Who: Memphis Grizzlies (27-21) vs. Washington Wizards (25-25)
When: Tuesday, February 11th 7:00 PM CST
Where: FedEx Forum, Memphis, TN
Watch and Listen: Sportsouth, 92.9 FM, 680 AM
Losing hurts. Losing when you desperately need to win really hurts. Losing when you desperately need to win to that dysfunctional wreck of a Cavs team really, really hurts. So yeah, that was a tough one. Tonight, however, the Grizzlies will look to bounce back at home against the resurgent Wizards, who are likely to make the playoffs for the first time since 2008. The Wizards are a tough team, but they’re only managing to hover around ,500 in that pathetic Eastern Conference, so this won’t be that tall of an order. Still, if the Grizzlies aren’t prepared for the youth and energy of the Wizards, they could be in for a long night.
Nick Calathes vs John Wall
Remember when people were seriously saying than john Wall was a bust??!! No, really, that was actually a common part of basketball discourse for a relatively lengthy part of time. Well, of that talk is out the window, as Wall is putting up the same strong numbers he always does, but now, he finally has the wins to back it up. Wall earned his first All-Star selection this year, and has surpassed fellow #1 overall pick Kyrie Irving in terms of respectability. Meanwhile, Calathes continues to be a solid sport starter in Conley’s absence, but the speedy, aggressive Wall may be his toughest challenge yet.
Courtney Lee vs Bradley Beal
Wall and Beal are one of the strongest back courts in the league, right up there with the Splash Bros in Goldren State, and the Slash Bros. in Phoenix (note: The Suns are fun but you aren’t stealing Z-B from us!). In the second half of his rookie campaign, Beal improved his shooting immensely, and has continued to prove himself as a viable scorer. he’s not the most efficient guy in the world, but with everyone producing around him, he hasn’t needed to be. Lee, by contrast, is a lower-volume shooter who rarely has big nights, but is more than capable of getting the job. Only time will tell what happens to his game when Tony Allen comes back, but for now, Lee has done a fine job in the 2-guard role.
Tayshaun Prince vs Trevor Ariza
Sometimes a player just ends up working out. It happened for the Grizzlies with Lee and James Johnson, and it’s happened for the Wizards with Ariza. Going into this season, Ariza was mostly looked at as a decent three-ball guy whose value was inflated by getting to play for the Lakers when they won a championship. This season, he’s completely dismantled that logic, averaging 14 points and six rebounds, while topping 20 points numerous. Ariza has proven himself to be a highly valuable commodity, as well as a key contributor to this Wizards team. Look for Prince to have his work cut out for him tonight.
Zach Randolph vs Nene
As I mentioned earlier, there were some discussions of Z-Bo heading to Phoenix earlier today, and the Grizzlies shot those down by rejecting Phoenix’s offer. This was the right call by the grizzlies brass. While it’s been a tough ear for the Grizzlies, they’re disappointing record is mainly the product of crippling injuries to Coney and Gasol. When the Grizzlies have been at full strength, they’ve been as good as ever, and his group deserves the chance to show what it can do in the playoffs. With that said, it was nice to know that at 17-10 a game, Z-Bo has shown his worth to the rest of the league, and is a hot commodity, but trading him as the last thing the Grizzlies should be thinking about. As for Nene, it’s hard to believe he’s in his 12th year, but he still gets job done on a nightly basis, graciously accepting the switch to the 4 to make room for Gortat. He would be interesting trade bait for a contender as well, but the Wizards are likely too hell bent on making the playoffs to consider such a move.
Marc Gasol vs Marcin Gortat
Big Spain vs. The Polish Hammer! It’s like the European Union up in here! Gasol’s been off his game a bit lately, which could be a concern as he goes against Gortat, who can match him in aggression and physicality. While Gasol has a better touch with the basketball, Gortat can be scary near the basket, so Gasol will have to be on his game defensively. Anyone who things European players are soft hasn’t seen these two – there’s going to be a LOT of body-banging tonight.
Off the Bench:
Going into the season, Martell Webster was expected to start at the 3 but the superior performance of Ariza pushed him to bench. Webster is still playing well, however, and he represents a solid Wizards second unit. Jan Vesely hasn’t lived up to his billing as a N0.6 overall pickup, but he’s carved out a role for himself as a valuable guy and he’s shooting .528 from the field. Darius Morris is basically a spot backup until Conley comes back, but considering this team put up with Keyon Dooling for an entire playoff run, beggars can hardly be choosers. With Koufos, Davis, Johnson, and Leuer, the Grizzlies are almost two deep in terms of forwards and bigs, a problem they might solve as the trade deadline nears. All of these guys deserve minutes, and not everyone is going to get them. As the late Jeff Healey would say, it a nice problem to have.