LOCATION:FedEx Forum, Memphis, TN
MEDIA:Fox Sports South,Soul Classics 103.5 FM
Memphis(32-27) managed to rebound from a poor effort against Denver’s depleted roster to take a road win at Minneapolis and thanks to Utah’s loss to Dallas. The Grizzlies made a move to help their depth by acquiring fan favorite Shane Battier from Houston and he should be in uniform for this game. The Grizzlies can pull to six games above .500 with a win and with the toughest 14 games of the season looming ahead of the team now is not the time to take a team lightly.
Sacramento(14-42) coming off their biggest win of the season at Orlando as the Kings overcame the loss of Tyreke Evans to pull off a 111-105 win failed to capitalize on the momentum in Charlotte losing 110-98. Tonight the Kings will be playing their 7th consecutive road game and also are dealing with rumors of the team being relocated next season to Anaheim. Still the Kings are a tough team to play as Orlando discovered Wednesday night and shouldn’t be taken lightly, something the Grizzlies have struggled with this season.
Beno Udrih has been rumored to be losing his PG job for two years now but somehow manages to remain in his job. The 28 yr old is averaging 13.5 ppg hitting 48.8% of his FG attempts in the process but his 4.4 apg is low for a point guard and he is an effective but not deadly outside shooter hitting 35% of 3 pt attempts. Since Evans went down however Udrih has taken charge with 10 and 13 assists in his last two games. Conley is shooting the ball with confidence from the perimeter but still not finishing at the rim well. Conley has a distinct speed advantage over Udrih but the Kings big men will make it difficult for Conley once he gets past his man. Udrih has logged major minutes in his last two games and, with this being a back to back for the Kings, fatigue could be the difference maker.
Shooting Guards: Tony AllenvsJermaine Taylor
Taylor has only played 20 games this season for the Kings and averaged only 13 mg but with Evans out is averaging 28 mpg a game including a season high 39 against Dallas. When Taylor is on he can really shoot the ball as his 9-12 including a 3 game against Orlando proved. He’s been hot lately too hitting 50% of his shots in the last five games. Allen is a defensive specialist who’s offense is predicated on his creating turnovers. That gives Allen a lot of opportunities too since he’s among the top 10 in the league in steals despite averaging fewer than 20 minutes a game this season. Taylor struggled against Stephen Jackson last night and tonight looks to be more of the same.
Casspi is the first Israeli citizen to play in the NBA and he deserves that honor. The 22 year old is full of energy but has struggled lately with his shot and disappeared on the boards averaing only 1.7 rpg over the last few games. Casspi is most effective when he isn’t shooting a lot which is peculiar in today’s game but he has an old school impact, making the kind of plays that don’t show up in the box score but motivate his team. Sam Young has responded will to be moved back to SF averaging 8 rebounds a game since taking over for Rudy. His offense has been effective if not exciting but he is the best dunker on the team after Rudy and should get some opportunities to get the crowd off their seats against a tired Sacramento team.
Zach Randolph has been sensational this season. So sensational that the Grizzlies moved one big contract and tried to trade another to make sure they can resign him. It’s imperative that they do since the Grizzlies are not the same team without him. If Z-Bo has a weakness it is playing against physical and tall PFs. That describes Jason Thompson to a tee. Thompson has struggled to find his spot in the lineup this season with Cousins and Dalembert but has appeared to win the job next to Cousins. Jason is not a strong offensive player but is a godd rebounder and defender. At 6-11 and 250 pounds Thompson won’t make it easy for Randolph but that isn’t to say Randolph won’t win the battle.
Centers:Marc Gasolvs DeMarcus Cousins
Just when you though this was going to be a completely homer interpretation comes the big match in the middle. DeMarcus Cousins has struggled at times this season with maturity as much as basketball but after some discipline from the Kings has blossomed of late. Averaging 15.4 ppg and 10.7 rpg in his last 10 games, Cousins seems ready to deliver on his promise. Marc Gasol needs a big season to earn a big paycheck this summer but an early season injury and possible fatigue from a full summer of basketball with the Spanish national team has made this season a disappointment so far. Is this just a season of struggles or has Gasol reached his peak as a player? At 25 years old the Grizzlies need to figure that out before signing him to a new contract this summer.
The Grizzlies bench took a huge step forward to respectability with the trade for Shane Battier. His experience and total team mentality should bring infectious energy to a group that has been maturing this season and is no longer considered a major weakness. O J Mayo is the question mark. After nearly being traded Thursday will the former 3rd overall pick in the draft come out and play hard or struggle with his emotions? Sacramento’s bench is led by Samuel Dalembert, a defensive big man who can be outstanding at times and disappear in others. Recently acquired Marcus Thornton is instant offense but no defense. Darnell Jackson, Pooh Jeter and former Grizz draft pick Donte Green complete the bench players.