LOCATION: Prudential Center, Newark, NJ
MEDIA: Fox Sports South, Soul Classics 103.5 FM
TICKETS: StubHub, TICKETMASTER
Memphis(22-23) can finally pull their record back up to .500 with a win at New Jersey. It would be the first time the Grizzlies were at that level since November 8th, 2010. That is this season but it feels like years ago already. Memphis is also attempting to win their 10th road game of the season. Only 5 teams in the Western Conference have reached double figures in road wins so far this season. The Grizzlies three game winning streak has not been without fault but a win is a win in the NBA and they have won the last three games. Led by Zach Randolph and Rudy Gay, a win in this game would be the longest winning streak for the Grizzlies since they won4 games in a row last January.
New Jersey (13-32) is looking to reach the .500 mark as well. Of course they are just trying to have a .500 record in home games, a level reached by all but six NBA teams so far this season. New Jersey won on Monday night against the lowly Cleveland Cavaliers when Brook Lopez hooked in a shot with 1.8 seconds remaining but as has been said earlier, a win is a win. The Netshave actually been quite repsctable since the Melo rumors died down having won 3 out oftheir last four gameswith the onlyloss a 1 pt set back to Dallas. This is the last game of a season long five game home standfor New Jersey. New Jersey has a young core with Brook Lopez, Devin Harris, Travis Outlaw and Derick Favors all starting for the Nets.
Point Guards:Mike ConleyvsDevin Harris
Mike Conleyis one of those players who gives you a heart attack when he isn’t puttingyou to sleep. Conley has been struggling a lot lately with ball control issues. He will have to bemore careful with the ball in pressure situations for the Grizzlies to make the playoffs. However Conley does run the offense efficiently and only takes shots that need to be taken. Devin Harris is an exciting scorer who just doesn’t hit enough shots to be taken seriously. Heisshooting 43% from the field and 30% from the arc but that overstates his true shootingnumbers. When Harris is hot he can throw up a ton of points butwhen he’s not he throws up a ton of bricks. In the first meeting Conley clearly outplayed Harris.
Shooting Guards:Sam YoungvsStephen Graham
Stephen Graham has stepped in the starting lineup and provided the Nets with very little. He’s solid but unspectacular. Sounds a lot like Sam Young who is solid if unspectacular as well. Usually one forgets Young is even on the court outside of blown defensive assignments or forced shots. His minutes continue to dwindle and it seems only a matter of time before Tony Allen returns to the starting lineup. Stephen Graham is representative of how thin the Nets team is right now. Graham averages 5.5 ppg as a starter and plays 26 minutes a night. He’s not a great defender but his size does help him slow down opponents. This is a matchup that shouldn’t be mentioned because neither player is that good. Graham’s at home and plays more minutes so…
Advantage: New Jersey
Small Forwards:Rudy GayvsTravis Outlaw
Travis Outlaw loves to kill the Grizzlies with last second shots. Memphis has a player that’s killing teams with his last second shots. Outlaw is best suited for a back up role where he can get extended minutes when his game is on than starting every night. He struggles against bigger SF’s since he isn’t able to hold them out of the lane with his body. Rudy Gay hasn’t been on fire lately but he’s still been very good. The main difference this season from past year’s with Rudy has been his ability to contribute in ways other than scoring. When his shot is off he does other things rather than go into a funk over not scoring.
Power Forwards:Zach RandolphvsDerrick Favors
Derrick Favors is being given a cram course on playing in the NBA and this is going to be a very big test for him against Randolph. Randolph has a streak of 11 straight games of 15 pts and 10 boards, second longest in the NBA this season (Blake Griffin leads in that category with an 18 game streak that ended earlier this month). It would be great for a young team building for the future that they are giving Favors this opportunity to learn but then they talk about trading him for Carmello Anthony and it destroys whatever confidence the young man may have had left. Favors had only hit the 20 minute mark twice in January before the Nets ended the trade talks. Favors responded well with the extra minutes but the last two games have seen his playing time decrease again. Tonight is a big test for the young man.
Centers:Marc Gasolvs Brook Lopez
Brook Lopez is a scoring center. That’s a good thing because most centers aren’t capable of scoring in big bunches these days. However Brook Lopez isn’t a defensive center, a rebounding center or even a passing center. He’s strictly a scoring center. Marc Gasol isn’t capable of scoring as much as Brook Lopez but Marc Gasol is a better rebounder, passer and defensive player which is scary to admit. Gasol started the season slow after spraining his ankle but finally has started to produce at levels people expected of him all year.
Benches:Memphisvs New Jersey
New Jersey is still young off the bench but they are at least somewhat experienced. Former Lakers Sasha Vujajic and Jordan Farmar lead the way with journeyman Kris Humphries having his best season in the NBA. New Jersey’s bench in someways is better than their starters. Not all ways but some ways. Memphis’ bench has been strengthened dramatically with the return of Tony Allen. Darrell Arthur is becoming a great energy guy off the bench. O J Mayo is becoming the bench scorer the team needs so badly. Both teams benches are improved but the Nets are improved just a bit more.
Advantage: New Jersey