When: Monday, December 23rd, 7:00 PM CST
Where: FedEx Forum, Memphis, TN
So this is what a win feels like, huh? The Grizzlies held on against the Knicks in Saturday’s matinee, and look to win a second straight for the first time since that four-game west coast trip that seems so far in the past right about now. The Jazz are a team currently slated much higher on the lottery totem pole than our Grizzlies, and don’t figure to have much promise of slithering out of the mix. That being said, given the Grizzlies’ current state of affairs, we know of no such thing as an easy out at this juncture, and the Jazz have actually won 4 of their last 7.
Expected Starting Lineups
Mike Conley vs Trey Burke
Mike Conley returned from his thigh contusion against the Knicks on Saturday, and while there was little doubt of his overall contribution to the team. In spite of his atrocious shooting percentage on the day (4-18), likely due to the lack of lift on his jumper as he recovers from the injury, he still managed a positive +/- to go along with his eight assist line. Today he’s matched up against Trey Burke — an incredibly skilled lead guard, who if he can get it together on a nightly basis will find himself in the upper echelon of the league. I’d describe it in words, but the graph below illustrates his scoring trend much more efficiently:
W’s are nice in the standings, but generally less favorable when looking at trend lines.
Tony Allen vs Gordon Hayward
What if I told you before the season that Tony Allen would turn out to be one of the more effective offensive options for the Grizzlies this year? I know, I probably would have slapped myself. With 19 points against the Knicks on Sunday, Allen is averaging 17 points per game over his last three. And what’s more — don’t look now, but the team is a net +6.9 points per 100 offensive possessions with Allen on the floor. Tether that to his expectedly great net defensive rating of -11.0, and you’ve got an awesome year for the Grindfather. His matchup tonight, Gordon Hayward is an excellent do-it-all player, but is coming in cold having been held below 30% shooting in three of his last four games.
James Johnson vs Richard Jefferson
Normally I’d drop a sign of indifference on this matchup, but I’m still in the state of novel intrigue when James Johnson is out on the floor, as we try to dissect what to expect him to bring to the table on a nightly basis. With only three games under his belt, the jury has yet to be called in, but what I do know is that in 54 minutes of play, Johnson has sank more three pointers (4) than Tayshaun Prince has dropped all season (3). That’s a start. Richard Jefferson stands for little more than an expiring contract at this stage of the game, but has a track record to speak of, so by default:
Zach Randolph vs Marvin Williams
Zach Randolph went vintage on Tyson Chandler and the Knicks on Saturday with a 25/15 stat sheet against the former defensive player of the year. Marvin Williams has found his way into Ty Corbin’s rotation as he has been seeking a more small-ball oriented approach, but after having some initial success, has seen his production taper off as of late. He’s been at 29% and below from the field for each of the past three games, and will likely have to switch defensively onto Ed Davis, letting Derrick Favors cover his behind guarding Zbo in this one.
Ed Davis vs Derrick Favors
Here we’ve got a battle of fourth year big men — one of which has earned a fat extension (Favors), and the other trying to find a way to make his mark and earn an extension of his own. Already an established defender, I would expect Favors to spend some time guarding Randolph at the four, and in turn expect the Grizzlies to look for a way to get Davis going early on… but I’m no coach and building conjecture off of conjecture is never the most reliable method of analysis. In the aggregate, I’d expect Favors to have the bigger game here.
Alright, I know that Seth Curry by most stretches of the imagination will not be playing tonight. He hasn’t even officially signed yet to my knowledge. That being said, let a guy be excited! Looking at those who will actually be suiting up, the Grizzlies’ bench guards have for the most part been a continued atrocity, though Jerryd Bayless has been able to knock down a few jumpers lately. The rotation of big men on the other hand has been a promising story, with Davis, Jon Leuer, and Kosta Koufos all having enjoyed productive stretches this season. After demoting Enes Kanter to the second unit, the bench of the Jazz has become pretty diverse, as he and Alec Burks provide serious punch among an otherwise underwhelming group.