GAME: Memphis at Minnesota
TIME: 7:00 PM CST
RECORDS: Memphis (2-3), Minnesota (2-3)
Expected Starting Lineups:
Memphis: Mike Conley, Tony Allen, Rudy Gay, Dante Cunningham, Marc Gasol
Minnesota: Luke Ridnour, Wes Johnson, Michael Beasley, Kevin Love, Darko Milicic
While both teams are playing their 3rd game in four nights, Memphis is playing their first back to back series of the lockout shortened season. Coming off a nice win after an embarrassing loss at Chicago, the Grizzlies will attempt to win their first road game of the season in their first road game where it isn’t the home team’s season opener. Memphis dominated the Kings in the second half of their game Tuesday night including an impressive 72 paint points despite Zach Randolph missing the game due to a knee contusion. The Grizzlies were able to welcome back Mike Conley in the game and his 14 points, 7 assists and 4 steals helped energize the Grizzlies to tie their highest scoring output of the season. Memphis now 2-0 when scoring 100 points and 0-3 when failing to reach the century mark.
Minnesota has been one of the pleasant surprises in the NBA this season. New Head Coach Rick Adelman has been changing the culture in Minnesota and has the team on a two game win streak having defeated Dallas and San Antonio and has yet to lose (or play a road game) in 2012. Their three losses to open the season were by a combined 9 points, losing to Oklahoma City by four, at Milwaukee by 3 and at home against Miami by 2. It actually took an incredible shot by Dwayne Wade at the buzzer to defeat the TWolves. Minnesota is not a team to take lightly anymore.
The TWolves Rookie sensation Ricky Rubio has been especially effective averaging 8.8 points and 64 assists despite not starting. Rubio is surprising everyone with his shooting percentages hitting nearly 52% of his field goal attempts and 50% from beyond the arc. If Rubio is the new star, the TWolves are still Kevin Love’s team. Love has continues the impressive numbers he put up last season averaging 25.4 points (5th in the league) and 15.2 rebounds (2nd in the league). Love will be particularly difficult to stop with Zach Randolph likely missing the game while he recovers from his knee contusion. Michael Beasley, a former 2nd pick in the draft, and Wes Johnson also are contributing for the extremely young TWolves. Former Grizzlies center Darko Milicic mans the middle for the TWolves.
This is the 4th game in Minnesota’s season long 5 game home stand. Minnesota leads the league in fourth quarter opponents shooting percentage allowing opponents to only average 29% shooting in the final stanza. This is something that has to trouble the Grizzlies who’s bench is depleted with Zach Randolph, Xavier Henry, Darrell Arthur out right now. Minnesota is among the league leaders in defensive 3 point shooting percentage but that isn’t likely to be a major issue against the Grizzlies who lead the league in fewest 3 point shots made and attempted. The Grizzlies will attempt to pound the ball inside even without Zach Randolph as the 72 paint points attest to against New Orleans.
The main issue in this game is whether the injury depleted Grizzlies can hold on against the extremely deep Minnesota. The TWolves bring Rubio, Wayne Ellington, Anthony Tolliver, Derrick Williams and Anthony Randolph off the bench and all five of these players scored in double figures in the TWolves upset over San Antonio in their last game. Memphis’ bench will counter with rookie Jeremy Pargo, O J Mayo, 2nd year man Quincy Pondexter, Josh Davis, Sam Young and little else outside of Josh Selby who’s seen his minutes curtailed with Conley’s return. Both Mayo and Young had their season best games of the season against Sacramento however.