LOCATION: FedEx Forum, Memphis, TN
MEDIA: Fox Sports South, Soul Classics 103.5 FM
TICKETS: StubHub, TICKETMASTER
Memphis(23-24)returns home to sunny Memphis after leaving snowy Philadelphia in anything but a sunny mood, charging back from 20 points behind in the 3rd quarter to win the game 99-94. Zach Randolph continued his double-double string with 22 pts and 12 rebounds. Individual games can produce strange stat lines but Marc Gasol having more assists than rebounds and Mike Conley having more rebounds than assists was particularly odd. No rest for the weary as the Grizzlies turn around tonight to play a Washington team desperate for their first road win.
Washington (13-32) is 1-5 in their last five games and has still not won a road game all season. Playing three games in four days against the Nuggets, Thunder and now Grizzlies doesn’t look promising for the Wizards either. The Wizards gave one of their best road efforts of the season last night in OKC losing to the Thunder in OT. Catching the Grizzlies on a back to back road trip and with no O J Mayo has to give the Wizards some hope they can get their first road win of the season after beating the Grizzlies alreadyat homewhich makes them a dangerous team for the immature Grizzlies to face. The Wizards are led by John Wall but have weapons outside of Wall in Nick Young and Rashard Lewis. JaVale McGee provides the defense in the middle. If Kirk Hinrich can go the Wizards will be that much more dangerous.
Point Guards:Mike ConleyvsJohn Wall
John Wall started off looking like a real competitor for rookie of the year and possibly an all-star for the WashingtonWizards. Thattalk dieddown somewhat after a couple of injuries and Blake Griffin’s start. However don’t think that means Wall hasn’t played well. His 15.1 ppg, 9.3 apg and 1.8 spg are allexcellent numbers. Wall is bigger, stronger and plays faster thanConley. Mike Conley is averaging 13.2 ppg, 6.6 apg and 1.7 spg so he’s not playing too bad either. IN fact according to some metrics Conley is actually outplayingWall this season despite fewer points, assists and steals. Conley has seemingly overcome the hand injury that bothered him this month and over the lastfive games has averaged 15.2 ppg but his assist and steal numbers have continued to slide.
Shooting Guards:Sam YoungvsNick Young
There is nothing exciting or remarkable about Sam Young’s play with the Grizzlies. His scoring hasn’t improved despite moving into the starting rotation and getting regular minutes. His rebounding is non-existent. He doesn’t pass well. He’s not even a defensive stopper. So why is this guy in the starting lineup? Because Mayo’s suspended, Allen is working his way back into shape, Xavier Henry is hiding behind a sore knee issue and there is no one else capable. Also the team hasn’t performed poorly overall since Young became a starter. Nick Young is second on the Wizards in scoring. That is pretty surprising since Rashard Lewis and Andray Blatche are on the team. Young would be leading the team but Gilbert Arenas’s statsstill count this season. Young is becoming a pretty consistent scorerhaving reached 20 pts in four of the last fivegames. He also rebounds well averaging 4.8 rpg over the same timespan.Don’t be surprised if Younghas a short leash tonight even with Mayo out.
Small Forwards:Rudy GayvsRashard Lewis
What’s happened to Rashard Lewis? The former big time signee of the Orlando Magic is averaging a mere 12.9 ppg and only 5.5 rpg this season. Heading into Denver Lewishad beenplaying rather well and people thought he might be shaking the cobwebs off after the shock of the trade that landed him with the Wizards. However the 8 pt effort on only 3-6 shooting dispelled that notion somewhat. Rudy Gay has no such confidence issues right now. The Grizzlies star has been on a hot streak of late scoring more than 20 pts in four of the last five games. Rudy is rebounding well for him at 6.4 a game and his 3.6 apg is very high. The team is going to be leaning heavily on Gay evn more now that Mayo is out for four games and that is taking into account Rudy has averaged 40.6 mpg already this season. Historically Rudy has matched up well with Lewis and Rudy has been more effective this season.
Power Forwards:Zach RandolphvsAndray Blatche
Andray Blatche was supposed to be the next Kevin Garnett but after 6 years in the leaguehe’syet toshow he deserves such praise. Coming straight out of high school to the NBA, Blatche struggled with maturity issues and decision making problems including getting shot in an apparent carjackingas he was returning tohis home at 6:30 in the morning.The gunshot wasn’t serious (although his mother said the bullet missed his heart by about an inch) and Blatche has recovered completely. Blatche’s problems stem more from consistent effort than lack of talent. When motivated he can contribute in all catagories. Motivation is not a problem for Zach Randolph. Z–Bo is working on a streak unmatched in Grizzlies franchise history with 17 consectuivegames of at least15 points and 10 rebounds.
Centers:Marc Gasolvs JaVale McGee
JaVale McGee was the darling of the USA National team camp this summer. A late invite due to injuries to other players McGee provided size needed on the roster and played well until being one of the last two players cut from the team. McGee hasn’t been tearing up the league this season but he hasn’t been terrible either. He averages 9.3 ppg and 8.0 rpg and swats over 2.5 shots a night. Marc Gasolmade the Spanish team thatfailed to wina medal in Turkey. Gasol was primed to start the season hot untilspraining his ankle right before the startof the season. This hampered Gasol for a long time but is not hampering him now. Over his last five games Gasol is averaging 13.8 ppg and 8.2 rpg. Often overlooked with Gasol is his excellent passing as he is averaging 3.2 apg over that time frame.
Washington and Memphisand Memphis have something in common. Poor bench play highlighted by the lossofa prime playmaking combo guard. Whichever team overcomes theirbench play best will likely win the game. Memphis’ bench has Darrell Arthurand Tony Allen as the primary scorers but expect Greivis Vasquezto help out in that area as much as possible. Hasheem Thabeet will need to start playing long enough to give Gasol at least token rest too. Thabeet had a decent 11 minutes of action in Philly with 2 pts, 4 rebounds, 2 steals and a block. Yi Jianlian has never lived up to hispre-draft hype. Al Thornton has disappeared in Washington. MustafaShakur hasbeen making the most of his opportunitywith Washington but the career minor league point guard isn’t a serious threat on the court and is working on the end of his first 10 day contract.Washington’s bench has experience however and a number of players who have proven they belong in the NBA. Hinrich likely will play in this game also.