Who: Memphis Grizzlies at Brooklyn Nets
When: 6:00 PM CST
Where: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, New York
Records: Memphis (36-18), Brooklyn (33-23)
Media: ESPN, 92.9 FM, 680 AM
Forums: 3 Shades of Blue, Grizzlies Message Board
Memphis is on a winning streak having won 5 games in a row. However, this is the first real test during the run. The five previous opponents have all been teams the Grizzlies were expected to defeat and not all the wins were that convincing including Friday nights less than impressive 88-82 victory over a depleted Orlando team. The Grizzlies are hovering close to the 3rd place in the Western Conference which would give them a more favorable matchup in the playoffs but Denver is still lurking right behind them as well. It appears the lineup shakeout is complete since the trade with Quincy Pondexter taking the first perimeter player role off the bench and Darrell Arthur splitting the big man needs with Ed Davis. The Grizzlies can go 10 deep but Hollins feels more comfortable playing 8.
Brooklyn has been a team of streaks this season. The Nets opened with an 11-4 mark but then went 3-1o and fired their head coach Avery Johnson. The Nets then reeled off 9 wins in their next 10 games before falling into mid-season doldrums going 8-8 in the last 16 games. This is the 2nd game of the Southwest portion of the schedule having played Houston Friday night and facing New Orleans and Dallas in their next two games. This stretch should tell Brooklyn where they really stand heading into the playoffs. The relatively easy Eastern Conference can fool poor teams into thinking they are more than they are. With their wounded backcourt and fractured bench it will be a tough test for Brooklyn.
Expected Starting Lineups:
Mike Conley vs Deron Williams
Mike Conley has been asked to pick up a portion of the scoring slack on the revamped roster and has responded well. In February Conley has averaged 15.4 PPG on 45.1 FG% while dishing out 6.8 APG. More important than the absolute numbers has been the timing of his scoring. Deron Williams knows a thing or two about making timely shots. Williams however has been dealing with pain in both ankles that required cortisone shots earlier in the week. He says only time will completely heal his pain but now is not the time to rest. The pain is clearly affecting Williams shooting this month (38.4%). Add to that Conley’s speed and Williams will have his hands full.
Tony Allen vs Joe Johnson
Joe Johnson is the closer for the Nets and a good one at that having hit numerous game winners. The problem is Johnson is facing the best perimeter defender in the league and is not 100%. A badly bruised left heel is to blame but JJ is questionable for the game after missing Friday’s night. If Johnson isn’t 100% then the Nets will lose one of their major pieces. C J Watson filled in for Johnson in the last game and played 40 minutes in the loss to Houston. Allen has become one of the most efficient backcourt scorers in the league in February hitting 57.5% of his shots in February while boosting his scoring to 11.1 PPG. Still Allen’s role is to contain scoring from the perimeter. After logging heavy minutes in 3 of the last 4 games this could be a night of rest for Allen.
Tayshaun Prince vs Gerald Wallace
Gerald Wallace will be expected to pick up the scoring load with Williams and Johnson ailing but that isn’t a strength of Wallace’s game. Wallace is more akin to Tony Allen in that regard. Known for his defense with a slashing offensive style that finishes at the rim, Wallace is not very effective in the half court. He is a good passer however. Prince has been gradually working his way into the offense for the Grizzlies. Not nearly the offensive threat of Rudy Gay, Prince chooses his spots on offense but is good at keeping the ball moving and forcing defenses to respect where he is on the court. His prime is behind him however and Wallace’s is too physical and fast to contain all night.
Zach Randolph vs Reggie Evans
Reggie Evans is a pain in the Grizzlies side. He always has been. Evans is extremely limited on the court with no offensive game to speak of. That is until he plays Memphis. Evans averages 3.6 PPG this season and for his career has averaged only 4.0 but in the first matchup against the Grizzlies he had 11 points on 71% FG shooting. However Evans isn’t expected to score. He gets paid to rebound and is one of only 3 players in the league who has grabbed 20 or more rebounds in a game this season. Randolph may be second in the league in rebounds but he will have his hands full against Evans. It’s a classic matchup where each players strengths are cancelled out by the other. Evans is at home but Randolph won’t be overlooking him this time. A tie goes to the home team in this matchup
Marc Gasol vs Brook Lopez
In the first matchup Marc Gasol was playing like he was upset to be left off the All-Star game lineup. With Lopez having made the team Gasol put on an exhibition of what he can do when motivated scoring 20 and grabbing 9 boards. Lopez will likely be looking for a bit of redemption in the rematch. Lopez is one of the best offensive centers in the league and Gasol one of the better team defenders. Neither player is as strong a rebounder as people expect. Gasol is the superior passer however which gives the Grizzlies offense extra firepower. With Brooklyn’s backcourt limping Lopez will be the focal point of the attack. Gasol will be part of the team approach.
C J Watson, the Former Tennessee Vol, is the main fireplug off Brooklyn’s bench but likely will be starting in place of Joe Johnson tonight. That is not good for Brooklyn if he does again. Outside of Watson the Nets have a plethora of PFs and not much else. Marshon Brooks has shown good perimeter scoring ability but defensively leaves a lot to be desired. Mizra Teletovic. Kris Humphries and Andray Blatche have all had their moments but overall are not that strong. Jerry Stackhouse is injured meaning Keith Bogans is the only backcourt player available. Memphis bench has finally settled down after the trades and is starting to look better than the original cast. Quincy Pondexter’s return helps solidify the perimeter position and gives the Grizzlies better backup SG when Conley has to rest. Ed Davis is showing his potential with some solid games. Darrell Arthur is still a big time defensive aid off the bench with a nice mid range jumper. The key to the bench is Jerryd Bayless. When he is on the team’s offense clicks as well.