Who: Memphis Grizzlies vs Philadelphia 76ers
When: Wednesday, December 26th, 7:00 PM CST
Where: FedEx Forum, Memphis, TN
Records: Memphis (18-7), Philadelphia (13-15)
Media: SportSouth, 92.9 FM, 680 AM
Forums: 3 Shades of Blue, Grizzlies Message Board
Memphis is looking to get things rolling again, after having its four game winning streak snapped by a dynamite offensive Houston Rockets team. The Rockets obliterated the Grizzlies streak of 23 straight games holding their opponent below 100 points, en route to a 121 point massacre on their home floor. And here I thought the days of the Rockets clowning on us were over with Kevin Martin and Luis Scola’s respective departures. Seems like the Lin/Harden connection has other plans. Anyways, I digress. So the question is now, as it always is after a loss, who are the Grizzlies? Will they let the adversity of the loss get them down and snowball them into another three game skid, or will they come out with a vengeance after having a few days to sit back and reflect on the loss? With an unrelenting schedule on the horizon, including Denver again and two very tough Eastern Conference teams, things can spiral out of control in a hurry. For this reason, it’s going to be critical to take care of business tonight.
Philadelphia is a team that is almost lost in a sense. They overachieved last season, in part due to their playoff opponent, the Chicago Bulls, physically breaking down, and they put together a solid series against the Boston Celtics, who seem to flip flop between hot and cold like those Icy Hot patches Shaquille O’Neal used to endorse in commercials. The Sixers, aware of the fact that their success was partially rooted in circumstance, made big moves, sending out staple of the franchise, Andre Iguodala, for the return of the promising, but ready to break all of those promises with his arthritic knees, Andrew Bynum. Bynum has yet to suit up for a game, and the product on the court is a team that is unsure of its identity. I was at their last game, a 95-92 loss to the Brooklyn Nets, and left the arena completely lacking an impression of who exactly this 76ers team is. To be honest, they only lost by 3, but the game really wasn’t that close. I really do like the vision for the Sixers long term, but having lost nine out of their twelve games in December is not an encouraging trend for their present outlook.
Expected Starting Lineups:
Mike Conley vs Jrue Holiday:
*Matchup of the night* - Man, if there is any single impression I could take away from the Sixers, it is that Jrue Holiday is for real. The dude single-handedly kept Philly in the game vs the Nets. The 4th year point guard out of UCLA is another young talented point guard battling his way towards the top of the crop of players that fit that description in today’s NBA. On the year, he’s stepped up his per-game averages to around 18 points and 9 assists. Those are some darn good numbers, if you ask me, and it’s not all about the numbers with him. If anybody is going to provide an awakening to the Grizzlies that the “holidays” are over, it’s this guy.
Tony Allen vs Jason Richardson:
When I was watching the Sixers, something sad happened. I was reminded of the unfortunate concept of father time. Former 2 time reigning slam-dunk champion, Jason Richardson, was on a fast break with a decent lane of space to operate, and he settled for a nice and simple layup to register his two points for the play. Vintage Richardson would have thrown it down with flair and authority. Non-vintage Richardson is streaky and far too reliant on jacking the 3, but capable enough to make waves if his shot is falling. This matchup is hard to gauge, because Tony’s likely to split some time on Turner, but the way he’s been playing defense this year (with the exception of the last game), I’m giving the edge to the good guys. If we were talking a few years ago, it’d be a different story.
Rudy Gay vs Evan Turner:
Speaking of “good guys,” or in this case the antagonists to, Evan Turner is known as the Villain from his college days with Grantland’s Mark Titus. Turner had been hearing some definite rumblings about him being potentially regarded as another bust from the maligned number two draft spot (which Grizzlies fans surely know a thing or two about that). His response to that has been admirable as he has nearly doubled his scoring outputs in year three, to go along with a more expanded role as Iggy’s replacement. He’s also seen a direct rise in his assists and rebounds with his increase in minutes, but most impressively has managed to find a shooting stroke from beyond the arc. Turner’s three point shooting percentage has spiked from 22.4% last year to 45.3% thus far this season. Additionally, he’s one of the smoothest non point guards with the ball in his hands I’ve ever seen. I love Rudy, but the way the Villain is playing such a rounded ball game this year, the nod’s going to the visitor.
Zach Randolph vs Thaddeus Young:
While Andre Iguodala’s absence in Philly gets most of the publicity, one of the more unsung departures from the team has been amnesty victim, Elton Brand. Brand was a solid-but-unspectacular power forward option for the Sixers for the past few years, despite never living up to the mammoth contract he inked with them. His presence in the starting lineup has been replaced with high-energy combo forward, Thaddeus Young. I said during the Assessing the Enemy post for the Sixers that Young reminds me of a more skilled Dante Cunningham, and I stand by that notion. All this being said, Zbo is one of the best power forwards in the game.
Two words. Nick Young. Ugh, the memories of that guy… his hair, his choices in attire, and the 3′s he rained upon our Grizz in that fateful playoff series (I refuse to link to those). And yet there’s something I like about the guy. The fact of the matter is, the swingman rotation off the bench for Philly has something that Grizzlies fans salivate over the thought of: light’s out shooting ability. Between Young and Dorrell Wright, these cannons are not affraid to let fly from the arc on any given night. Additionally, versatile big man, Spencer Hawes, figures to see a ton of minutes tonight in attempt to go big to match the Grizzlies’ powerful frontcourt. What’s missing from their bench, though? Lou Williams. They lack a true ball-handler/playmaker off the bench to spark them and start a run. For the Grizzlies, Josh Selby was largely ineffective in the 14 minutes that he played last game, but could see some time again tonight if the Grizz get out to an early lead. The Grizzlies’ bench is a bit more well-rounded, so: