Who: Memphis Grizzlies (23-20) Sacramento Kings (15-29)
When: Wednesday, January 29th 9:00 PM CST
Where: Sleep Train Arena, Sacramento, CA
Media: Sportsouth, 92.9 FM, 680 AM
Discuss: 3SOB Twitter/Forum, Grizzlies Message Boards
Last night, the red hot Grizzlies scorched their way into Portland and scorched through the currently 4th seeded Blazers. After some overnight travel, they get ready to do it all over again tonight, only this time in Sacramento against the Kings. The Grizzlies are 2-0 against the Kings so far this season, but after winning the first meeting convincingly, they merely squeaked out the second victory at the FedEx Forum just under two weeks ago. The circumstances may play out a little differently this time around, with the statuses of Demarcus Cousins (22 points, 17 rebounds last meeting) and Rudy Gay (19 points last meeting) each in doubt due to respective injuries sustained in the same game against the Rockets.
Expected Starting Lineups:
Mike Conley vs Isaiah Thomas
Isaiah Thomas has had himself a wonderful season on the whole thus far in Sacramento, and won the starting point guard position with relative ease over the subsequently traded Greivis Vasquez. He’s seen his PER jump from 17 and change in the previous two seasons to a very sound 21.4 this year, sustaining his efficiency through a monstrous rise in usage rate, up to 26.3. His conventional metrics look good as well, if that works for you, at just under 20 points (19.8) with 6.3 assists per game. Thomas has not been able to convert that efficiency against the Grizzlies, though, this season, having gone a combined 10-31 (32%) from the floor over the two meetings. Without Cousins or Gay to deflect attention off of Thomas, it’s going to be difficult for him to achieve more success than that, tonight.
Courtney Lee vs Marcus Thornton
Amidst what has been a pretty much catastrophic season for Marcus Thornton, he somehow erupted to the tune of 42 points on 27 shots against the Indiana Pacers’ traditionally staunch defensive presence. He was even able to carry that momentum over into the next game, scoring 19 points on 13 shots, before slipping back to the ranks of 33% shooting against Utah on Monday night. He’s got an uphill battle his way against Courtney Lee, who has been an absolute godsend for the Grizzlies and kept James Harden in check last weekend.
Tayshaun Prince vs Travis Outlaw
Once upon a time, Travis Outlaw held rank among the resident Grizzly killers. Once upon a time, lightning struck again when the Grizzlies traveled to Sacramento early in the year, when he dropped 18 points and 6 rebounds. In the teams’ second meeting, Outlaw swung the old DNP – Coach’s Decision, as Coach Malone must have forgotten the impact he had the previous time out. With Gay’s achilles injury placing his status in doubt, Outlaw could end up with another spot start tonight, so keep an eye out for his performance.
Zach Randolph vs Derrick Williams
Derrick Williams has put up good numbers as a preferred option in the recently Demarcus and Rudy-less Kings offense, but is still a walking identity crisis between the small and power forward positions, and as such you can expect the Grizzlies to attack this matchup early and often through Zach Randolph, their new all-time franchise leader in double-doubles. Zbo’s a 20/10 threat on any and every given night, and I’d be willing to bet even a little bit more on a 20/10 occurrence with this matchup than most. However, I similarly wouldn’t be surprised to see Williams light it up on the other end, but I’m going to let that sit for the time being…
Marc Gasol vs Jason Thompson
Marc Gasol has been easing back into form, and he’s certainly not all the way there yet. His matchup tonight, Jason Thompson, is sliding over from his typical 4-spot to cover the lack of Cousins. Thompson represents a favorable matchup for Marc on paper, but it warrants mention that he is averaging a shade over 10 points and 9 rebounds per game. He’s a veteran and a gamer. I still credit Memphis with the advantage tonight, but that in no way means this one is going to be easy. Lastly I should mention that there is a possibility of the Kings starting Aaron Gray here, bumping Outlaw out of the lineup and shifting Thompson and Williams down to the four and three, respectively, as they did against Indiana last Friday night.
Kings fans must be seriously angry at James Johnson for the outburst of enthusiasm that he has injected into the Grizzlies’ universe this season. He showed up in Sacramento last year somewhere north of 20 points heavier, and 20 leagues less effective. I for one am glad things worked out the way they did, because in the process he fell into the Grizzlies’ lap, and spurred the current surge back into the playoff picture. In addition to Johnson, with Nick Calathes slowly showing signs of progress, and the second unit bigs providing continual punishment for the opposition inside, the Grizz bench is arguably in as good a state as it has ever been. The Kings’ bench has been thinned out with players shifting into the starting lineup to cover for injuries, but still features the talented rookie guard Ben McLemore, the steady Carl Landry, and the sizable Aaron Gray (unless he starts).