When: Friday, January 3rd 8:00 PM CST
Where: Pepsi Center, Denver, CO
After a huge win against the Nuggets last week at home, the Grizzlies will try to achieve similar results as they head to Denver. Both of these teams are trying to keep things from completely falling apart, so there should be a lot of desperation here, as both teams try to earn what will be an extremely important win.
Expected Starting Lineups:
Mike Conley vs Ty Lawson
These guys are having remarkably similar seasons, in that each one is the primary reason why their team isn’t completely terrible. Conley was brilliant in a losing effort the Bulls, and when the game was over, i felt genuinely sorry for him. With Marc gone, Conley has become the team’s best player (sorry Z-Bo), and right now, the supporting cast isn’t strong enough for him to take this team where it needs to go. The situation is similar for Lawson, who is having the best season of his career, and his established himself as the Nuggets leader. Both of these guys would be getting All-Star consideration if not for their struggling teams, as well as the immense point guard depth of the Western Conference.
Tony Allen vs Randy Foye
Foye is one of those guys who gets thrown around a lot, but always ends up somewhere, usually as a starter. He’s not the flashiest guy around, but the three-point shooting is always there, so teams who need floor spacing will always be willing to take a shot with him. Allen continues to make smart decisions as long as he isn’t shooting a three. He’s made just five of 27 of those this season, but he’s shooting better than 500 on two-point attempts. this may not last all season long, but it’s certainly enjoyable to see. As a 10-year-vet, he knows his strengths and weaknesses, and uses that knowledge to his advantage.
Tayshaun Prince vs Wilson Chandler
I really wish the Grizzlies would just take Prince out of the starting lineup, if only so I would no longer be forced to try and think of interesting things to say about him. Look, he’s washed-up. His averages are among the lowest in the league at his position, and his offensive win shares are negative. How frustrating is it that by getting rid of Rudy Gay’s albatross contract, the Grizzlies wound up taking on another, even more frustrating deal? We can’t get rid of him until 2015! As for Chandler, he’d basically fallen out of the NBA, or close to it, and it’s been encouraging to see him become a valuable player once again.
Zach Randolph vs Kenneth Faried
Towards the end of the Bulls-Grizzlies game, Pete Pranica noted that Z-Bo had 10 points and 10 rebounds, aka the worst triple-double imaginable. His efficiency has really suffered without Marc, because he’s forced to all the heavy-lifting in the post. We all knew how great the Marc-Z-bo combo was, but it really sinks in when you watch one try to stay afloat without the other. His numbers remind me of Boogie Cousins does for the kings – the skill is there, but without a helping hand, it gets much more difficult to make the big plays. Faried hasn’t developed much more beyond his rookie year, but frankly, he hasn’t needed to, he’s a ridiculous athlete, and plays like a mad man on every possession. Such a fun guy to have on your team.
Advantage: (barely) Memphis
Kosta Koufos vs J.J. Hickson
Remember how the Blazers played J.J. hickson out of position for an entire season last year, and even though his numbers were flashy, anyone who actually watched them knew it didn’t work? Well, the Nuggets decided they wanted in on that action! Hickson isn’t a bad layer by any stretch, but he’s not a center, and when teams play him at the five, he becomes an enormous liability. Meanwhile, Koufos goes against his old team, who he was much more efficient. The rebounding is there, but asking him to play the minutes of a normal starting center with Marc gone has really revealed his limitations Admittedly, the sluggishness of the Grizzlies offense in general sure doesn’t help.
Advantage: Memphis probably
‘Sup DA. How about James Johnson with another strong night against the Bulls – didn’t shoot the ball too well, but his first double-double, and a huge catalyst down the stretch until he fouled out. I love this guy so much. As for the Nuggets, they’re pretty deep, with two capable backup point guards (Nate Robinson and Andre Miller, who somehow both get decent minutes), s well as the emerging Evan Fournier. This team’s real issue is that it’s too deep – there’s so many guys who they have to play that they struggle to achieve cohesion. If this team puts it together enough to make a playoff spot, Brian Shaw will have some serius decisions to make over who to give minutes to.