Who: Memphis Grizzlies vs Atlanta Hawks
When: Wednesday, February 6th, 6:30 PM CST
Where: Philips Arena, Atlanta, GA
Records: Memphis (30-17), Atlanta (26-21)
Media: SportSouth, 92.9 FM, 680 AM
Forums: 3 Shades of Blue, Grizzlies Message Board
Memphis is set to tip off against the Hawks for the second and final time this season. The last meeting sent the Grizzlies’ trajectory downhill, as it was the primary loss of their first losing streak of the season, after that scorching start. Since then, the landscape has changed drastically for the two parties. Last night, the Grizzlies blew a close one against somewhat arch-nemisis, the Phoenix Suns, in their second game since the yield of the Rudy Gay trade joined the team. The Grizz had a lead in the fourth, but a monster quarter from Goran Dragic foiled their attempts at victory. They hope to bounce back right away tonight, which sounds exhausting, but keep in mind that both teams are coming off of day one of a back-to-back and a night of travel.
Atlanta is in a similar state of limbo that the Grizzlies were prior to a week ago, as the trade of Rudy has seen Josh Smith again leapfrog his way to the forefront of trade rumors. They kicked off the year strong, rejuvenated after the Joe Johnson trade, but since have regressed back to the mean with typical Atlanta Hawk, above average, good, but not great production. They’re in the danger zone for teams on the outer fringes of contention, or in other words, where the Grizzlies do not want to end up. Last night they dropped a high scoring one against the Pacers. Both teams are going to be tired, but the Hawks will have their home crowd behind them. If they get some pre-game yoga in, the Grizzlies better look out!
Expected Starting Lineups:
Mike Conley vs Jeff Teague:
Jeff Teague and the Hawks did a number on Mike Conley the last time these two teams met, forcing him into 6 turnovers versus only three assists. Additionally, Teague has gone for 16+ points in 7 out of his past 10 contests, and has posted double digit assist numbers multiple times on the year. Last night he went off for 24 and 8. Mike has been largely back on track lately, but his efficiency will likely take a hit for a while as the team adjusts to life without having Rudy Gay as its bailout guy.
Tony Allen vs Deshawn Stevenson:
Deshawn Stevenson has filtered in and out of the Hawks’ starting lineup over the course of the year, and his minutes have fluctuated all over the map. As such, it’s been pretty difficult to gauge his production on the year. What we do know is that he’s a pretty good defender and a decent three point shooter, who has carved himself out a nice career as a role player. Tony Allen has been very effective and relatively controlled on the offensive end lately, which will be paramount with Rudy out of the picture.
Tayshaun Prince vs Kyle Korver:
The newly acquired Tayshaun Prince will be ever-valuable in matchups like these, where it will be the imperitive to stay glued to a knockdown three shooter. Korver is not a guy you want to let any space up against, and I trust that Tony and Tayshaun switching on the perimeter will be apt enough not to give him any.
Zach Randolph vs Josh Smith:
In the last meeting between these teams, Smith ended up playing the 3, where he abused Rudy Gay for the majority of the night. Heading into this one, Zaza Pachulia has missed some time with a sore achilles, which has slid Smith back into his familiar stretch four role. Smith vs. Randolph should be an interesting showdown, as neither really has the right tools to defend the other effectively. Smith is playing through persistent trade rumors, while maintaining a strong level of productivity. Zbo has been rebounding well, but has had a tough time getting his field goal percentage above water lately. Last night was an encouraging sign, but we’re going to have to see him string a few of them together.
Marc Gasol vs Al Horford:
Al Horford has been his typical Al Horford self, thus far this season. He’s averaging a near double double and posting a PER of over 18. Larry Drew has chosen to go big, starting Zaza Pachulia on occasion, allowing Horford to guard opposing fours, which are a much more favorable match for him. As mentioned earlier, Pachulia has missed the last few, so it’s uncertain whether or not he’ll be able to go for this one. If he is, Drew will likely give him the nod, to match up with the size of the Grizzlies’ frontline, but if not, Marc’s height could be more than Horford bargained for. Marc only stayed on the court for 23 minutes last night as he was neutralized by foul trouble, so he might be a bit more fresh and motivated tonight.
The Hawks’ bench took a catastrophic hit earlier this year when super-sub Lou Williams was lost to injury. Devin Harris has been dropped down to the bench to try and recoup some of his production, but he’s not likely to go for this one either, as he stayed behind when the team traveled to Indiana, nursing an ankle injury. By default, Tennesee native, John Jenkins might stand to fill in as the lead minute-guy off the bench tonight. Largely due to injuries, Jenkins has been seeing more minutes of late, and has produced on some level, but hasn’t had a break out game so to speak, since December. Additionally, sharpshooter Anthony Morrow has rejoined the picture, and the Reggie Evans-esque Ivan Johnson could be a force that bothers the Grizzlly bigs tonight. The reconstructed Grizzlies bench is a mixed bag at this point, but on paper stands to bring more to the table than the Hawks will. Specifically, Jerryd Bayless has been nothing short of phenomenal. He’s gone for double digit scoring in his last 7 games, eclipsing the 20 point mark in three of them, and pouring in a season high 29 on 73% shooting last night. Given his love for and tendency to shoot the long two, one has to question how long this will last, but for the time being, he’s given the Grizz an incredible lift.