Memphis(22-24) missed a great opportunity to climb back to .500 against New Jersey when a dominating first quarter was wiped out in a second half meltdown. It won’t be easy playing without O J Mayo. Mayo was suspended by the NBA for a violation of the league’s drug policy for taking an over-the-counter herbal remedy that contained dedehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA). This takes away the only proven scorer on the Memphis bench and raises questions about rookie Xavier Henry’s role after missing so much time with a sore knee.
Philadelphia(20-25) won at the Raptors Wednesday night for their third straight victory after beating the Phoenix Suns and Utah Jazz. The Sixers are playing their best basketball of the season. The Sixers are led by veteran PF Elton Brand and swing man Andre Iquodala but the bench has been producing big numbers over the streak. Philadelphia is trying for their first four game winning streak since their four game streak last season from Jan. 29 – Feb 4.
Jrue Holiday at 20 is what Mike Conley hopes to become one day. Holiday scores over 14 ppg, dishes out over 6.5 apg and has scored in double figures in 13 straight games. He’s very fast and uses that speed to get to the hoop and finish. In January Holiday has elevated his game even more in January as he’s hitting 47.1% from the field and 82% from the line. Conley is playing nice bt a far cry from the level of play he started the season playing. It seems Conley is only capable of making a major impact for about a third of the season before relapsing into the invisible point guard.
Shooting Guards: Sam YoungvsJodie Meeks
The argument that Mayo should be starting is over for the time being. The discussion on whether or not Young should be starting continues. Tony Allen is looking healthy again and has been the team’s best SG this season overall. Young brings little offense but does play decent defense. Jodie Meeks, the former Kentucky Wildcat, is averaging almost 10 ppg as a starter with the 76ers after a rather unremarkable start of his career. Meeks actually has a higher 3 pt FG% than overall FG% which is rare.
These two players know each other very well after playing together this summer on the USA National team’s World Championship team. Iquodala started and Rudy was the backup but higher scorer. Injuries have limited Iquodala this season only playing in 33 games. Iquodala is a decent scorer (14.1 ppg) but his true value is on the defensive end. Rudy Gay has improved his defense this season and remembers his rookie season when Iquodala hit a game winning shot over him and proceeded to tear off his jersey. Iquodala will be at a disadvantage defensively giving up 3 inches to the 6-9 Gay. It should be a fantastic battle Iquodala is a great defender but it is difficult to imagine a motivated Gay not being able to score. If that will be enough is the real question.
Elton Brand has taken two years to get back to the player he once was before tearing his achilles but he is back now as much as he ever will be. Brand may not be as dominating as he once was but he is still capable of putting up big games. Zach Randolph is mired in a little shooting slump having gone 16-46 in his last two games. Still Z-Bo is averaging a career best 13.1 rebounds a night and scoring right at 20 ppg. What is peculiar is that despite Randolph’s physical game he’s only been the line 5 times in the last two games.
Spencer hawes can only be described as disappointing since being traded from Sacramento in the deal for Samuel Dalembert. In just under 20 mpg Hawes has averaged only 6.5 ppg and 5.3 rpg. He has range out to the three point line which can spread a defense but he isn’t very good from there. Marc Gasol has been somewhat of a disappointment this season. Two games earlier however Gasol dominated a Milwaukee team weak in the middle. If Gasol can start strong Hawes shouldn’t last very long in this game.
If the Grizzlies have an achilles heal in this game this is where it is. Philadelphia’s bench is very hot and getting big production from a number of sources. Lou Williams is a lightning fast PG, Memphian Thaddeus Young has been playing up and down at the right times and #2 pick in this year’s draft, Evan Turner, is capable if a little young and Marreese Speights just set a season high in scoring with 24. Memphis’ bench has been up and down scoring, mostly down and with Mayo no longer leading the bench it’s unknown where that scoring will come from and if Xavier Henry will be inserted back into the rotation.