When: Monday, April 14th, 8:00 PM CST
Where: US Airways Center, Phoenix, AZ
The Grizzlies won the two games they were really supposed to win the weekend, knocking off the lottery-bound Sixers and Lakers, and putting themselves in prime position for the playoffs. If they are able to pick up a victory against the Suns tonight, they’ll clinch their 4th straight playoff berth, and they’ll be able to mount a challenge for the 7th seed against Dallas on Wednesday. After every setback the Grizzlies have faced this season, and how bleak thing looked in the dark ages of December, the Grizzlies are just one win away from erasing all of that, and reaching the postseason again. Will they be up to the challenge against a desperately hungry Suns team?
Expected Starting Lineups:
Mike Conley vs Goran Dragic
Both of these guys had a legitimate gripe for not getting picked for the All-Star game, and it’s really tough to pick a clear winner between the two. With that said, Dragic would probably earn the slight edge for keeping the Suns alive during the Bledsoe injury. Yes, Conley faced his own challenges when Marc was out, but he was still flanked by ZBo, and no one on the Suns really compares to his talent level. This figure to be the matchup of the night, as two intense point guards who a great at attacking the basket fight for their team’s playoff lives in what should be an end-to-end battle Don’t be surprised if there are multiple sequences in which these two trade buckets.
Advantage: Barely Phoenix
Courney Lee vs Eric Bledsoe
When Bledsoe went down, I pretty much thought the Suns playoff chances were over – I was hardly alone in this opinion. To my surprise, the Suns continued to thrive even in his absence, keeping their playoff chances alive. With that said, they are clearly a much better team when the other Slash Brother is on the lineup. They are just relentless, wearing defenses out with their continued ability to drive to the basket on each possession. As for Lee, we didn’t see a lot of him against the Lakers. Since Tony Allen returned, Lee has only occasionally been assertive, and on other nights, he seems afraid to rock the boat. With Allen looking for more minutes, don’t be too shocked if Joerger re-inserts TA into the lineup come playoff time.
Tayshaun Prince vs PJ Tucker
Oh, come on! Look, I love being challenged as a writer, but this is just too boring. This is like eating unflavored oatmeal while watching paint dry. Okay, fine, Tucker should some credit for emerging as a solid role player, when most people forgot he existed, and Prince’s shots have been falling a little more frequently lately. But man, this Dullsville, USA. Of course, now that I’ve said that, they’ll probably combine for like 75 points or something. So..that’ll be fun.
Zach Randolph vs Channing Frye
It was a bit of rough weekend for Z-Bo. He struggled shooting the ball against the Sixers and Lakers, and fell well below his typical scoring averages in both games. To his credit, however, Z-Bo did hit a few key shots early in the fourth quarter to seal the win against Los Angeles on Sunday. As a stretch four who is typical not a physical presence in the paint, this is a bit of a mismatch. Look for Z-Bo to force the issue in the post against Frye all game long, going to the basket relentlessly until Frye can no longer handle. Other the other hand, the Grizz will need to have Z-Bo and prince keep Frye from draining too many from beyond the arc.
Marc Gasol vs Miles Plumlee
This whole section seems entirely unfair to Pumlee, who has had wonderful sophomore season, and has been a real revelation for the Suns, filling the immense avoid when Marcin Gortat was traded. Unfortunately, he’s up against Marc, and only a handful of centers can ever hope to win that matchup. While Plumlee’s athleticism makes him a one-man wrecking crew neither the basket, he lacks the touch of Gasol, and thus, is a more limited player on offense. Still, Plumlee is a strong defender near the basket, and he should be able to make Marc’s life at east a little bit difficult tonight. Then again, Marc’s eaten better centers than him for breakfast before, and this game may be no different.
If the Morris Twins were a single person, the battle for 6th Man Of The Year would be terribly uninteresting. As it stands, they kind of cancel each other out, while making for one of the more frightening big man tandems in the league. Gerald Green is having a career year, and his ability to fill in for Bledsoe during his injury is a huge part of how the Suns were able to keep winning during that frightening stretch. With prince back in the lineup, James Johnson wound up not playing at all tonight – Joerger’s lineups continue to be rather inconsistent. You could understand the logic in giving Miller heavy minute in a game against a fast-paced offensive minded team, where the three-ball was going to be an essential component, but against the more physical Suns, look for JJ to at least get a few minutes. With the playoffs fast on the horizon, Joerger needs to decide if Johnson is going to play a significant role in this postseason or not.