Who: Memphis Grizzlies vs Dallas Mavericks
When: Friday, December 21st, 7:00 PM CST
Where: FedEx Forum, Memphis, TN
Records: Memphis (17-6), Dallas (12-14)
Media: SportSouth, 92.9 FM, 680 AM
Forums: 3 Shades of Blue, Grizzlies Message Board
Memphis has rebounded from its scary three game skid, and answered back with a three game streak in the other column. The Grizzlies have been winning, and in tried and true “Grit n’ Grind” fashion, they’ve won ugly. In spite of this, they’ve won the trio by an average of over 10 points a game. The latest victim was the Milwaukee Bucks, whose normally stellar guard play couldn’t get anything going against the stingy defense of Mike Conley and Tony Allen. Sure, Brandon Jennings dropped 26 points, but it took him 26 shots to do so, and Monta Ellis was relegated to the role of complete non-factor as a result of Tony Allen’s master-lock defense. If not for a garbage time layup, Ellis would have been held without a field goal for the first time since the stone age. The Grizzlies are getting it done with defense. The Grizzlies are the best in the league in points against as the only team giving up less than 90 per night, and according to new VP of Basketball Operations, John Hollinger’s ratings, top the league in defensive efficiency.
Dallas comes into Memphis also on the second half of a back-to back. They’re a team that is right now searching for an identity, to some extent, while in a bit of a state of limbo until their franchise player, Dirk Nowitzki returns. Unless they pick up two straight W’s in what are expected to be tough division games vs. our Grizzlies and the San Antonio Spurs, they will head into Christmas with a sub .500 record for the first time in thirteen years. The Mavs are dealing with a myriad of injury issues, and haven’t quite gotten their castaway group of NBA veterans to pull enough slack to get the job done in Dirk’s absence. They have lost four out of their last five, including a 21 point blowout loss to the Raptors. What the Grizzlies must take advantage of in this game is the glass. Zach Randolph is a monster, Marc Gasol has been better on the boards of late, and the Mavericks are dead last in the league in rebound differential, with a -4.4 per game average. More importantly than any of this, however, they bring the one and only OJ Mayo back to the Forum, tonight.
Expected Starting Lineups:
Mike Conley vs Darren Collison:
Darren Collison got himself off to a strong start, but subsequently played himself out of favor, as he didn’t leave a strong enough impression to warrant holding down his starting job when the Mavs acquired seasoned veteran Derek Fisher. So why is he listed here, you may ask? As I said earlier, durability has not been kind to the Mavericks, and Fisher, who has been respectable thus far in the starting role, suffered a strained platellar tendon a few nights ago. So Collison gets the green light again for the time being, but his leash will be short, as he is expected to share time at the point with Roddy Beaubois and Dominique Jones. I wonder just how much the OJ for point guard talks have heated up in Dallas… But anyway, what we should really concern ourselves with is Mike Conley and what should be his night tonight. Just two assists for number 11 will eclipse Jason Williams for the top spot as franchise assist leader. What a great opportunity to achieve this honor on his home court. I hope the crowd is real hype for him if/when he pulls it off.
Tony Allen vs O.J. Mayo:
*Matchup of the night* - Welcome back to Memphis, Mr. Mayo! The last time these two squared off, it resulted in a black eye for OJ on a team flight. I hope for the two it’ll be a bit more civil, tonight, but I do expect them to really go at each other. OJ has always had somewhat of a chip on his shoulder regarding TA, seeing as it was Allen’s success that stripped OJ of the starting role for good. So you know that “Juice” is going to bring it. And Allen is not one to back down from a challenge. I think that OJ’s talent and extra motivation will give him a slight edge in the matchup, in his first revenge game, overall, but if you have any doubts about Tony’s ability to lock it down, look no further than the line Monta Ellis posted in the last game. Also:
Make sure to enter our 3SOB contest on how many points Mayo will score for your chance to win a free 3SOB hat.
Rudy Gay vs Dahntay Jones:
In a less heralded return, another long-time ex-Grizz, Dahntay “the bad thing” Jones, comes back to town tonight. Dahntay was our Tony Allen, before we had Tony Allen. A less intense and successful version, of course, but tight, tough defense, coupled with an offensive game that was characterized solely by some slashing ability was his modus operandi. While he’s expanded his shooting range a bit beyond TA levels, Dahntay is by and large the same type of player that he was here. He’ll probably fluster Rudy to some extent, but he doesn’t quite have the length or height to knock him too far off his game.
Zach Randolph vs Shawn Marion:
There’s an interesting clash of strengths and styles going on here, between two seasoned veterans who know what they do and how to do it well. Marion sort of pioneered the new age of stretch fours with his run in Phoenix. He missed some time to start the year, but has rejoined the team as a model of consistency, providing a steady double digits scoring a game along with sound defense and rebounding. While his defense is strong, I’m not sure he can handle the beast that is Zbo inside. Marion is much more equipped to handle the swingman type scorers. It’s not often that Zach gets a full size advantage in his matchup, so I expect him to go wild until Elton Brand gets put on him.
Marc Gasol vs Chris Kaman:
I wouldn’t be too surprised to see each of these similarly built giants neutralize the counterpart’s overall impact on the game. Both Kaman and Gasol are big, physical, and well-finessed centers. Kaman has been a nice pickup for the Mavericks. He joined the team to pair up with his international play teammate, Dirk, and has done a decent job of holding down his share of the scoring load in the post while Dirk is out. Still, Marc is also effective as a facilitator, and has been playing pretty well lately.
The Mavericks’ bench possesses some threats that figure to give the Grizzlies a rough go of it. Roddy Beaubois hasn’t had much opportunity lately, with the Fisher signing, but he’s going to get a chance to play, as he did with 21 minutes last night. He’s a potentially electric scorer, when he’s on, so I wouldn’t sleep on him. More importantly, though, the Mavs have proven and established veterans on their bench, in Vince Carter and Elton Brand. That duo should manage to get theirs. I could see them bringing in Jae Crowder, who is their version of a grit n’ grind guy that has tapered off a bit after a hot rookie start, to try and slow down Rudy Gay if he gets hot. On the Grizzlies’ front, Coach Hollins has shown a newfound willingness to let the bench guys go out there and get after it. There is some trust being built on both sides of the coin that will only pay off greater as time goes on. In addition, I could see Jerryd Bayless eager to go out and prove tonight that the Grizzlies got the better end of the deal winding up with him over OJ.
Two Man Game