Who: Memphis Grizzlies (32-25) vs. Washington Wizards (30-28)
When: Monday, March 3rd 7:00 PM CST
Where: Verizon Center, Washington D.C.
Watch and Listen: Sportsouth, 92.9 FM, 680 AM
Losing hurts. Losing when you desperately need to win really hurts. That’s why it was tough to see the Grizzlies fall just short against the Thunder on Friday. Even if a game against OKC really isn’t much more important than any other regular season game, there would have definitely been some satisfaction in taking down the No. 1 team in the conference. Instead, the Thunder snapped their 3-game losing streak,e arning their first win since Russell Westbrook returned to the lineup. Now, the Grizzlies try to recover against a Wizards team who has looked pretty strong lately.
Mike Conley vs John Wall
Remember when people were seriously saying than John Wall was a bust??!! No, really, that was actually a common part of basketball discourse for a relatively lengthy part of time. Well, of that talk is out the window, as Wall is putting up the same strong numbers he always does, but now, he finally has the wins to back it up. Wall earned his first All-Star selection this year, and has surpassed fellow #1 overall pick Kyrie Irving in terms of respectability. Meanwhile, Conley is having a career year of his own, and while his game lacks the sort of flash that Wall always brings to the table, he’s proven himself to be one of the best leaders in the game, keeping the Grizzlies afloat through a myriad of injury problems. This will be the matchup of the night, and could likely decide which team emerges victorious.
Courtney Lee vs Bradley Beal
Wall and Beal are one of the strongest back courts in the league, right up there with the Splash Bros in Golden State, and the Slash Bros. in Phoenix. In the second half of his rookie campaign, Beal improved his shooting immensely, and has continued to prove himself as a viable scorer. he’s not the most efficient guy in the world, but with everyone producing around him, he hasn’t needed to be. Lee, by contrast, is a lower-volume shooter who rarely has big nights, but is more than capable of getting the job done. Allen is back in the lineup, but Lee has done too much for this team to be abandoned now.
Tayshaun Prince vs Trevor Ariza
Sometimes a player just ends up working out. It happened for the Grizzlies with Lee and James Johnson, and it’s happened for the Wizards with Ariza. Going into this season, Ariza was mostly looked at as a decent three-ball guy whose value was inflated by getting to play for the Lakers when they won a championship. This season, he’s completely dismantled that logic, averaging 14 points and six rebounds, while topping 20 points numerous times. Ariza has proven himself to be a highly valuable commodity, as well as a key contributor to this Wizards team. Look for Prince to have his work cut out for him tonight.
Zach Randolph vs Trevor Booker
The wizards took a huge hit when they lost Nene, who will be out for roughly six weeks. Nene, along with Marcin Gortat gave the team one of the stronger big man duos in the league, and the Wizards will have to make up for his production to remain competitive in the Eastern playoff race. Booker is a reliable bench big, but it remains to be seen if he’ll be able to pickup the slack for a player like Nene. Look for Booker to be intimidated by Z-Bo tonight, and look for Gortat to do most of the work in the post.
Marc Gasol vs Marcin Gortat
Big Spain vs. The Polish Hammer! It’s like the European Union up in here! Gasol’s been off his game a bit lately, which could be a concern as he goes against Gortat, who can match him in aggression and physicality. While Gasol has a better touch with the basketball, Gortat can be scary near the basket, so Gasol will have to be on his game defensively. Anyone who things European players are soft hasn’t seen these two – there’s going to be a LOT of body-banging tonight.
OFF THE BENCH:
Going into the season, Martell Webster was expected to start at the 3 but the superior performance of Ariza pushed him to bench. Webster is still playing well, however, and he represents a solid Wizards second unit. Andre Miller is a huge upgrade over Eric Maynor as the backup point guard, and he brings tons of experience and leader and experience. Meanwhile, the Grizz will attempt to get playing time for Udrih and Calathes, which should be interesting to watch. As for the big men, the Grizz have a lot of options. With Koufos, Davis, Johnson, and Leuer, the Grizzlies are almost two deep in terms of forwards and bigs, a problem they might solve as the trade deadline nears. All of these guys deserve minutes, and not everyone is going to get them. As the late Jeff Healey would say, it a nice problem to have.