Who: Memphis Grizzlies (34-25) at Brooklyn Nets (29-29)
When: Wednesday, March 5th, 6:30 PM CST
Where: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, NY
Watch and Listen: Sportsouth, 92.9 FM, 680 AM
Discuss: 3SOB on Twitter / 3SOB Forum, Grizzlies Message Boards
Do these Grizzlies have a flair for the dramatic, or what? They mounted a monster end-of-third-quarter rally against the Wizards on Monday night, and it seemed as if they’d up and run away with the thing. But sure enough, as Matthew Noe pointed out in his post-game wrap up, they just had to go and play around with our blood pressure again and make things interesting for the opposing team. Regardless, it’s hard to be too mad when they close out the win, so I’ll take the positive momentum heading into the second game of this three game road trip, at the Barclays Center. The Grizz should be extra-motivated tonight, because I’ll be in the house cheering ‘em on (No, I’m not conceited… I live in NY, so this is a rare occurrence!). The Nets on the other hand are hungry in their own right. After a long, hard fight to reach the .500 mark for the first time since they were 1-1 to start the year, they solidified the stance on Monday with a win over the Bulls, and surely would like to float at or above the line for at least a little bit longer.
Mike Conley vs Deron Williams
Mike Conley has been easing back into form of late, and after five straight sub-40% shooting performances following his return from injury, he’s managed to string together back-to-back efficient 20+ point games. To top it off, each was matched with 7 assists and 4-4 outputs from the free throw stripe; none bigger than the four straight freebies that he sank in crunch time, enabling the Grizz to close out that Washington game by the skin of their teeth. If this was a few years ago, the Nets would win this matchup in a landslide, but this year’s Deron Williams has been a shell of his former self. Once lauded as the arguable premier point guard in this league alongside Chris Paul, Williams has fallen far out of the conversation, due large in part to his nagging ankle injury woes. Regardless, he may still give Conley some problems with his size, but when push comes to shove, I’m going…
Courtney Lee vs Shaun Livingston
Lost in the shuffle of good stories around the league is that of Shaun Livingston. Before Louisville guard Kevin Ware suffered his virally gruesome leg injury during the NCAA tourney last year, Livingston’s terrifying knee incident was the crème de la crème as far as basketball injuries went. I won’t share the link…Google at your own risk… but to refresh your memory, he suffered tears in his ACL, PCL, MCL, and lateral meniscus, coupled with a dislocated patella, all in one layup attempt. Teenage me was haunted by the visual of that play with pretty much every awkwardly landed rec league fast break attempt for about a year after seeing him go down. After years of battling to find a place in this NBA after his recovery, Livingston has found himself a nice little niche in Brooklyn, where he’s started 35 games to-date, and been a very valuable asset for the squad at both guard positions. I don’t love him enough to give him the nod over Courtney Lee, but he’s a solid player and a feel-good story not to be overlooked.
Tayshaun Prince vs Joe Johnson
Will lightning strike twice for the Grizzlies? If so, Tayshaun Prince will turn back the clocks yet again, and piggyback his 21 point outburst against the Wizards with another serious performance against Joe Johnson, tonight. But I’m not going to be greedy, I’d gladly take an average performance out of #21 to the bank. Johnson, his matchup counterpart, has caught a bit of flak for his All-Star selection (it was the seventh of his career, if you haven’t heard), but when engaged his scoring ability can be nearly as prolific as that of the other guy to wear #7 in his city. This is a bad matchup for Tayshaun on paper, as his usual length advantage is greatly mitigated by the total package of Johnson’s frame. It is also worth mentioning that Johnson lit the Grizz up for 26 on 60% shooting the last time he squared off against ‘em.
Zach Randolph vs Paul Pierce
Here’s an interesting matchup, and not one that I’m entirely sure that we’ll see a lot of after the initial six minutes or so. Whether Brooklyn goes big, or the Grizzlies go small, I’d expect one side to adjust to the other at some point. Paul Pierce isn’t nearly the prolific scorer that he was in his Boston heyday, but a select number previous performances this season indicate that the sharpshooter still lies dormant inside him, and can be awakened at a moment’s notice. I worry about this matchup, because it’s certainly not a good situation for the Grizzlies to have Zach Randolph floating around the perimeter to guard him. Then again, I wouldn’t feel great as a Nets fan, with Pierce battling Zbo in the paint, either.
Advantage: ?, but how this one’s handled may decide the game.
Marc Gasol vs Mason Plumlee
Marc Gasol has really rounded out since the All-Star break. His defense had been coming around long prior, but offensively speaking, his passing has been on point and he’s managed a handful of scoring spurts to boot. The Nets have been playing without Kevin Garnett, who is a game-time decision due to back spasms, so Marc’s drawn matchup should be Mason Plumlee. Plumlee has not been a dominant force by any stretch, but he has been a solid fill-in for the Nets, even providing them some highlight dunks and blocks in the process.
It remains to be seen whether or not he will play, after sitting Monday night with an ankle sprain, but this game would be an excellent one to have James Johnson in your tool shed. Since losing Brook Lopez to his foot injury, the Nets have liked to go small, offering forward pairings that typically force the likes of Pierce, Andrei Kirilenko, or Alan Anderson into the power forward slot. Johnson’s combination of size and agility makes him the optimal roster piece to send out there if in the event the Nets’ smaller lineups provide the Grizz any trouble. Even with injuries at the top depleting their depth, the Nets’ bench can be very dangerous, equipped with the likes of the aforementioned Kirilenko and Anderson, floor spacing Mirza Teletovic, and resident “Grizz killers” Marcus Thornton and Andray Blatche (who sank 3 of his 10 three pointers on the season in his last meeting with Memphis). Last, I’d be remiss if I did not mention Jason Collins, whose courageous display of transparency signals a promising step towards an age of professional athletics where players can be comfortable with who and what they are, free of consequence. His impact on the court may solely be felt through the exceptional rate with which he racks up foul calls, but his off-court value to the league at the moment resonates on many levels for many groups of people.
Advantage: Brooklyn. Especially if James Johnson doesn’t play.