Who: Memphis Grizzlies at Sacramento Kings
When: 5:00 CST
Where: Sleep Train Arena, Sacramento, CA
Records: Memphis (51-25), Sacramento (27-49)
Media: Sportsouth, 92.9 FM, 680 AM
Forums: 3 Shades of Blue, Grizzlies Message Board
Memphis suffered a poor shooting night in Los Angeles and fell to the Lakers ending a 4 game winning streak and dropping them 2 games behind Denver for the 3rd seed in the Western Conference playoff race. The Grizzlies are still one game ahead of the Los Angeles Clippers for home court in the first round of the playoffs with one more head to head matchup with the Clippers at FedEx Forum coming up. While falling to the Lakers hurts the Grizzlies are still confident that they can hold off the Clippers and may even catch the Nuggets with strong play down the stretch. Despite his late game failure in LA the team’s offense still runs on Conley’s lead with 6th man Jerryd Bayless adding needed firepower, especially in the 4th quarter. Randolph and Gasol are still power players inside but teams looking to slow them down are being punished by the backcourt now.
Sacramento is one of the few teams that can match the Grizzlies inside. With DeMarcus Cousins and Jason Thompson the Kings front court is young and strong. They have been a force offensively averaging over 108 PPG since the All-Star break but that hasn’t correlated into wins. Despite increasing their scoring output the Kings are only 8-14 over that time frame, barely better than the percent they won before the break when the team only scored 96 PPG.. The problem is clearly on the defensive end. Thompson and Cousins have struggled defending in the paint allowing teams to hit 47.5% of their 2 point shots and average over 4 more assists per game. Sacramento has lost their last 3 games and have held only two teams under 100 pts. in their last 10 games and both of those teams scored 98 points. Sacramento has dominated Memphis at home. Will this be their opportunity to win in Sacramento?
Expected Starting Lineups:
Mike Conley vs Isaiah Thomas
Mike Conley was the hero of the Grizzlies win against San Antonio and the goat in the loss to the Lakers. Not that Conley didn’t have a great game. He did. However his last two shots failed to fall, thanks in no small part to some over-looked contact, and when a team loses by two points it’s the last shot every remembers. Thomas is under-sized but extremely quick and tough. He has no fear challenging not only taller PGs but big men in general when he attacks the paint. In his last 10 games Thomas has elevated his game scoring 19.7 PPG on 47.1% shooting. However Thomas struggles on defense and hasn’t been able to convert his quickness into steals either. In 3 games against Conley Thomas is scoring less than 10 PPG and shooting just 30.3% from the field.
Tony Allen vs Tyreke Evans
Tyreke Evans has quietly expanded his perimeter game this season hitting 33.9% from the arc this season, a career high. Evans’ minutes are down a bit this season but he is still a dynamic playmaker who can get teammates easy shots as well as himself. Evans can become a restricted free agent this summer and the development of his game likely means he will be receiving some big money offers in the off-season. Allen to will be a free agent this summer (unrestricted) and is reportedly wanting a raise. He also has made it appear that he wants to remain in Memphis. One of the premier perimeter defenders in the league, Allen has added some offensive control this season averaging 9.0 PPG on 44.7% shooting. Allen will never be considered a good option on offense but his strong rebounding and backdoor cuts force teams to play him somewhat honest despite his poor shooting mechanics.
Tayshaun Prince vs John Salmons
John Salmons has all the skills needed to be a solid NBA SF except he somehow isn’t. He has a nice perimeter shot hitting 37.8% of his 3 pt shots but only 39.7% overall. In his last 10 games Salmons has gotten worse hitting just 34.9% of his FG attempts. At 33 it isn’t likely Salmons will be improving his game either. Prince hasn’t exactly been tearing it up either scoring just 7.6 PPG on 40.5% shooting in his last 10 but Prince is bringing the defense. Prince also helps bring the ball up the court and keeps the ball moving which has led to easy shots for his teammates. Prince will need to improve his scoring once the playoffs begin.
Zach Randolph vs Jason Thompson
Zach Randolph has struggled a bit since returning from his ankle injury. In his last 10 games Randolph is averaging just 13.5 PPG on 41.3% shooting and is grabbing only 9.3 RPG. What’s more his failure to produce has come with an apparent attitude issue as well. Something is clearly bothering Z-Bo. That isn’t what the Grizzlies need from one of their locker room leaders. Jason Thompson is struggling as well averaging just 8.9 PPG on 42.7% shooting and grabbing just 7.2 RPG. HOwever he has posted back to back double-doubles so he may be shaking off his doldrums.
Marc Gasol vs DeMarcus Cousins
Cousins is a troubled but talented player. The talent is obvious as Cousins is averaging 17.4 PPG on 52% shooting and grabbing 9.8 RPG over his last 9 games. Troubled because he only played 9 minutes at Dallas Friday night with no reason given for his not playing more. Cousins has averaged 18.3 PPG and 9.0 RPG against Memphis but he has given up 18.3 PPG and 9.3 RPG to Gasol at the same time. Gasol appears to be pacing himself heading into the playoffs despite his logging big minutes. Against his brother and the Lakers Marc flirted with a triple double before finishing with 11 points, 8 rebounds and 7 assists as well as 2 blocks and 3 steals.
Memphis is trying to find ways to get their bench more action but it is hard when a team is fighting to stay in the top 4 of the playoff race and the bench hasn’t been playing that well. Bayless is possibly the scariest 4th quarter scorer coming off the bench this season but has struggled on this road trip a bit. Quincy Pondexter, Ed Davis and Austin Daye has received more minutes lately but their performance has been sporadic. Sacramento’s bench has been a work in progress. Marcus Thornton is still a dangerous scorer. Patrick Patterson has been trying to find his role on the Kings after being acquired near the trade deadline. Jimmer Fredette is trying to earn his minutes but has struggled shooting from inside the arc. He and Toney Douglas can nail long range shot however.