GAME: Memphis Grizzlies at Utah Jazz
Time: 8:00 pm CST
PLACE: EnergySolutions Arena, Salt Lake City, UT
Records: Memphis (3-3), Utah (3-3)
Expected Starting Lineups:
Memphis – Mike Conley, Tony Allen, Rudy Gay, Dante Cunningham, Marc Gasol
Utah – Devin Harris, Raja Bell, Gordon Hayward, Paul Millsap, Al Jefferson
Memphis arrives at their second stop on a three-game road trip, having won two games in a row since having found out that Zach Randolph will be out 6-8 weeks with a torn MCL in his right knee. In the first game, the Grizzlies welcomed back Mike Conley, who showed no ill effects whatsoever. His stellar play was overshadowed by that of Sam Young, who was asked to play PF and did so quite admirably. The second game saw them take down the Timberwolves on the road, with Tony Allen having a perfect shooting night (8-8 FG, 4-4 FT) to complement Rudy Gay’s high level of play recently.
The Grizzlies have been winning by following a simple formula that sounds rather familiar to this blogologist: play defense, crash the boards, work inside-out on offense. Even without Z-Bo in the lineup, this is their recipe for success with the current roster.
Utah is also riding a two-game win streak, having benefited from their recent home stand by beating New Orleans and Milwaukee. The Jazz have been winning by basically daring teams to drive the lane on them, as they are leading the league in blocked shots, swatting 7.5 per game. Add in the nearly 9 steals they average per game, and it becomes obvious that their strategy is all about defense. (One stat of interest: Utah is the only team without a technical foul this season.) The Jazz join the Grizzlies in being one of the worst three-point shooting teams in the league, as well.
For Memphis to win, they will need to keep on keepin’ on, as the song goes. They need to continue to let Conley direct their offense, to crash the boards, to have active hands and feet on defense, and to make Marc Gasol the lynchpin of their offense, allowing everything to flow through him first when he’s on the floor. O.J. Mayo needs to keep shooting, Tony Allen needs to keep being everywhere at once, and Rudy Gay needs to keep playing like he’s one of the best at his position in the NBA.
In order for the Jazz to win, they are going to have to do all of the same things that Memphis wants to do — and do it better. They should look to grab every loose ball and rebound, and to get out on fast breaks whenever possible to score easy baskets in transition. They need Paul Millsap, Al Jefferson, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter to utilize their size advantage against everyone not named Gasol, although new acquisition Marreese Speights might have something to say about that. Most of all, they need to get a few outside shots to fall from Harris, C.J. Miles and/or Hayward to open up the interior for easy buckets.
Prediction: Utah squeaks out a win at home, where they are 3-0 this season.