Who: Memphis Grizzlies vs Chicago Bulls
When: Monday, December 17th, 7:00 PM CST
Where: FedEx Forum, Memphis, TN
Records: Memphis (15-6), Chicago (13-9)
Media: Sportsouth, 92.9 FM, 680 AM
Forums: 3 Shades of Blue, Grizzlies Message Board
Memphis has got to have been crying,” there’s no place like home,” in the past few days. Well the 3 game road trip that seemed like it would never end has finally come to a close, as the Grizzlies make their way back to the FedEx Forum. Tonight they will be seeing red against another “better than their record” team, so hopefully the comfort of home will work in their favor. The win against Utah was absolutely huge for the Grizzlies, and should be instrumental in snapping them out of their funk. Of course, however, the momentum will only go as far as they take it tonight. We had a superstar Zbo sighting in Utah, as he outplayed their frontcourt stud, Al Jefferson, posting a vintage Zbo line of 25 points and 16 rebounds on the night. Now, the Grizzlies cannot expect that out of the big fella every night, these days, but it sure as heck doesn’t hurt. The superstitious side of me worries about the fact that the Bulls were the team that Zach got hurt against last year, but we’ll try not to talk about that. Against a veteran team like the Bulls, it will be important to get off to a good start. They’re too seasoned, and Tom Thibodeau is too good of a coach, for a halftime, “this is bull-(oney),” chat from Lionel Hollins to pull the good guys back into it… although it would be a bit more fitting against this opponent. (see what I did there?)
Chicago is a team that has been on the rise as they continue to figure out what they’ve got going on here while awaiting Derrick Rose’s return from rehabbing his torn ACL. Rose has not been the only issue, as the injury bug has bitten its annual victim, incredibly sound and solid swingman, Richard Hamilton, as well. The Bulls’ backcourt has been somewhat of a revolving door of playing time thus far, and can largely be pointed to as a culprit for their inconsistency to start the year. A current hot streak of winning seven out of their last 10, in addition to the Nets’ recent struggles, have positioned the Bulls up to 4th in the Eastern Conference, which is a spot that they would be glad to sit around and position themselves near for when their dynamic young point guard, and former league MVP, returns to the court. In addition to the banged up backcourt, they’ve been working on integrating a largely new bench lineup into the rotation. They’re starting to really establish themselves on track, and while it means little to nothing, I would consider them a much improved team over the one that we saw the Grizz match up against in the preseason.
Expected Starting Lineups:
Mike Conley vs Kirk Hinrich:
Hinrich has bounced around a bit in the past years, but hopes he has found his home back where his career began, serving as a stopgap and eventual backup to Derrick Rose. He gets dinged up pretty often, as is the case right now, so he may or may not play, but when healthy is the prototypical stable veteran point guard. He won’t wow you in any way, but is pretty solid on either side of the ball. I don’t love this matchup for Conley, given Captain Kirk’s size and instincts, but at this stage of the game he has far more upside.
Tony Allen vs Marco Belinelli:
Tony Allen has been very Tony Allen, of late, which is both a good and a bad thing. Belinelli has been lighting up the scoreboard after being thrust into the starting role as a result of Rip Hamilton’s latest injury. Belinelli is a volume shooter/gunner type, so he’s very streaky, but has been shooting a decent percentage, and has been a pretty valuable pickup for my fantasy team. He’s hot right now, so I’m going to give him the edge over Tony in this one.
Rudy Gay vs Luol Deng:
Deng has been a tad slow to the punch early on in what is his answer-season to what was an all-star performance last year, but he’s shown glimpses of being able to do his part in carrying the team while they wait for Rose to come back. He’s a gangly, deceptively strong swingman, who has everything it takes to give Rudy a hard time tonight. He’s tall, so Rudy can’t just rise up over him, and he’s smart enough to read his movements.
Zach Randolph vs Carlos Boozer:
This matchup should be a lot of fun to keep an eye on, because it’ll be a battle of bulls (okay, I need to stop with these puns) in the paint. Zbo’s a big burly guy in there, as we all know, and Boozer is built like a truck. Both are undersized in terms of height, so removing that handicap should make for an interesting game. Boozer seems to prefer to compensate for the usual disadvantage by falling in love with the mid-range jumper, while Zach gets by with his crafty moves and tricky fall-away. I may be setting myself up for disappointment, but I would love to see a back-to-the-basket bruiser between the two tonight.
Marc Gasol vs Joakim Noah:
Marc has not been rebounding so great as of late, but he has scored double digits in every game since Nov. 14th, and has been passing the ball well. Normally Joakim Noah would be the type of matchup that I would color as a great disadvantage for our frontline, but recent history suggests otherwise. Noah is athletic, long, and aggressive in the paint. I liken him to a bigger Kenneth Faried, which could spell h-e-double hockey sticks for the Grizzlies bigs on any given night. He’s having himself a very good year thus far and could find himself in the all-star game with Andrew Bynum out (yes even in spite of them doing away with the center position). Still, I’m going to give the edge to the home team.
At the moment, due to injuries, the Bulls and their “bench mob 2.0” are a bit less deep than they should be, but Taj Gibson is better than any option that we have, and the same case can be made for Nate Robinson the way he has been playing this season. Love him or hate him, Robinson has the ability and embraces the opportunity to be a lightning rod off the bench when let loose. Additionally, Jimmy Butler may not have broken out like the way that people in Chicago had hoped that he would, but he’s decent enough to be worth a mention. Finally on the Bulls’ side of things, I expect to see Nazr Mohammed play some more than his 6 minute per game average, to match up with our bigs. If my memory serves me correctly, he was pretty decent as an off the bench space eater and big body in the Thunder series a few years ago. As for the Grizzlies, they’re again dealing with the absence of Darrell Arthur from the lineup, as he’s taking some time to get over the mild concussion he sustained in the Denver game. His athleticism would have been greatly welcomed against the mobile and active Gibson. Mo Speights is going to have to step up on that front.
By the Horns