Who: Memphis Grizzlies vs Phoenix Suns
When: 8:00 PM CST
Where: US Airways Center, Phoenix, Az
Records: Memphis (14-4), Phoenix (7-15)
Media: SportSouth, 92.9 FM, 680 AM
Forums: 3 Shades of Blue, Grizzlies Message Board
Memphis dropped their second home game of the season with a lackluster effort against the Atlanta Hawks. Playing their 3rd back to back game of the season, the Grizzlies fell to 1-2 in such games. The Grizzlies have enjoyed three successive days off after the loss to recharge. Zach Randolph had a monster game against the Suns earlier this month posting 38 points and 22 rebounds but will be counting on help from other sources in this game. Teams have taken to fronting Randolph and it makes the entry pass more difficult. Until the Grizzlies find an answer for this defense the offense will continue to struggle.
Phoenix is on a losing streak and haven’t looked good doing it. Alvin Gentry was given the dreaded owner’s vote of confidence this week which usually means win soon or you’re gone. The problem with the Suns is poor rebounding and poorer defense. It has always been an issue for the Suns but this year the team is only average scoring the ball which makes their defensive issues more pronounced. The Suns are on a youth movement with all but Luis Scola and Jermaine O’Neal under the age of 30 compared to last season’s senior citizen squad. The Suns are 1-8 in their last 9 games so desperation will be in play in this game.
Expected Starting Lineups:
Mike Conley vs Goran Dragic
Dragic had the advantage in the previous meeting between these two PGs. His size made it difficult for Conley to get off his shot, holding Mike to 2-9 shooting. Dragic on the other hand went 8-15 and dished out 7 assists to only 1 for Mike although the assists weren’t all Mike’s fault. Conley hopefully is rested as his game has suffered in December. Conley has hit only 30% of his FG attempts. Teams are recognizing this and dropping off Conley to clog the middle even more.
Tony Allen vs Shannon Brown
Shannon Brown is a different type of SG. While capable of popping from the 3 point line, his specialty is the fake and drive where he uses his surprising strength to get to the rim against smaller and weaker SGs. Tony is different as well. His specialty is defense on the perimeter where he was 1st team all NBA last season. In the first matchup Allen was injured so this will be the first time they meet this season. Allen is the heart and soul of the team and will likely come out with his trademark frenetic defensive style which Brown may have trouble with.
Rudy Gay vs Jared Dudley
Dudley is undersized to play against Gay but held his own in Memphis despite the size differences. His 13 points included 3 of 4 from the arc. Gay seemed to be taking the easy route during most of the game hitting 5 of 12 shots but he did get 7 rebounds, 2 steals and 3 blocks in the game. When motivated Gay was unstoppable but he just didn’t have the engine running the entire game. With 3 days off there is no reason (well one) for Rudy not taking more shots.
Zach Randolph vs Marikieff Morris
The one valid reason for Rudy not taking more than 12 shots is because Phoenix has no one to stop Zach Randolph. His 38 point, 22 rebound outburst in the first meeting seemed easy. Morris did what he could but he doesn’t have the size to stop Randolph around the basket nor does he have the offensive skill to make him work on defense. Morris does have a nice 3 point shot to try to draw Randolph away from the paint however. He will need to find his range early and often to offset Randolph down low.
Marc Gasol vs Marcin Gortat
Last season Gortat looked like to be coming into his own after spending the bulk of his career playing behind Dwight Howard. This season has been a regression. Gortat is averaging only 11 PPG and 7.8 RPG down from 15 and 10 last season. Gasol on the other hand has continued to develop. It isn’t uncommon to hear Gasol compared to the best passers in the league. Not just the best big man passer but any passer. Gasol isn’t just a finesse player however. Gasol will mix it up with anyone and is a force inside as well as at the top of the key.
Not many teams have their second best scorer coming off the bench but that is the case in Phoenix. Luis Scola is averaging 12.9 PPG in his reserve role. Former starter Michael Beasley will take a lot of shots but hasn’t hit many this season (38.3%). Jermaine O’Neal is playing like a younger man than his 16 years in the league would suggest. Memphis’ bench has been struggling lately with only Quincy Pondexter looking like a reliable player. Wayne Ellington and Jerryd Bayless have struggled in their roles. Darrell Arthur, coming off a lost season due to a torn Achilles, is gradually working back into game shape but isn’t consistent enough yet.
Valley of the Suns