Who: Memphis Grizzlies (43-30) vs Denver Nuggets (32-41)
When: Monday, March 31st, 8:00 PM CST
Where: Pepsi Center, Denver, CO
Watch and Listen: Sportsouth, 92.9 FM, 680 AM
Discuss: 3SOB on Twitter / 3SOB Forum, Grizzlies Message Boards
In a situationally dangerous game 2 of a back-to-back, game 4 of a 5-game road trip, and game in an unforgiving Denver environment, the Grizzlies are locked and loaded to square off against the Nuggets tonight. The Nuggets are an interesting case this season of a team that superseded any and all expectations in the year prior, and after the rousing wave of optimism, shook things up considerably. As such, this year has crashed downward like a tidal wave. Andre Iguodala’s now out doing his thing in Golden State, George Karl’s running some analysis at ESPN, and Danilo Gallinari, Javale McGee, Nate Robinson, Wilson Chandler, and now JJ Hickson have spent considerable time watching from the sidelines. No less, the Nuggets, equipped with the unique home court advantage and a passable arsenal of weapons more dangerous than its record suggests, pose a legitimate threat to any team on any night. The Grizzlies are reeling a bit after last night’s miserable defensive effort at the Moda Center in Portland, and could really use a win to turn this ship around, and fast, after slipping south of the playoff picture.
Mike Conley vs Ty Lawson
Dating back to his tenure with the North Carolina Tar Heels and carrying forward to his NBA career, Ty Lawson is the prime example of a guy that has taken on a consistently expanding workload each and every season. In each of his three years at UNC, he saw his minutes played, percentage of team possessions, points per game among other things rise over the year before. Now, in his five seasons in the NBA, a similar trend has played itself out with regards to his usage rate and role in the Nuggets’ offense. Every year, Lawson has taken on the greater workload of a higher usage rate and has responded with systematic raises in points and assists per 40 min. The only thing that has been continually sacrificed as a result has been his true shooting percentage (as pictured below), which is difficult to sustain through a higher volume of shots and increased defensive pressure, but this season, he seems to have made steps in the direction of reversing the trend:
Historically speaking, Lawson has been rather unsuccessful against the Grizzlies, but this season he seems to have figured them out, averaging 19 points and 10 assists over the first two meetings. With that in mind, the Denver air on his side, and the Grizzlies coming off of last night’s game, fortune appears to favor the Nuggets here, on paper.
Courtney Lee vs Randy Foye
Last time I previewed a Grizzlies/Nuggets game (12/28), I trashed Randy Foye for the downright awful stretch of basketball that he had put together leading up to that game. He responded with a very sound 11 points in 14 minutes. The next time out, less than a week later, he put up 13 points, with 2 threes and 7 rebounds. Somewhat pedestrian, but serviceable and respectable. I’m getting at something here: Courtney Lee may finally be showing some signs of life, but he has absolutely got to be better than his terrible, terrible month of March for this team to make some noise going forward. So here’s another proverbial splash of water on the face for Courtney from me.
Tayshaun Prince vs Quincy Miller
Many, myself included, looked at Quincy Miller at the 38th pick in the draft two years ago as a solid value pick for the Nuggets in a guy that might have fallen just too far. Now that he’s getting a substantial shake at playing time in Denver, he’s proving straight to the contrary. In the 7 games which he has started this year thanks to Wilson Chandler’s , Quincy is shooting a minuscule 32.2% from the floor, and hasn’t been much better at 37.2% on the whole for the year. Tayshaun Prince doesn’t get the benefit of the doubt in many of these, but I’m giving this one to him.
Zach Randolph vs Kenneth Faried
When these guys square off, it always figures on paper to be a compelling matchup on the glass, but in practice this has not always turned out to be the case. Dating back to last season, of the last six matchups between the two, the outcome of the rebounding battle has been essentially one-sided, as shown below.
Now as a brief disclaimer, it stands to note that in the 12/28 meeting Faried was coming off the bench in response to his return from an ankle injury, but regardless, the results have on the whole been pretty staggering in favor of #50. Throw in Zbo’s superior ability over Faried to put the ball in the basket in basically every way other than dunking it (though as pointed out on 3SOB Radio this weekend, Zach has four dunks on the year), and you’ve got my vote for this matchup.
Marc Gasol vs Timofey Mozgov
On draft night last year, the Nuggets traded Kosta Koufos to the Grizzlies to free up some serious playing time for the mercurial and heavily invested in Javale McGee’s development at the center position. Well thanks to a stress fracture five games into the season, the true beneficiary of the deal was none other than Timofey Mozgov. After being the third wheel at the five spot for the Nuggets last year, Mozgov has suddenly pole vaulted into a solid 20 minutes per game role with over 22 starts on the season. While his metrics are far from staggering, he’s managed to prove himself a capable NBA minutes eater logging a PER of just over the league average 15, thus likely earning himself a nice payday somewhere along the line. When you’re over seven feet tall with a record of being anything greater than a liability, there’s always a spot for you in the league. So big ups to Timo in that regard. As far as how that translates to tonight’s matchup, I’m not entirely sure, but I’m pretty certain that there’s no debate about who the odds favor at this spot.
Off the Bench:
The Nuggets’ bench has been purged of the majority of its talent by either injury or the fact that guys have had to step up into the starting gig to compensate for injury. The remaining representatives for Denver’s bench minutes are Evan Fournier, Anthony Randolph, Aaron Brooks, Jan Vesely, and of course, our old friend and pick and pop connoisseur, Darrell Arthur — in other words, not the most terrifying group around. As long as the Grizzlies’ bench crew comes out with a pulse and relieve the starters a bit on the second night of a back to back, they should manage to take care of business on this front, tonight.