Who: Memphis Grizzlies vs Golden State Warriors
When: 7:00 PM CST
Where: FedEx Forum, Memphis, TN
Records: Memphis (30-18), Golden State (30-19)
Media: TNT, 92.9 FM, 680 AM
Forums: 3 Shades of Blue, Grizzlies Message Board
Memphis is faced with a simple situation. Win or drop in the standings. Memphis is currently half a game ahead of Golden State and half a game behind Denver for the valuable 4th spot and subsequent home court advantage in the Western Conference. Surprisingly that is probably the last thing on the minds of most Grizz fans. Of far greater importance is the question of whether or not the Grizzlies have the heart to make the playoffs at all. The effort has been less than normal for the team ever since the Rudy Gay trade and honestly it wasn’t up to par prior to the trade as well. After the Grizzlies 14-3 start, the team has gone 16-15 including 1-3 since the trade of Rudy Gay. Memphis needs a win to sweep the season series with Golden State but the previous wins involved big games from Rudy Gay. Who will step up tonight against the Warriors?
Golden State has been one of the biggest surprises of the season and now, with the return of Andrew Bogut, finally have the interior game to match their outstanding perimeter game. The Warriors are putting together a real competitor to the rest of the Western Conference. David Lee was selected to the All-Star game but many Warrior fans feel that Steph Curry, the sweet shooting PG should have been included as well if not ahead of Lee. This game is in the middle of a very difficult stretch of games for the Warriors, probably their most difficult stretch of the season. The Warriors need this game not only to keep their momentum moving forward but to prevent a slide into the bottom feeders of the Western Conference playoff teams.
Expected Starting Lineups:
Mike Conley vs Stephen Curry
Mike Conley appeared to have a decent game against Atlanta until you see the offensive numbers put up by his counterpart. Conley can’t afford to allow Steph Curry to hit 7-10 shots because he will score 20 points in the process and Curry can put up 10 shots in a half. Possibly the best shooting PG in the league, Curry is not a great defender and that is where Conley must make him pay because no one is slowing down Curry for an entire game. Lately Conley appears to have rediscovered his shooting touch hitting 48% from the field in his last 10 games.
Advantage: Golden State
Tony Allen vs Klay Thompson
Tony is a great perimeter defender, possibly the best in the NBA but he does struggle with catch and shoot player and that in a nutshell describes Klay Thompson. Thompson loves to sit out on the 3 point line and fire away, taking nearly half of his attempts from the arc and hitting 39% of those attempts. Thompson is not a great defender but at 6-7 he is effective. Allen is picking up his scoring lately hitting 48% over the last 10 games but he is still an 8 point a game scorer. Thompson’s defensive liability won’t come into play as much. If Allen can contain his natural desire to cheat off his man to help in passing lanes it should be a clear win for Memphis but that is always a big if with Allen.
Tayshaun Prince vs Harrison Barnes
Harrison Barnes is having an excellent rookie season but he is still just a rookie and Tayshaun Prince is as experienced as they come. Prince’s lack of physicality however may prove a big disadvantage against Barnes. When the Grizzlies traded for Prince they never expected him to replace Gay’s 17 PPG but they did expect him to shoot a higher percentage than Gay’s 41% from the floor. Unfortunately they were half right so far. Barnes is in the dogs days of the NBA season but has picked up his scoring and FG% anyway. If Barnes can get out and run it could be a long night for Prince.
Advantage: Golden State
Zach Randolph vs David Lee
David Lee and Zach Randolph have both been selected to the All-Star game and both are deserving. In the previous matchups the Warriors big had nice games (15.0 PPG and 8.5 RPG) but that was without Andrew Bout next to him. With another legitimate big man next to him Lee is much more dangerous. Randolph has won the personal battles between the two however (17.0 PPG and 13 RPG) and that was while sharing the load with Rudy Gay. Without Gay, Randolph is expected to shoulder an even heavier load. If Randolph gets back to being the beast he can be down low then Lee will likely be moved off of Randolph and onto Gasol on defense. However Randolph hasn’t been that beast of late.
Marc Gasol vs Andrew Bogut
The battle of two physical bigs from outside the USA. Seems it wasn’t that long ago that foreign centers were considered too soft to play in the NBA but these two bigs are two of the more physical centers in the league today. Bogut has battled injuries for the last few years but may finally be putting them behind him. Over his last 1o games the Aussie as averaged 10.3 PPG and 7.3 RPG and he keeps improving. Gasol is improving as well since the trades. Gasol was always passive with Gay on team but has become more aggressive. Unfortunately that aggressiveness hasn’t translated into effectiveness yet. Gasol is hitting only 42.2% from the field in his last 5 games in reaching his 15.2 PPG and 8.4 RPG. Neither player see many bigs like them so it will be interesting to see who is better prepared for the battle. Giving Gasol the home court advantage.
Benches: Memphis vs Golden State
Neither Golden State nor Memphis look to their bench for big scoring. Jack and Bayless are combo guards who are counted on to score but also to facilitate. Unfortunately for the Warriors Jack may not be playing tonight with a sore shoulder. That is a huge loss for Golden State as Jack is a better playmaker than starting PG Curry. However the Warriors will have Grizz killer Carl Landry backing up their front line and he loves playing against Memphis. Landry is averaging 16.5 PPG against the Grizzlies but only 11.9 PPG against the rest of the league. There isn’t much else however for the Warriors. Memphis was supposed to have strengthened the bench with their move of Gay but so far that hasn’t been seen. Bayless has been incredible but Darrell Arthur has been terrible and that is being nice. Ed Davis and Austin Daye haven’t gotten comfortable yet and rookie Tony Wroten has been moved to the end of the bench for no apparent reason. The talent is there and maybe their second half performance against Atlanta is the first step in to showing the fans that.