Who: Memphis Grizzlies vs Golden State Warriors
When: Wednesday, January 9, 9:30 PM CST
Where: Oracle Arena, Oakland, California
Records: Memphis (22-10), Golden State (21-10)
Media: Sportsouth, NBA League Pass, 92.9 FM, 680 AM
Forums: 3 Shades of Blue, Grizzlies Message Board
Memphis comes back to the Bay area in a much better shape than they were just a couple of weeks ago. Against Sacramento the Grizzlies set season highs in points scored and margin of victory behind some incredible shooting by Wayne Ellington. To get past the Warriors the Grizzlies will likely need to attack the paint more than the perimeter. Most importantly the Grizzlies will need to focus on rebounding. Control of the boards will be vital as Golden State has snuck up on teams with their rebounding prowess, especially on the defensive end, this season. The Grizzlies bench has to continue to attack as well. Golden State goes small off the bench and that should give Speights and Arthur an advantage.
Golden State is in the middle of the playoff hunt just half a game behind the Grizzlies for fourth place in the Western Conference. The main reason has been a dramatic increase in rebounding. The Warriors lead the league in defensive rebounding and 5th in total rebounds. Defense has also improved with the Warriors now 10th in the league in defensive efficiency. These are not the same old Golden State Warriors. Structured offense, tough defense and rebounding means the Warriors are much more in common with the present day Grizzlies and Spurs teams than their past ones. The Warriors are a good scoring team that now has learned to play defense as well. That plus a relatively easy schedule playing mostly Eastern Conference teams has helped propel the Warriors up in the standings.
Expected Starting Lineups:
Mike Conley vs Stephen Curry
To no one’s surprise Steph Curry leads the Warriors in scoring. Healthy for the first time in years and no longer paired with an undersized backcourt mate Curry has developed into a true leader on the team. His 45% shooting from the arc is as deadly as ever and better than his overall percentage (43.5%). Curry isn’t a bad passer either averaging 6.5 APG. Mike Conley is not shooting as well as he did in November but he isn’t shooting as poorly as he was in December either. Conley’s control of the team and is getting the offense rolling again even if his personal numbers aren’t revealing that. Defensively Conley spearheads the Grizzlies with his steals. Curry has never been known as a great defensive player but won’t have too much in this matchup.
Advantage: Golden State
Tony Allen vs Klay Thompson
Klay Thompson was a shock last season as a rookie. This season teams know he can hit from anywhere but struggles getting of his shot under pressure. His FG% is down from 43% as a rookie to 40% as a Sophomore. His increased scoring has much more to do with increased playing time as effectiveness. Tony Allen is the premier defensive SG in the league and has suddenly found discipline on the offensive end as well. Tony is averaging 10 PPG in January on 44.1% shooting, mostly on drives to the basket rather than 15 ft jumpers as the shot clock runs down. Allen’s minutes have been increasing with Quincy’s injury which is dangerous for a man with previous knee injuries.
Rudy Gay vs Harrison Barnes
Rudy Gay is being mentioned around the internet as on the trade block. It may be affecting his play on the court but so could the reality that he lost someone close to him just a week ago. Rudy’s shooting 39.1% from the field since his Grandmother passed and his scoring in January is down to 16.5 PPG. Barnes has started almost every game as a rookie and is finally seeming to grasp the game. His averages are up across the board in January hitting 45% of his FG attempts and raising his scoring to 12 PPG. The difference is Rudy knows how to play defense and Barnes isn’t a long ball threat. The question is will the old Rudy show up or not. If he does then the Grizzlies will likely have a good showing. If not things could be difficult.
Zach Randolph vs David Lee
Lee is averaging 19.9 PPG and 10.9 RPG while hitting 53% of his FG attempts. Lee is the key to the Warriors rebounding. Neutralizing him won’t be easy but it can be done with the Grizzlies size inside. Against the Clippers Lee was held to just 10 points and 5 rebounds and the Grizzlies bigs are better defensively. Zach Randolph is coming off one of his best defensive efforts of the season shutting down DeMarcus Cousins who had been tearing up the league previous to that game. Randolph’s scoring is down in January (14.7 PPG down from 20.2) as are his rebounds (7.7 RPG down from 12.0)) but so far that hasn’t been a problem for Randolph. The team is moving the ball and winning games again and that seems to be enough for the Grizzlies star.
Marc Gasol vs Festus Ezeli
Golden State isn’t the free wheeling offensive juggernaut of years past but that doesn’t mean the Warriors have found a center. Ezeli averages fewer than 17 minutes most nights and is neither an efficient scorer nor a powerful rebounder. He does average over a block a game in short work however. Gasol was frustratingly passive for most of December but is returned to his more aggressive play from early in the season. Gasol scored 21 points in the first meeting and it is likely he will see his number called a lot in the rematch as well. Gasol’s major work has been on the defensive end where he averages nearly 2 blocks a game and calls out the assignments for the rest of the team. The Grizzlies lead the league in defensive efficiency because of Gasol’s leadership in the middle.
Memphis’ offensive resurgence has as much to do with the bench as the starters. Only Allen has seen a noticeable increase in scoring from the starters in January. However Mo Speights, Darrell Arthur, Jerryd Bayless and especially Wayne Ellington are all surpassing their yearly numbers so far this month. Even seldom used Hamed Haddadi has made an impact off the bench. The Warriors have benefitted greatly from two additions to their bench. Jarrett Jack from New Orleans has brought calmness and intelligence to the backup PG position and Carl Landry has brought toughness and hustle under the basket. Landry is having his best scoring season since 2009-10 and is averaging a career high 6.5 RPG in just 25 minutes a night. Jack is averaging 12.2 PPG and 5 APG in just over 27 minutes spearheading the team’s attack in a small ball 3 guard attack. Rookie Draymond Green and veteran Richard Jefferson soak up most of the remaining time.
Advantage: Golden State