Expected Starting Lineups:
Memphis – Mike Conley, Tony Allen, Rudy Gay, Marreese Speights, Marc Gasol
New Orleans – Jarrett Jack, Marco Belinelli, DaJuan Summers, Jason Smith, Emeka Okefor
Memphis is coming off a huge emotional game defeating the Chicago Bulls, who had earlier defeated the Grizzlies by 40 points, on Martin Luther King Day and in front of a national TV audience. The Grizzlies reached .500 for the first time all season and despite still sitting in 9th place in the Western Conference are feeling very good about the team’s chances of making the playoffs for the second straight season.
Mike Conley led the Grizzlies on the court with 20 points, 8 assists, 7 rebounds and 4 steals and Rudy Gay continued his hot shooting as the Grizzlies ran up to a 27 point lead in the 3rd quarter before coasting home with a 16 point win. Most impressive may have been Mareesse Speights 16 pt and career high 12 rebounds. Speights has begun to fit in nicely with the Grizzlies front line and is making a statement that he may be more than just a journeyman player.
New Orleans has struggled this season dealing with the soap opera situation surrounding Chris Paul’s trade and then trying to create some team chemistry with two starters (Eric Gordon and Trevor Ariza) injured. Ariza could be back for this game and Gordon could be back before the end of the month but the Hornets now have the worst record in the Western Conference and one of the worst offenses in the league. One has to wonder how much longer the team will delay playing their younger players to get them some experience.
New Orleans held their own against Portland Monday in the first half but a strong showing by LeMarcus Aldridge in the 2nd half helped the Blazers pull away handing New Orleans their 6th consecutive home loss and their 4th consecutive loss overall. Compounding the injury situation for New Orleans has been the disappointing play of both Carl Landry and Chris Kaman, who was benched in favor of Jason Smith in the last game.
The Grizzlies need to guard against a letdown after the emotional win against a Hornets team that is desperate not only to win a game but to reward their loyal fans with something to feel good about. If Conley, Rudy and Gasol continue to play to the high level of expectations and Speights continues to draw fouls and attack the rim the Grizzlies should defeat the Hornets but New Orleans is scrappy and won’t just concede the game to the Grizzlies.
Prediction: Grizzlies win a tight game.