Who: Memphis Grizzlies (46-32) at Philadelphia 76ers (17-61)
When: Friday, April 11th, 7:00 PM CST
Where: FedEx Forum, Memphis, TN
Watch and Listen: Sportsouth, 92.9 FM, 680 AM
Discuss: 3SOB on Twitter / 3SOB Forum, Grizzlies Message Boards
Let’s cut to the chase here. The Philadelphia 76ers do not want to win this game any more than the Grizzlies want to lose it. Sure their players will get out there and get after it, but caught up in the midst of one of the more compelling tanking races of recent memory (just check out what Milwaukee’s doing with Larry Sanders), Sam Hinkie and company have done a stellar job of removing as many tools from the shed as possible to avoid their team stumbling upon wins this season. As such, there’s really not anything redeeming about the Sixers at this stage of the game outside of Thaddeus Young and that relentlessly obnoxious song in the video above that I continue to forcefeed accompanying anything I write about this team. On the good guys’ side, they have exhausted all opportunities to slip off the gas, and then some, this season, so it is of the essence that they mount the positive momentum established against the Heat on Wednesday night to propel them through this final push.
Mike Conley vs Michael Carter-Williams
Even after cooling off to an extent from his extraterrestrial start to the year, Michael Carter-Williams is looking like the odds on favorite to win Rookie of the Year in spite of his ghastly 46.3 true shooting percentage. Yeah, that’s really bad. Additionally, ESPN’s new RPM stat has MCW as a net -3.6 points per 100 possessions for his team when he’s on the floor, placing him at 64th in the league among point guards. For reference, the Grizzlies’ Mike Conley ranked 15th in the league with a positive 4.45 points per 100, placing him fourth among point guards. Yet, for all his “advanced” statistical folly, Carter-Williams has a diverse skillset with the potential to light up the box in all sorts of “traditional ways,” as illustrated by the 23 point, 8 rebound hurt he put on the Grizzlies in March, and his rookie-leading averages in points, rebounds, assists, and steals on the year.
Courtney Lee vs James Anderson
The last meeting between these teams took place in March — the ides of March, to be precise. What does that mean? It was the heart of the dark days for Courtney Lee in a Grizzlies uniform. And even so, in his 3-6 shooting effort, he outplayed his counterpart James Anderson on the night, who ultimately ended up leaving the game with a bruised thigh. Which leaves us with little to really analyze in this matchup, as Courtney strides into this one with a full head of steam after “scorching” the Heat (relatively speaking) with an fantastic end-to-end effort on Wednesday.
Tony Allen vs Hollis Thompson
I don’t know who’s going to start for the Grizzlies at the 3, but I’m going to guess it will be Tony Allen, whose rejuvenation on the defensive end against LeBron James was instrumental in securing Wednesday’s win. Regardless, even if we put an injured Tayshaun Prince out there in a suit, I think the Grizz would have the advantage at this spot. Though I’d be remiss not to point out Thompson’s 6-8 three point barrage that he unleashed on the Nets earlier in the week.
Zach Randolph vs Thaddeus Young
The Sixers’ starting cast is like a game of “one of these things is not like the other.” Thaddeus Young is the exception. In the past, I’ve likened his game to what former Grizzly Dante Cunningham would be if he was built like a fire hydrant and smoother on the wing, and I like to throw the comparison out there every now and again when the opportunity presents itself. The last time these two teams played, Thad gave the good guys all they could handle from him, by absolutely shredding the passing lanes to the tune of 6 steals, while cashing in four three pointers and netting 20 altogether. Pound for pound, I reckon Zach’s the better player of the two, but this is a terrible matchup for him.
Marc Gasol vs Henry Sims
My gut instinct says not to take any team that opts to start Henry Sims as its stating center by design seriously, but then I realize that he’s actually been one of the most productive guys on the roster, of late. Just check out his last performance: a 22 point (10-15 shooting) 8 rebound line against Jonas Valanciunas and the playoff-bound Toronto Raptors. And his per game averages over his last ten, 15.8 points and 8.7 rebounds on 53.6% from the floor are basically superior to Marc Gasol’s averages over the same size sample (16.0, 8.0, 45.5%). I’m not going to let glorified garbage time numbers skew my perception of what this matchup has in store, but I’ll give Henry Sims some love where love is due.
Off the Bench:
“Murder She Wrote(n)” makes his return to the Grindhouse under fairly different circumstances from those he played within last year. On the Sixers, he’s enjoying plenty of opportunity to showcase his abilities, and in terms of raw production the results have been quite good. He’s putting up 13 points per game in an average of 24.6 minutes of play, even amassing a triple double earlier in the season. The efficiency numbers are off the charts in the wrong direction at this juncture, but without his team having anything to play for, it has not been too much of an issue just yet. He’s joined on the Sixers’ second line by Byron Mullens, Jarvis Varnado, and former Memphis Tiger Elliot Williams. The Grizzlies’ bench has been far quieter than their post-All-Star surge, and this would be as good of a time and matchup as any to afford them some burn to pick up steam for the final stretch.