GAME: Memphis Grizzlies vs. Sacramento Kings
Time: 7:00 pm CST
PLACE: The FedEx Forum, Memphis, TN
Records: Memphis (1-3), Sacramento (2-3)
Expected Starting Lineups:
Memphis – Jeremy Pargo, Tony Allen, Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol
Sacramento – Tyreke Evans, Marcus Thornton, John Salmons, J.J. Hickson, Chuck Hayes
There’s no reason to dwell on the game against the Bulls on New Year’s Day, so we won’t. It sounds as it Zach Randolph’s knee injury wasn’t anything more serious than a sprain, so he might play in this game. Both Mike Conley and Xavier Henry were seen shooting before the game, so perhaps they’ll be back in the lineup sooner, rather than later. Let’s just move on from anything else that happened in that game.
Sacramento is coming off a win over New Orleans that was a close contest in the first half before the Kings opened it up in the third quarter, eventually pulling away for a 16 point win. Neither team shot the ball particularly well, but it was the Hornets inability to hit a single three-pointer in 15 attempts and their high number of turnovers (19) that allowed the Kings to achieve victory.
Of course, the story of the night had to do with a guy who not only did not play, but wasn’t even in the arena. Before the game, news broke that F/C DeMarcus Cousins had demanded a trade after being asked to not show up for the game. The questions and concerns about his attitude were present back when he was playing in college at Kentucky, so this wasn’t necessarily a shock to anyone. His issues with head coach Paul Westphal had apparently been coming to a head ever since the season started, so it will be interesting to see how this all plays out.
The Grizzlies need to win this game. I don’t mean they need it like a few NFL teams needed to win yesterday in order to make the playoffs…..because Denver and Cincinnati both lost and still made the postseason. I don’t mean they need it like I needed a beer or four just to finish that game against the Bulls on Sunday night either. But they need to win this game to accomplish a few things: To wash off the stink of that embarrassing performance against Chicago; to beat a team that they should beat; to get their season back on the right track.
Memphis was expected by many to be one of the better teams in the Western Conference this year. However, whether it was a hangover effect from the lengthy, lockout-plagued offseason or just a matter of them believing the hype being said about them by the pundits, they have looked like anything but a great team thus far. Other than the second half of the game against the Thunder and the commanding win over the Rockets, they have largely looked like a ragged bunch who don’t know how to play together. This will have to change before they find themselves in too big of a hole at the start of this short season. Getting O.J. Mayo going would be a big plus in righting the ship. It’s somewhat disheartening to see your best bench scorer look like he’s disinterested in scoring.
Sacramento has played somewhat unevenly as well this year, although they did not enter the season with high expectations. I’ll be honest — I can’t quite figure out what this team is supposed to be. They are loaded with wing players who can score in bunches, but obviously all of them cannot play at the same time. They have one of the most talented young big men in the league in DMC, but he’s not happy there at the moment. They have some solid role players, too. This team lacks an identity. It is somewhat reminiscent of what the Grizzlies looked like not too long ago. In Evans and Cousins, they have the kind of foundation pieces you need to have a successful team — but they need direction and discipline.
Sacramento will need to control the boards in this matchup, which is something they are capable of, given that they currently rank #2 in the NBA in offensive rebounding. They also need to continue to find ways to get to the line, another strength of theirs. They cannot allow the Grizzlies’ frontcourt players to get comfortable, which means that Chuck Hayes (considered by some to be one of the best defending big men in the league) will be a big key to their gameplan.
Prediction: Memphis wins semi-comfortably.