Who: Memphis Grizzlies (35-26) vs Charlotte Bobcats (29-33)
When: Saturday, March 8th, 7:00 PM CST
Where: FedEx Forum, Memphis, TN
Watch and Listen: Sportsouth, 92.9 FM, 680 AM
Discuss: 3SOB on Twitter / 3SOB Forum, Grizzlies Message Boards
The Bobcats have been getting a bit of a bad rep lately, thanks to the filthy scoring performances they’ve relinquished to some standout forwards this season. You might have heard of ‘em: Lebron James and Carmelo Anthony, who dropped a respective 61 and 62 points on their heads over the span of the past few weeks. But don’t let these outliers (albeit considerably strong) fool you. The Bobcats boast a seventh-ranked defensive efficiency, allowing just 101.5 points per 100 possessions on the season. For reference, that’s four spots ahead of our Grizzlies, who surrender a clip of 102.7 per 100. Moral of the story? While I don’t think they will after the way they slipped up last time following a major win over the Clippers, the Grizz can’t afford to take this one lightly.
Mike Conley vs Kemba Walker
Kemba Walker went into full on hero mode last time these teams went at it, getting to the lane and pouring in a robust 31 points on 20 shots, with 3 three pointers and a 10-10 clip from the stripe to boot, as well as 8 rebounds and 5 assists to round out the line. Sound like a mouthful? Normally I’d still like to be a homer in declaring the point guard advantage for tonight’s match, but with the way that Mike Conley has struggled with his consistency since returning from the ankle injury, I’m a bit hesitant to continue that trend. He bounced back big time in the second half last night, working the floater in the lane, but Walker is coming in hot in his own right after dropping 20 points and 14 dimes yesterday.
Courtney Lee vs Chris Douglas-Roberts
Hey Memphians, remember this guy? You might not recognize him with the new ‘do, but Chris Douglas-Roberts has notched a couple of starts for the eighth seeded Bobcats, of late. Y’all know what you’re going to get out of CDR at this point. He’s not a game-changing talent at this stage of the game, but he can shoot the cover off the ball if you give him some space. Douglas-Roberts has knocked down a total of 9 three pointers over his past three games, and is shooting 43.1% from the perimeter on the year. Courtney Lee, like Mike Conley has been very on-and-off, much like Mike Conley, since his ankle flared up just before the All-Star break, and has failed to reach double figures in each of the past three games. Lee is a far more refined player, giving him the on-paper advantage at the shooting guard position, but this one could easily swing the other way on the wrong night.
Tayshaun Prince vs Michael Kidd-Glichrist
The ‘Cats should get bonus points for starting two guys on the wings with hyphenated last names. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has not quite lived up to the billing that comes along with being a second-overall draft pick, but then again who really does (*cough* Hasheem)? This is not to say that he is not a player on this level, but not dissimilar to the guy he’s matched up against tonight, his limited offensive ability has gnawed away at his minute distribution, bringing it slightly below the starting standard. Speaking of his counterpart, Tayshaun Prince has completely fallen off the face of the earth after his 21 point explosion against the Wizards of Washington, having gone scoreless in the last two. He didn’t even attempt a field goal in 17 minutes against Brooklyn two games ago.
Zach Randolph vs Josh McRoberts
I’m really surprised that the Bobcats matched Josh McRoberts on Zbo last time these teams went at it, as it seems more sensible to keep the post-dwelling Al Jefferson on the post anchored Randolph, and let the perimeter friendly McRoberts venture out to meet Marc Gasol at the high post. But hey, I’m just a guy with a keyboard, and the Bobcats walked away from the last one with a ‘W.’ Regardless, McRoberts poses a challenging matchup for Randolph, as he likes to migrate out to the three point line, and is proficient enough to sink a few from that range (3 of ‘em last night). All this being said, I foresee another double-double in Zach Randolph’s immediate future.
Marc Gasol vs Al Jefferson
Al Jefferson never gets any love because he has spent his whole career on mediocre to below average teams, but if you ask any post player who their toughest cover is in the league, Jefferson’s name almost always appears on the short list. The Grizzlies’ defense was able to stifle him well enough last time out, holding him down to 6 points on 2-13 shooting, a considerable shade below his 21.2 point per game, 50.1% shooting benchmark, but his recent stretch of performance suggests that he’s coming in with a full head of steam tonight. Big Al is averaging 29 points on 63.5% shooting, and just under 10 rebounds per contest over his last five, and will be a handful as always for the reigning defensive player of the year. Marc Gasol is making a strong case to quiet the outspoken critics of his struggle to round into form since returning from his MCL sprain, most recently putting down 18 points, 10 rebounds, and 3 rebounds against Joakim Noah and the vaunted Chicago Bulls defense.
Bismack Biyombo and Anthony Tolliver were BIG TIME off the bench for the Bobcats the last time that they played the Grizzlies, and I would have to imagine that Coach Joerger had some film on these guys (or the defense that freed them up, rather) handy in preparation for this game. The Grizzlies’ bench has been getting it done by committee this season. For starters, Tayshaun Prince may be the starting small forward, but Tony Allen’s increasing share of the minutes suggests that the notion exists in title only. He’s joined off the bench by Jon Leuer (7 points in 7 minutes last night), Kosta Koufos, who has been relentless on the glass, and Mike Miller, who has been absolutely scorching in stretches. It may be naive, but I’ll take our guys over theirs on a general basis.