Who: Memphis Grizzlies vs Washington Wizards
When: Friday, February 1st, 7:00 PM CST
Where: FedEx Forum, Memphis, TN
Records: Memphis (29-16), Washington (11-33)
Media: SportSouth, 92.9 FM, 680 AM
Forums: 3 Shades of Blue, Grizzlies Message Board
Memphis‘s the first game of the post-Rudy Gay era didn’t quite go as well as one would have hoped, but on the road against arguably the top team in the league under national spotlight, that had to have been expected on some level. Back at the Forum tonight the Grizzlies face a much more friendly opponent, but in times like these, who knows what’ll happen? What we do know is that until the newcomers join the team, there is a significant deficit in terms of length. Against the gangly Thunder, Zach Randolph saw his shot flying back the other way a total of 5 times, and the team as a whole struggled with the long arms of the opposition all night long. If there was anything good to be drawn from the game, it is the continued excellent play of Jerryd Bayless, more on which below.
Washington started the year on an incredibly bad foot, but since the return of John Wall they have not been the friendly opponent that I suggested them to be, earlier. Wall’s return has the team looking every bit like the group that fans expected them to be prior to the start of the season, as he illustrates just how important it is to have a steady hand at the helm. The Wizards went 6-3 in the first nine games with Wall back in the lineup, but have lost the following two contests this week. So the result may not be overwhelmingly impressive, but it’s still a distant head and shoulders above the top-lottery-odds bottom feeder impression that they left with their 4-28 start. They’ve surprised the Thunder and Heat this season with victories, as proof that you can’t sleep on anybody in the NBA.
Expected Starting Lineups:
Mike Conley vs John Wall:
*Matchup of the night* – Mike Conley is playing banged up, and it showed with his 0-5 start from the field, but he was able to get it going when Westbrook was taken out of the game last night. He managed to sink three three-pointers last night, but it took him a season high nine attempts from out there to do so. If I had to guess, he’s likely been asked to be more assertive in looking for his shot and forcing the issue on offense, with Rudy out of the picture. The bad news for Mike is that tonight’s matchup will be no picnic, as John Wall is faster and much bigger than he is. Wall is not as physical or talented in terms of getting his shot off as Westbrook, at this point, but with Mike still not a hundred percent, I worry about this one.
Jerryd Bayless vs Garrett Temple:
Some quick numbers here on the emergence of Jerryd Bayless. Extending the streak, Bayless has posted double digits in all five contests since the expansion of his role in the aftermath of the Ellington trade. In terms of raw numbers, let’s take a look at his overall scoring. In the 40 games combined, in which he played before said deal, he scored a total of 201 points. Comparatively, he has scored 79 in the last five. In other words, he has accounted for just about 28% of his total scoring on the year in the past five games (which make up only 11% of his games). This can’t be expected to continue to be the trend, as he’s been over 50% in each game, and is hoisting a steady diet of long twos, but the window is wide open for him to establish himself as a valuable performer for this team. Maybe it’s the headband. With Bradley Beal questionable for tonight’s contest with a wrist injury, Garrett Temple figures to step in, in his place. The 6’6 Temple has had sporadic play this year, starting in 7 contests, and racking up DNP: Coaches Decisions in others.
Tony Allen vs Martell Webster:
Tony Allen spent last night chasing around the likes of Kevin last night (Durant and Martin), so unless the crowd is really into this one, he might not have the juice to play up to true Grindfather speed tonight. Martell Webster is a true 3 with good size, a fantastic jumpshot, cool hair on occasion, and little else. His size advantage in the matchup against Allen might allow him to keep his legs fresh for the offensive end, which doesn’t bode well for the Grizzlies as he’s a 41% shooter from the arc.
Zach Randolph vs Nenê:
Zach Randolph had a nightmare of a first half in his first official game as the go-to-guy again for the Grizzlies, as the length of the Thunder was just too much to handle in the paint. He was, however, able to muster 19 rebounds on the night, mostly off his own misses, but an impressive number nonetheless. Nene has a considerable size advantage in his own right against Randolph, but is a different kind of monster, as he generally does not parlay his size into a whole lot of blocks, at 0.4 a game. The Wiz could conceivably put Okafor on Randolph, as Nene’s size should allow him to guard Marc, but I guess it depends on who they’re more intent on denying baskets.
Marc Gasol vs Emeka Okafor:
Emeka Okafor is hands down one of the smartest players and one of the most overlooked post defenders in the league. He’s a double-double threat on a nightly basis, who can block shots and play physical defense with the best of them. His slightly less than desirable size for the center position is alleviated to an extent playing alongside the 6’11, 250+ Nene. Neither has the refined offensive ability to truly impose their will as a tandem, but they’re good enough and physical enough to take the opposition off their game.
If the newbies are definitely not a go in this one, the Grizzlies will have nine guys dress for the second straight night. Clearly, this doesn’t bode well for the bodies of these guys. That’s the grind of the NBA though. Speaking of what it takes to be in the league, Chris Johnson had his first 0-fer game, showing that he is in fact human. Tony Wroten managed a solid line of 6 points, and 4 assists to no turnovers in only 9 minutes of action, but coupled it with 2 quick fouls. On the Wiz side, the fact that they have volume scorer and on/off playmaker, Jordan Crawford, might put their bench over ours to begin with, and when you add the versatile Trevor Ariza and the long Kevin Seraphin into the mix, there’s not much else to do but concede the fact that:
Truth About It
Update: Since all players have passed their physicals, Tayshaun Prince, Ed Davis, and Austin Daye will be in uniform and on the bench tonight.