LOCATION: FedEx Forum, Memphis
MEDIA: Fox Sports South, Soul Classics 103.5 FM
TICKETS: StubHub, TICKETMASTER
Memphisis playing some of their best basketball of the season with wins over the Lakers in Los Angeles and the Thunderin Memphis but all is not rosy in Grizz Country. A fight on the flight back from LA has put a cloud over what should be a happy time. Fights happen from time to time and this one probably shouldn’t have been reported but it has been. Mayo was the loser in the fight so his appearance will be under great scrutiny in this game, if he plays in the game that is as it was reported he also had “brochitis.” Tony Allenplayed a huge partin the Grizzlies win over OKC.
Utah has two wins over Memphis but neither win was what you would call convincing. Utah comes to town after getting thrashed on their home court by Atlanta. Utah had an excuse however as both Paul Milsaps and Mehmet Okur missed the game due to injury. Okur did not travel with the team to Memphis and Milsaps is listed as questionable for tonight’s game. Utah has been starting games slowly this season which is something that needs to be corrected. Utah overcame a string of double digit deficits in November but the strain from those slow starts seem to be taking their toll.
Point Guards:Mike Conleyvs Deron Williams
Williams is about as close as you can get to a one name star without being one. Somehow this transformed SG from Illinois has become the best PG in the league. His combination of speed, power and long range shooting makes him nearly impossible to stop one on one and if you think of doubling him the Jazz star will find the open man for an assist. Conley has been struggling scoring his hot start to the season but is getting his shooting touch back while proving to be a more effective floor general. Williams will likely be doubling down a lot in thisgame to help theinterior defense meaning Conleyneeds to hit his open shots when presented for the Grizzlies to succeed.
Shooting Guards:Tony Allen vsRaja Bell
Defense on Defense in this matchup. Allen has been playing his best basketball of the season in the last few games.The one exception was the last game in Utah when Tony played a mere 14 minutes and failed to score in that time. Of course Rudy Gay missed that game with the stomach flu and O J Mayo started instead. Allen is known more for his defense than his offense and that is where he will be hanging his hat in this game. Raja Bell is a deadly three point shooter who plays solid defense as well. However at 34 years of age he will struggle keeping up with the high energy Allen. However Allen’s energetic style is also his greatest weakness. The book on Allen is that he is a turnover waiting to happen on both sides of the court! However he has been curtailing that over-exuberance lately on the offensive end.
Small Forwards:Rudy GayvsAndrei Kirilenko
AK-47 was one of the best defensive forwards in the game a few years ago. Injuries and time have robbed him of some of his physical tools but the mind is a sharp as ever and if you aren’t careful the Russian Rifle will make you look foolish. Rudy has been making a lot of teams look foolish this season (not to mention a few national media types who criticized the Grizzlies for his new contract). Rudy’s effectiveness shooting the ball has been balanced for the first time with a defensive intensity that is diffficult for most players to overcome. When Rudy is focused on defensive he can be frightenly effective as the teams have discovered this season as Rudy has had career highs in blocks (6) and steals (5) in games this season.
Power Forwards:Zach RandolphvsFrancisco Elson
Elson was a stop gap starter replacing Paul Milsaps against Atlanta. He may be forced into that role again as Utah struggles to matchup with the Grizzlies big men otherwise but Elson did little to earn a second start. His one rebound and one foul in 18 minutes isn’t exactly turning heads after all. If Milsaps was able to go Randolph would have a small advantagebutif he is out this is the key matchup theGrizzlies will want to exploit on the inside.
Centers:Marc Gasolvs Al Jefferson
Jefferson is a nice big man in the Jazz lineup but it is becoming apparent he is no Carlos Boozer. That’s not to say he isn’t a solid player. He is and he is capable of putting up big numbers on any given night. However he isn’t as efficient as Boozer, doesn’t rebound as well as Boozer and doesn’t score as much as Boozer. That doesn’t mean he isn’t better than Gasol unfortunately. Marc is struggling this season and it is starting to effect his attitude apparently. Rumorswere leaked out that Gasol has leftthe FedEx Forum three straight times without talking to the media. We are looking into the veracity of these reports.
Memphis’ bench is going to be thin again if O J Mayo still has bronchitis (which is rumored to have made his eye swell shut but that can’t be confirmed at this time). Xavier Henry is still day to day but the team has assured 3 Shades of Blue that there is no structural damage. That’s not to say that he is nearly ready to play however. Hewore warm-ups on the road trip because he forgot to pack a suit not because he could play. Utah’s bench is likely going to be thin as well. Milsaps and Okur are big pieces to lose especially against a team like the Grizzlies who like to pound the ball inside. Utah will likely counter that attack with a small ball lineup of Watson and Price in the backcourtwith Gordon Heyward andCJ Miles in the frontcourt.