When: Sunday, January 12thth, 7:00 PM CST
Where: FedEx Forum, Memphis, TN
The Grizzlies see-saw continues moving back and forth. Can they break the win-one lose-one routine at home against the stumbling Hawk? Let’s take a look at the key match-ups in this one.
Expected Starting Lineups:
Mike Conley vs Jeff Teague
Teague gets a little better every year. Three years ago, he was a backup with decent potential, two years ago, he was inserted into the starting lineup, and his production has continued to increase, to the point where Teague is a fringe All-Star candidate in an extremely weak Eastern Conference. He probably won’t beat out Kyrie Irving, or John Wall, both of whom are much bigger names, but he’ll be in the running nonetheless. Meanwhile, Conley is continuing the best season of his career,and has emerged as the best scoring option on the team. The year-by-year improvement of Conley certainly bodes well for the future of Teague.
Tony Allen vs Kyle Korver
Earlier this year, Korver achieved the biggest milestone of his career, when he broke the record for most consecutive games with a three-point field goal. Korver has been one of the best from downtown for years, but Atlanta has felt like his ideal destination, as he’s in the midst of his best career season, and seems to fit into this offense naturally. If nothing else, he’s a massive upgrade from DeShawn Stevenson who started at the 2 for Atlanta last year, while Korver came off the bench. He’ll be facing a tough challenge tonight against Allen, one of the league’s best perimeter defenders. Korver’s three-point streak has been quite impressive, but it will be placed in serious danger against the Grindfather.
Tayshaun Prince vs DeMarre Carroll
For each of the past few years, Carroll – the former Grizzly – has slowly but surely demonstrated his worth as an NBA player. After quickly being traded by Memphis, he wound up in Denver, where he rarely saw the floor, but looked strong whenever given the opportunity Last year, he emerged as a decent rotation piece for the Jazz, before finally making the starting lineup in Atlanta. He’s not the most talented player in the world, but he’s efficient and intelligent, which should be enough to allow him to make some plays against Prince, who is hardly the defender he used to be.
Zach Randolph vs. Paul Millsap
The acquisition of Millsap was a much better move for the Hawks than it might have seemed at the time. On the surface, they were merely replacing Josh Smith with a slightly cheaper option, but Millsap has prove to be much better than the departed J-Smoove. While Smith has foundered within the floor-spacing nightmare that is the Detroit Pistons, Millsap is having a career season in Atlanta, and anyone who ignored or overlooked his perpetual strong numbers in Utah is surely feeling foolish now. With that said, he’ll be facing a serious challenge against Z-Bo, who matches him in points per game, and surpasses him in rebound. Millsap is better known for his offense than his defense, and his ability to defend in the post will be put to the test against a player with the craftiness of Z-Bo.
Kosta Koufos vs Pero Antic
Both teams have suffered crippling injuries at the center position this season. The Grizzlies are desperately awaiting the return of Marc Gasol, while the Hawks are about to discover if they can function without the likes of Al Horford, their All-Star center who is suffering his second serious injury in three seasons. So far, Pero Antic has answered the call, emerging as a strong spot-starter, and possibly making the people of Atlanta forget all about Zaza Pachulia. In the absence of Gasol, Koufos has struggled in the starting lineup, while the contributions of bench players like Jon Leuer and Ed Davis have surpassed his own efforts. Lately, Antic has been playing inspired ball, and it will be up to Koufos to step up his game, and make Antic play like (31-year-old, but still) rookie he is.
With Antic forced into the starting lineup, the Hawks are seriously shallow in terms of their big men, their only salvation being that the Grizzlies are in the same boat. Lou Williams is probably the best player either team will have on their second unit. Williams was a big art of the Sixers team that made the second round two years ago, and he’s fit right on this Hawks squad, emerging as a frightening source of offense. Meanwhile, Courtney Lee should be a viable addition to the Grizzlies bench, but the question remains as to whether Nick Calathes is qualified to perform the duties of a backup point guard. Look for Calathes to be tested heavily against Williams in this game. If Hollinger and Joerger really think Calathes can be a legitimate contributor to this team they might as well throw him to the wolves now, and see what they’ve got.
More on the Opponent:
Assessing the Enemy