Who: Memphis Grizzlies (34-26) Chicago Bulls (34-26)
When: Friday, March 7th, 6:00 PM CST
Where: United Center, Chicago, IL
Watch and Listen: Sportsouth, 92.9 FM, 680 AM
Discuss: 3SOB on Twitter / 3SOB Forum, Grizzlies Message Boards
I’d like to tell you I know what’s going on in Grizzly-land at all times, but I would be lying. Last night, I thought all five members fo the Grizzlies starting five were in perfect health. Then I saw the #32 of Ed Davis on the court at the tip-off. Gulp. It took me few seconds to realize “crap, Z-Bo’s out tonight.” The Grizzlies sorely missed him, falling behind by enormous margins in first and third quarters. Now, they try to get their groove back in Chicago against the red-hot Bulls team gunning for the 3-seed in the east. Both teams are hungry, and both teams have elite defensive centers. This should be a great one.
Mike Conley vs Kirk Hinrich
Poor Conley – it REALLY wasn’t his night against Brooklyn, as he went 0-8 from the field with six turnovers. He sat on the bench for the forth quarter while Nick Calathes and Beno Udrih shared the floor, which must have been pretty rough. But Conley has always had a good head on his shoulders, and he’ll be looking to have a bounce-back game tonight against Kirk Hinrich, who has always been a solid player, but is well past his prime, and isn’t even the best healthy point guard on Chicago’s roster at this point. Look for Conley to be aggressive, play with a little anger over the Brooklyn fiasco, and make life excruciatingly difficult for Hinrich all night long.
Courtney Lee vs Jimmy Butler
Butler’s stats might not be eye-popping but that’s because he plays for a team that favors a plodding pace as well as balanced scoring. He could average well-over 15 points a game for several teams in this league, and the Bulls may have difficult time retaining him after the 2014-15 season. Meanwhile, other than an early three, Lee was sort of invisible last night, just not having a great deal of impact on the game. It’s ahrd not wonder of the presence of Tony Allen back in the lineup has shaken Lee’s confidence a little bit – he knows what Allen means to the franchise, and perhaps he’s feeling insecure, which has lead to him taking fewer shots. Lee has still been a great pickup for the Grizzlies, but we may see TA starting again soon.
Tayshaun Prince vs Mike Dunleavy, Jr.
Before the Deng trade, Dunleavy was supposed to be the three-point gunner off the bench, but with Deng in Cleveland, the fellow Duke alum has replaced him at the 3, and gives the not-very-offensive-minded Bulls a chance to space the floor from the get go. Dunleavy isn’t the most exciting player to think about, but he can be devastating when he gets hot. Prince did very little of anything last night, and reminded us all the main reason he’s still in the starting five is because he’s Tayshaun Prince. Hopefully, Prince’s skills as a defender will come in handy tonight, and he can get in Dunleavy’s face, and prevent him from dominating with the three-ball we can only hope.
Zach Randolph vs Carlos Boozer
I’m going to be optimistic here, and hope that Z-Bo’s flu symptoms are either gone, or decreased to the point where he can play tonight. If not, we’ll have to hope Ed Davis can do a better job that he did against the Nets, where he looked awkward all game long. Z-Bo and Boozer are at similar stages in their career, but Z-Bo appears to be have a little more of his athleticism left. Whereas Boozer increasingly settles for mid-range jump shots (admittedly, hes quite good at them), we continue to see Z-Bo attack the rim and crash the boards. Both players are effective, and among the better power forwards in the league, but a decisive edge goes to Z-Bo in this matchup.
Marc Gasol vs Joakim Noah
YES! THIS IS WHAT IT’S REALLY ABOUT! The best cneters in the league (in my opinion anyway), going at it, in what should be brutal, physical matchup with a handful of hard fouls and a lot of chippiness. It’s really hard to choose between these two – Marc is a better scorer, but Noah is a better rebounder, and each are brilliant as passers and as defenders. As of this point, I would probably give a narrow edge to Chicago, partly because Gasol hasn’t totally been himself at times this year (although he was a rare bright spot last night), and because when Royce Young ranked Noah as the third most valuable player in the league behind LeBron and KD, it honestly didn’t seem all that crazy. With that said, I definitely think Marc is capable is proving me wrong.
Advantage: Chicago (for now)
D.J. Augustin’s success with the Bulls this season definitively proves that sometimes the NBA just doesn’t make any sense. Two years ago, he toiled away on the Worst Team Of All-Time, then he joins the Pacers, theoretically, as a top-quality backup, but he couldn’t shoot at all, and wound up being a symbol of the Pacers crippling lack of depth. Then, he goes to Toronto, and they cut him after 10 games. Dude looked done. Then, he goes to Chicago after the Bulls injury and becomes one of the best 6th men in the league. Go figure. Of course, this Bulls bench also features the always-scary Taj Gibson, who might be the best bench big in the leagye, and figures to get some lucrative offers from other teams in this off-season. For the Grizz, congrats to Nick Calathes on winning rookie of the month honors – he earned t, even if he benefited from playing in a not very good rookie class. Beno looked good in limited minutes – it’ll be interesting to see if he and Calathes share court time on nights when Conley isn’t having his worst game of the season. They played well together – could be something there.