When: Monday, December 30th, 7:00 PM CST
Where: FedEx Forum, Memphis, TN
So it’s the last game of the year for Memphis, and if not for one dreadful fourth quarter against Houston, they’d be on a four-game winning streak! As it stands, they look to inch one step closer to .500 against a Bulls team trying desperately to keep the wheels from falling off their season with Derrick Rose out once again.
Expected Starting Lineups:
Mike Conley vs Kirk Hinrich
With the league going through various injury problems, sometimes these lineup matchups are crapshoot – we tend to guess who is going to start in our effort to get these previews to you in a timely manner, and sometimes we guess wrong. With that in mind, it appears as though Kirk Hinrich is ready to return to the starting lineup for the Bulls, and he’ll be a welcome addition. Never a flashy guy (except for his cyborg-like affectations), but always an effective floor general. With that said, D.J. Augustin, who came to the Bulls after being cut by the Raptors has done a bang-up job, and silenced the critics who wondered if he even belonged in the NBA anymore. With Hinrich back in place as the starting point guard, look for Augustin to thrive off the bench for the remainder of the year.
Tony Allen vs Jimmy Butler
Butler is yet another Bulls player who has missed time due to injury – they’re the only team worse off than the Grizz in terms of injury issues – but at this point, his skills are well-established. As the 2012-13 Bulls came together without Derrick Rose, Butler emerged as a valuable contributor, ably replacing Richard Hamilton in the lineup, and looking like a key piece for the team going forward. Allen has continued to average a high field-goal percentage but WILL SOMEONE PLEASE TELL HIM TO STOP SHOOTING THREES??!! He’s made five this whole season. Frankly, any time he fires one up from downtown, I just think “well, maybe next possession…” other than that,keep up the good work, TA.
Tayshaun Prince vs Mike Dunleavy
The Grizzlies are faced with a problem: in his six games with Memphis, James Johnson has played extremely well, and while it is a small sample size, it’s hard to ignore that at this point in their respective careers, Johnson is a better player than prince. Prince may drain the occasional jumper, and his defense isn’t bad, but he’s the biggest liability on the team. The problem is bringing him off the bench would only exacerbate the situation. he’d submarine the second unit far worse than the starting five. If we were going on the basis of a reward system, it would make sense to give Johnson the starting job. But the team is better off using him as the key source of energy off the bench, while suffering Prince’s lack of production, and taking whatever they can get from him. As for Dunleavy, he’s an excellent scorer, and a strong threat off the bench, but with Luol Deng out, he’s been thrust into the starting role. He’s nowhere near as dynamic as Deng, but he’s a solid offensive contributor for a team which needs all the points it can get.
Zach Randolph vs Carlos Boozer
Z-Bo and Boozer are similar in a lot of ways. they’ve been in the league 12 and 13 years, respectively, and they continue to be reliable for around 16-17 points a game, while averaging near a double-double. Where they differ is in how the accumulate those points. Where Randolph is the menace in the post, scoring on second and third efforts like its nothing, Boozer is more of a finesse guy, with one of the stronger jumpers among power forwards in the league. Each player can be scary, especially if they heat up in the first quarter, but when accounting for physical presence, Z-Bo earns a slight edge here.
Kosta Koufos vs Joakim Noah
Now, here’s a game where you really miss Marc. Joakim Noah is one of the best centers in the league, as well as one of the most intimidating players at any position. He’s a monster on the glass, and he’s added more finesse to his offensive game with each year he’s been in the league. Really, he’s one of the few centers who can match Marc Gasol pound-for-pound in terms of the completeness of his game. But instead of what would surely be a thrilling, physical battle between the two, Noah lucks out going against the lesser Koufos, who uses his size to his advantage in terms of rebounding prowess, but lacks the intimidation brought by #33. Look for Noah to be a beast in the post all-game, as Koufos struggles to get to his level.
Seriously, how about that James Johnson! Can you believe we just found this guy. Really, none of the other 29 teams wanted him? Granted, he was coming off a pretty awful year with the Kings, but, come on! Anyone could have a bad year with the Kings – that team is a complete mess! He’ working in a better system in Memphis, and his play has skyrocketed because of it. As for the Bulls, Tony Snell has contributed far more than most would have expected from his rookie year, mostly due to being forced into action thanks to the Bulls’ massive injury issues. If Hinrich is back, Augustin can handle backup point guard duties, mercifully eliminating the need for Marcus Teague, who has likely struggled more than anyone else on the Bulls.