and defense.

For those who are new to advanced metrics in basketball, a short primer on the definitions of these factors:

Pace – Pace factor is an estimate of the number of possessions per 48 minutes by a team.
eFG% (Shooting) – Effective Field Goal Percentage; the formula is (FG + 0.5 * 3P) / FGA. This statistic adjusts for the fact that a 3 point field goal is worth one more point than a 2-point field goal.
TOV% (Turnovers) – Turnover percentage is an estimate of turnovers per 100 plays.
ORB% (Rebounds) – Offensive rebound percentage is an estimate of the percentage of available offensive rebounds a player grabbed while he was on the floor.
FT/FGA (Free Throws) – Free Throws per Field Goal Attempt; roughly how many free throws were attempted per field goal.
ORTG – Offensive Rating; points scored per 100 possessions.

In their first meeting at FedExForum, this is how the teams matched up on November 19th:

Four Factors
DEN 86.4 .475 15.4 50.0 .247 112.3
MEM 86.4 .500 16.6 31.6 .179 106.5

The first matchup was characterized by the Nuggets’ strong advantage on the glass, despite the Grizzlies better shooting performance. Kenneth Faried led the Nuggets with 13 rebounds, essentially zeroing out Zach Randolph’s own 13 boards, while the Nuggets got 9 rebounds from Kosta Koufos, 8 from JaVale McGee, and 5 apiece from Ty Lawson and Danilo Gallinari. They ended the game +14 on the glass, providing a number of extra possessions that the Nuggets turned into easy points.

And in their second meeting in the Pepsi Center on December 14th:

Four Factors
MEM 91.1 .452 14.0 36.4 .096 103.2
DEN 91.1 .551 19.1 25.0 .333 108.7

The second matchup four factors show that Denver had a far better shooting percentage from the floor than in their first contest, but lost the turnover and rebounding battle. However, they had 26 free throw attempts to the Grizzlies 10 – making 23 (88.5%) of them, one of the Nuggets' best outings from the stripe all year – which essentially tipped the game in their favor. In all, the Nuggets are winning these four factors 5-3.

Each of these games shows that squads are very evenly matched, with the Nuggets being much better at getting to the line – their strength for years – while the Grizzlies are better at protecting the ball (no surprise there, either). Make no mistake about it, folks. These are two very evenly matched teams, with the Nuggets combined margin of victory being just 10 points. There have been 27 ties and 33 lead changes in just 96 minutes of action so far. We can expect more of the same tonight. If the Nuggets play to their strengths in driving the lane and drawing fouls, they should be able to eke out one more W against Lionel Hollins‘ team.

Kenneth Faried must continue his dominance of the glass, and it would be great to see better performances from the hot-and-cold Danilo Gallinari and Andre Iguodala (Gallinari was nuclear last night against the Mavs, so it’d be great to at least get close to his 39). I’d love to see a repeat 27 point performance from Corey Brewer, but it’s likely that the Nuggets will need to look elsewhere on their bench – perhaps via Jordan Hamilton or JaVale McGee – to provide some scoring punch. Kosta Koufos’ matchup with Marc Gasol looms large.

Now guaranteed an above-.500 record going into 2013, they'll be in prime position for an extended run, coming home to the Pepsi Center for 12 of 15 games. Lets hope for another strong performance from the good guys.

Happy New Year from Denver Stiffs!