When: Monday, December 9th, 7:00 PM CST
Where: FedEx Forum, Memphis, TN
So here we go, Orlando! This should be a winnable one, right? Nothing’s a given of course, especially with the Grizzlies’ roster in absolute shambles right now, but after starting the year 3-2, the Magic have dropped 12 of their last 15, and take a 5 game losing streak into the FedEx Forum tonight. They’re struggling without center Nikola Vucevic in the lineup (ankle sprain), and are on the second half of a back-to-back. The Grizzlies on the other hand will likely be without Tony Allen (banged-up hip), Ed Davis (ankle sprain), and definitely missing Quincy Pondexter (midfoot sprain) — all in addition to being without Marc Gasol. Like I said, nothing’s a given.
Expected Starting Lineups:
Mike Conley vs Jameer Nelson
Don’t let the inscribed “all eyes on me” across his shoulder blades fool you, number 11′s matchup tonight has become somewhat of a forgotten man ever since the Magic slipped from relevance. Jameer Nelson is still hanging in there around the lower fringe of starting point guards, and is likely to hear his name quite a bit among trade rumors, but for now he is holding it down as the resident veteran on this Magic roster devoid of any other players on the opposite side of 30 (Jason Maxiell is right on the line). Mike Conley’s doing the best that he can trying to turn water into wine with this team, but boy does he need some help.
Jerryd Bayless vs Victor Oladipo
Tony Allen may play, but it appears unlikely, which could potentially throw the Grizzlies into a whole world of trouble. Reason being that with Quincy also on the shelf, Jerryd Bayless is the likely option to trot out at the two spot. Now while I believe Bayless to be far better than his stats this year have shown, his lack of size would allow for Jameer Nelson to cover him, and in turn enable the tenacious Victor Oladipo to slide over and pester Conley for the majority of the evening. Not that you were ever going to, but don’t read this, Jacque Vaughn.
Tayshaun Prince vs Arron Afflalo
Plain and simple — Arron Afflalo has been killing it this year. His PER has jumped by more than 8 points this season, which is pretty much unheard of for a guy that’s been around the league as long as he has. In terms of shooting, SportVu ranks him among the top of the league in terms of catch and shoot FG% (50.5) and more powerfully, 3 point catch and shoot FG% (53.5). He is probably not part of the long term plan in Orlando, so their management has to be jumping for joy with his trade value banging its head on the ceiling at this point. Tayshaun Prince has a considerable size advantage, but getting up a jumper over a defender hasn’t been an option for him in some time, and Afflalo is strong enough to stand his ground and keep Prince away from the paint.
Zach Randolph vs Andrew Nicholson
Here’s a deceptively difficult for Randolph, as Nicholson loves to flare out to the perimeter, where he’s shooting 36.5% from the arc. For comparison, of the Grizzlies’ roster, only Mike Miller and Jon Leuer are shooting a better clip from the arc, and with Leuer launching less than a three attempt a game, he can hardly count. The ability for opponents to draw Randolph out of the paint, where he’s far less effective as a defender, and unable to make a difference as a rebounder. However, this goes two ways and Nicholson’s going to have to deal with Zbo as well.
Kosta Koufos vs Glen Davis
Vucevic has sat out the last two, so I’m going to bet that his prospects are pretty bleak for tonight as well. While Big Baby certainly has the requisite overall size to battle with anyone in the post, Koufos’s length could give him some trouble. Koufos is averaging 11 points and 12.3 boards so far as a starter, but is shooting just 43.1% from the field with the increased workload. His touch shooting the ball, even around the basket, has been problematic, as he’s shot only 47.3% at the rim. Going to have to be better to make the Magic pay for their lack of size.
The Grizzlies’ bench has basically been a smorgasbord of late, contributing to the Grizzlies’ streak of eight straight games with a different leading scorer. Last time out, the leading candidate was Mike Miller, who was the only Grizzly that caught stride against the Warriors, breaking double digits for just the third time this season. At this rate, there is no telling what to expect from the Grizzlies’ bench, and now we have the front office grasping at straws to try and amend the problem, by working out Reggie Williams, Seth Curry, and Darius Morris this week. Looking at the Magic, they’re singing a similar tune with their roster depth being sliced by injury, but a certain Moe Harkless looms large on their sidelines. Moe has been up and down so far this season, but he’s got the makings of a blueprint SF and put 10 on the Prince-less Grizzlies in the preseason.