LOCATION: Target Center, Minneapolis, MN
MEDIA: Fox Sports South, Soul Classics 103.5 FM
TICKETS: StubHub, TICKETMASTER
Memphis(31-27) had anugly game in Denver last night against a Nuggets team no one could figure out and now faces a team on paper that look weak but plays much tougher in person. The Grizzlies month (at least) without Rudy Gay started on aterrible note has to turn things around fast. The Grizzlies have lost to 4 of the 6 worst teams in each division. Minnesota would love to make it 5 of 6. Memphis is a team struggling to rise above mediocrity with a youth movement balanced with a few well placed veterans on paper but in reality the veterans (Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph, Tony Allen) have had a much larger impact on the team’s position than the youth movement which has been largely criticized. Sam Young, Darrell Arthur, Mike Conley and O J Mayo are theyoungsters that need to step up theirgamesnow with Rudy out. So far only Mayo has done this.
Minnesota (13-44) has struggled all season and decided the best way to shake off the troubles would be to trade their starting SG for Eddy Curry and Anthony Randolph. Curious decision on paper but Curry and Randolph are both expiring deals and Wesley Johnson was about to replace Brewer in the starting lineup. Like Memphis Minnesota is playing a back to back series after being in Milwaukee to face the Bucks last night. Minnesota is attempting to do what Memphis did a few years back by rebuilding with youth. The prefered lineup has 4 starters on rookie deals (Flynn, Johnson, Beasley and Love)with Darko Milicic in the middle. Minnesota is accumulating talent while accepting deals to free up more cap space creating a financial windfall for the team but also a ton of losses on the record. It is suispected that the Wolves are going to buy out recently acquired Center Eddy Curry also.
Point Guards:Mike ConleyvsLuke Ridnour
Luke Ridnour replaces Johnny Flynn in the starting lineup for the second consecutive night as Flynn recovers from hip surgery he had earlier in the summer. With Minnesota already short handed after trading Correy Brewer to New York. Ridnour is a smart PG with a silky smoove 3 pt shot but he was never that fast and just turned 30 this month costing him even more speed. Conley was burned repeatedly by Ty Lawson in Denver but did shoot the ball well. He will be less pressed to stay in front of Ridnour in this game.
Shooting Guards:Tony AllenvsWesley Johnson
No one expected this matchup at the beginning of the season. Tony Allen has become the most important person on the Grizzlies now that Rudy is out. His infectious energy has turned the Grizzlies from one of the worst defenses in the league to a better than average one and has provided a surprising knack at scoring too. Wesley Johnson was a player the Grizzlies front office coveted in the last draft but he never reached their draft spot. Johnson has been hot and cold this season but mostly cold lately shooting just 28.9% from the field in February. Johnson was thrust into the starting lineup with the trade of Corey Brewer but doesn’t look ready for that role yet.
Small Forwards:Sam YoungvsMichael Beasley
Beasley returns after missing 5 of the previous 6 games with a twisted ankle. The TWolves offense was terrible in his absence. He returned against Milwaukee and had a big shooting night scoring 21 points. At a reported 6-10″ Beasley will be a handful for any of the Grizzlies forwards to stop. However, Beasley is not known as a very determined defensive player which means Young should be able to match him if he plays aggressive, which is rarely a problem for Sam on the offensive end. Beasley has loved the move to Minnesota and wants to continue to make an impact.
Power Forwards:Zach RandolphvsKevin Love
Kevin Love has continued to reach double-doubles every night while Z-Bo has slowed down somewhat after his club record streak ended. Love was lucky to keep his streak going against Z-Bo the last time when he finished with 10 pts and 10 boards but in his lastten games Love has averaged nearly 19 pts and almost 15 boards a game. Z-Bo’s last 10 games has him averaging 18.9 ppg and 12.4 rpg. Basically we are looking at two players who live to rebound and play the game with passion. Love has never been able to perform well against Randolph however and coming off a disappointing effort in Denver, Z-Bo will likely want to show Love who really deserved to be in the all-star game.
Centers:Marc Gasolvs Darko Milicic
Gasol looked worse than ever in Denver Tuesday night which is most disappointing considering the team needed him to make a larger contribution with Gay out. His lack of energy was particularly disturbing considering he had the All-Star weekend off to rest and the game was so important in the Western Conference standings. His 2 rebounds were a season low and his four turnovers, one short of a season high, matched the total number of turnovers Gasol had in his last four games combined. Perhaps his upcoming free agency has Gasol concerned and thinking too much. Either way his 5.6 rpg over the last 10 games is not getting the job done. The Grizzlies can survive without Rudy Gay but Gasol has to be a major force in elevating his game for the team to succeed. Darko Milicic is still struggling. Over the last10 games he’sshooting the ball poorly (46% from the field), weak rebounding (4.3 rpg) and committing a slew of turnovers for a center (3.3 per game). Thiscould be a nice game to jump start Gasol going forward.
Memphis’ bench was outscored by a depleted Denver bench Tuesday night. Darrell Arthur finished with 10 points but struggled to get there. JWill and Vasquez’ slow feet were exposed by Ty Lawson, Xavier Henry looked lost at times and the Grizzlies were forced to play Hasheem Thabeet for 9 minutes. And those players actually had a positive +/- rating when on the court. O J Mayo proved he can still shoot the ball, which has been questioned at times this season, but he also wasa -9 +/- for the game, the only bench playerto finish with a negative rating in the game. Minnesota is hoping to have Anthony Randolph in uniform for the game but withoutbeing able to workout with the team it isn’t known how much of an impact he’ll have in thegame. Anthony Tolliver, Sebastian Telfair, Wayne Ellington and Martell Webster give the TWolves a deep if weak bench.
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