Who: Memphis Grizzlies (43-28) vs Golden State Warriors (44-27)
When: Friday, March 28th, 7:00 PM CST
Where: Oracle Arena, Oakland, CA
Watch and Listen: Sportsouth, 92.9 FM, 680 AM
Discuss: 3SOB on Twitter / 3SOB Forum, Grizzlies Message Boards
Talk about a lot on the line, tonight. In the second contest of a five-game road trip, the Grizzlies are set to square off against the Golden State Warriors for the fourth and final time this season. The Grizz could go a long way in controlling their playoff fate with a win, securing themselves equal footing with the 6th seeded Warriors. The last time these two teams met they were each far from #FullSquad (the Warriors’ equivalent of a #GritnGrind battle cry) status, and both missing their respective defensive juggernauts, in Marc Gasol and Andre Iguodala. The W’s are on #FullRest, after a friendly schedule placed their last game 6 days ago, which could serve them a number of different ways in tonight’s game – not all of which are good. With the teams at greater strength than we’ve seen them face each other earlier in the year and the roaring Oracle venue playing host to the festivities, sparks are bound to fly in this one.
Mike Conley vs Steph Curry
Mike Conley had a little bit of trouble coming back from his ankle injury for a while, but I think it’s safe to say he’s gotten himself back on track since then. Over the last six games, Mike is scoring 18.7 ppg with a rock solid 53.2% field goal percentage. But this isn’t entirely a Mike Conley matchup. The Grizzlies are staring down the barrel of somewhere in the ballpark of 40 minutes against Stephen Curry tonight, which means that this is likely to be as much a Tony Allen matchup as anything else. Curry has been a solid floor general for the Warriors, as always, this year, scoring at a 23.5 point per game clip and dropping off 8.5 assists per game. However, Curry is not without flaw as he tends to be a bit loose with the ball at times, which plays right into the ballhawking Conley and Allen’s hands.
Advantage: Golden State
Courtney Lee vs Klay Thompson
There has been a lot of talk about Klay Thompson as a disappointment this season, but no matter what way you slice it, the guy is still averaging 18 points per game while shooting 41.3% from downtown on the year. Which is a whole lot more than we can say of Courtney Lee, of late, who is caught up in an absolute blizzard as far as cold scoring streaks go. Over the last 13 games, Lee is now at just 6.9 points per game, with a mere 4 three pointers total over the span. Lee was added to starting lineup to bring the dimension of spacing the floor, but the fact of the matter is that Mike Miller is the only guy who is doing so for this team on a consistent basis.
Advantage: Golden State
Tayshaun Prince vs Andre Iguodala
Andre Iguodala missed the last three games for Golden State with a case of knee tendinitis, but with the weight of the Western Conference playoff race bearing down, over a week of downtime, and a potentially critical matchup in the cards tonight, I’d be hard pressed to see the Warriors’ monumentally critical defensive specialist take the game off unless his knee is in some seriously bad shape. As far as the wings are concerned, the Grizzlies don’t possess all that much that requires locking down, but Iguodala’s return would give a big boost to a team desperately looking to come out strong to begin its final push for the season.
Advantage: Golden State
Zach Randolph vs David Lee
As a former teammate, and a mentor of sorts when they were with the New York Knicks, a game against David Lee is one of those that Zach Randolph always seems to get himself just a little bit more hyped for. Be it friendly competition, a bit of fire against the guy supplanted him in his former spot of residence, or most likely a combination of both, Zach’s sure to have his game face on against Lee. Lee’s a great double-double guy, but as far as defense is concerned, it’s certainly not his strong suit. Going back to when these teams faced off earlier in the season, the Warriors, much to their dismay, left Lee on an island against Mr. Randolph, who ate him alive in the post, but was not able to duplicate this production when Marc Gasol was out of action during the third meeting in December. Marc’s back, so it will be interesting to see which side caves in tonight.
Marc Gasol vs Andrew Bogut
Andrew Bogut is an interesting player for the Warriors, because when on the court he is truly an anchor in the post. Health has been a major source of concern for Bogut over the past few seasons, but to date he has managed to suit up for 62 games thus far. Marc was able to grit through early foul trouble against the Jazz on Wednesday and managed to put together a solid 18 point 7 rebound 4 assist effort. His scoring, rebounding, assist, block, and steals numbers are all up for the month of March over February, and this is certainly the right time of year to get the big fella going. The Grizzlies — Zbo especially — missed Gasol’s high-post passing and spacing dearly the last time these two teams squared off, and simply by virtue of him being on the court they will be better off.
Off the Bench:
The Warriors had been scrambling to start the year in attempt to replace their off the bench dynamo guard, Jarrett Jack. Failed experiments included Toney Douglas and Jordan Crawford, before scraping together a deadline deal that sent MarShon Brooks and celebrationist extraordinaire Kent Bazemore to southern California for Steve Blake. Blake may not entirely be the answer either, but he’s a competent and steady hand at the helm of a team, who can light you up from three if you leave him by his lonesome. He’s joined on the Warriors’ bench by our old friend Mo Speights, the always-entertaining Draymond Green, sophomore-slumping-but-talented Harrison Barnes, and the renaissance of Jermaine O’Neal. A strong case can be made for either side of the coin, here, on any given night.