Who: Memphis Grizzlies vs Denver Nuggets
When: 7:00 PM CST
Where: FedEx Forum, Memphis, TN
Records: Memphis (18-8) Denver (17-14)
Media: SportSouth, 92.9 FM, 680 AM
Forums: 3 Shades of Blue, Grizzlies Message Board
Memphis has not been the same team since dropping the overtime game against San Antonio back on December 1. Heading into that game the Grizzlies were an NBA best 12-2. They have gone 6-6 since. The Grizzlies offense has become more dependent on perimeter shots which haven’t been falling and the pressure on the defense is now showing. The Grizzlies held 23 straight opponents to under 100 points but surrendered 125 to Houston and then 99 in the loss to Philly the night after Christmas. Rudy Gay, dealing with an illness to his grandmother, missed the Philly game but has been working out with the Grizzlies and will be playing tonight.
Denver has played an incredible 21 of their games on the road already this season. There will many more home games the rest of the way which should give Denver some momentum heading into the playoffs. Denver has already won the first two meetings against Memphis including one at FedEx Forum. The Nuggets have size, speed and perimeter shooting to give Memphis fits. Denver is one of the few teams in the league who can put more size on the front line than Memphis with Gallinari (6-10), Koufas (7-0) and JaVale McGee (7-0) teaming with high energy Kenneth Faried. Ty Lawson is faster than Mike Conley and backing him up is the crafty veteran Andre Miller. Denver matches up well in every position against the Grizzlies.
Expected Starting Lineups:
Mike Conley vs Ty Lawson
Ty Lawson is faster and more aggressive than Mike Conley. However he is battling a sore Achilles heal which is affecting his shot, especially on the perimeter. The injury hasn’t noticeably affected his defense but that is mainly because he’s never been that good of a defender, relying on the shot blocking bigs behind him to cover his mistakes. Lawson is short which enables players to shoot over him. Conley has been struggling in December as well with his shot. When Conley is hitting from outside the Grizzlies offense runs well but when teams can lay off him it makes it very difficult for the bigs inside to find space. Since Conley is healthy he gets the edge but it isn’t a big one.
Tony Allen vs Andre Iguodala
Two of the best perimeter defenders in the league, Iguodala’s lack of a true scoring mentality takes away Allen’s only strength. Iguodala can defend either the SG or SF position and is a solid if unspectacular offensive player. When Iggy’s making shots the Denver offense is nearly unstoppable but the Nuggets don’t need Iggy to score. Allen has been up and down, mostly down, this season offensively allowing teams to play off of him as well creating more difficulty for the Grizzlies interior scorers. Allen is more of a slasher than shooter but if he doesn’t take open shots then he allows teams to play 5 against 4 and the Grizzlies offense stagnates.
Rudy Gay vs Danilo Gallinari
Gallinari was red-hot last night in Dallas scoring 39 points on 14-23 shooting including 7 of 11 from the arc. If he stays hot it likely will be a long night for the Grizzlies. However there is a reason Danilo is only averaging 15.4 ppg and shooting 39.1% from the field this season. Rudy Gay missed the Philly game because of personal family issues and weather problems. The question is will he be depressed over his grand-mothers health or will he be motivated and rested? So far this season it appears Rudy has been letting family matters affect his play. Memphis will need Gay to stretch the defense, play tough defense and help rebound. A tall order if he’s thinking about his family.
Zach Randolph vs Kenneth Faried
Zach Randolph has troubles against tall, athletic PFs. Faried is athletic but he isn’t tall. The ‘Manimal’ relies on non-stop hustle to create confusion on defense and speed to beat his man down the court for his offense. Faried is not an offensive threat in the half court however. Z-Bo has been a double-double machine this year averaging 17.1 PPG and 12.6 RPG, but has struggled against Denver averaging 11 PPG and 9 RPG. Faried on the other hand has not seen his numbers fall against Memphis averaging 10.5 PPG and 11.1 RPG, nearly in line with his season averages of 12.1 and 10.0. Randolph will need to bring his A game for Memphis to win.
Marc Gasol vs Kosta Koufas
Marc Gasol has been a constant for the Grizzlies this season. Gasol is the mainstay of the team’s defense leading the team in blocks and free throws percentage while second in assists and rebounds. If there has been a problem it has been with his unselfishness shooting the ball. Koufas is a solid center if not spectacular averaging 7.6 PPG and 6.3 RPG in just over 22 MPG. Koufas doesn’t play much because Denver has JaVale McGee and Timothy Mozgov backing him up. McGee alternates between brilliance and idiocy on the court. Mozgov has been struggling to find minutes lately but will likely see time when Denver goes with a twin tower lineup to match the Grizzlies frontline.
Denver’s bench is deep and talented. Corey Brewer brings fantastic defense and a surprisingly effective offense. Brewer and McGee both average double figures off the bench for Denver. Andre Miller brings a calming influence at the point and can post up most opposing PGs. 2nd year player Jordan Hamilton is also working his way into the rotation and showing promise. Quincy Pondexter has led the Zoo Crew this year but has a mild quad strain that held him out of practice yesterday. Jerryd Bayless has not found his comfort level coming off the bench yet. Wayne Ellington has struggled to consistently hit shots. Marreese Speights and Darrel Arthur have had their moments but their performance has been sporadic as well.