Who: Memphis Grizzlies vs Sacramento Kings
When: Monday, January 7th, 9:00 PM CST
Where: Sleep Train Arena, Sacramento, CA
Records: Memphis (21-10), Sacramento (13-21)
Media: SportSouth, 92.9 FM, 680 AM
Discuss at: 3 Shades of Blue, Grizzlies Message Board
Memphis cannot afford to sleepwalk through this one at Sleep Train Arena, as they embark on the second night of a back-to-back, after some red-eye travel to Sacramento to face the Kings. Last night against the Suns, the Grizzlies kicked off their Pacific Division road trip with a solid win over the Suns. Generally these words would not be so inspiring, but if you’ve watched how they played the Suns in the first two meetings this season, you understand. It’s nice to pull one out over a team that always seems to have your number. There was great production all around for the Grizz. Z-bo went all Z-bo on them again, shooting 9-11 from the floor with his patented leaner in rhythym, and Rudy Gay went 50% from the floor for the first time since the Houston game. Additionally Marc Gasol chipped in a double-double and continued his defensive tear with 3 blocks and 2 steals. Most importantly, though, the guards had the facilitative game going as Mike and Jerryd combined for fifteen assists on the night. Lastly, to note for fun, Darrell sank another one from long distance.
Sacramento is not a team that is to be taken lightly. In the wake of the whole DeMarcus Cousins being DeMarcus Cousins and not getting along with Keith Smart issues, he has returned to the lineup with an absolute vengeance. Cousins has posted ridiculous numbers since re-joining the fold, putting up double doubles in all six games, including his first career triple-double, in the game against Boston, and most recently, two consecutive 11 of 18 shooting nights paired with 20 and 11 rebounds, respectively. In turn, the Kings have been able to turn things around to some degree, snagging four of said games from the opposition. If Cousins can continue to play at the level he is capable of, the Kings will continue to be a very tough out. Tyreke Evans had said that he’s targeting this game for his return, so stay tuned on that one as the Kings’ already cloudy guard rotation figures to get slightly more well, cloudy. The Kings just wrapped up a four game road trip that finished with a back-to-back that ended with them in Brooklyn, so they’re not quite as rested as the day off yesterday would suggest.
Expected Starting Lineups:
Mike Conley vs Isiah Thomas:
Isiah Thomas might be one of my favorite players in the league to watch. Picked with the very last selection of the 2011 NBA draft, the 5’9 Thomas has found his way back into the Kings’ starting lineup in the last six games. Aside from a 27 point explosion against the Celtics, he hasn’t done anything other-worldly in the stretch, but has been a steady enough hand at the helm to guide the Kings to some W’s. Mike still has not really been able to get his shooting stroke together, but did dish out 9 assists last night and continues to steal the ball like a man possessed.
Tony Allen vs Francisco Garcia:
It is unclear whether Francisco Garcia or Tyreke Evans will be starting in the two slot for the Kings in tonight’s matchup. Garcia can be a tenacious defender when he wants to, and could see a fair amount of time matched up on Rudy Gay. Outside of a Wayne Ellington-esque outburst against the Mavs which consisted of 7 three pointers, he has not done too much on the offensive end this year. Tyreke said he’ll be back tonight, and if he does play it is unsure whether he would start or come off the bench. Regardless, Tony Allen is not a friendly draw for your first game back from injury.
Rudy Gay vs John Salmons:
First thing first, I’ve got to say how about that picture for Salmons… one of the more interesting ESPN headshots I’ve seen to date. Okay, back on track. Salmons took on the starting gig early in the season and has been very sporadic in the role. His production has fluctuated from 3 points in 28 minutes of play to 23 in 32, and just about everywhere in between. Rudy is far more consistent than that, but has yet to string together consecutive games shooting at or over 50% shooting this season. He will probably see plenty of time with the feisty Garcia on him, which doesn’t help his chances of doing so tonight.
Zach Randolph vs Jason Thompson:
As stated earlier, Z-bo was the man last night. Jason Thompson is a big, long guy, which could usually spell some trouble for Randolph, but he doesn’t always bring it on the defensive end of the floor. Thompson is a surprisingly skilled scorer, so don’t sleep on him on that end, but I’d be surprised if Zach doesn’t outweigh his production by the night’s end.
Marc Gasol vs DeMarcus Cousins:
*Matchup of the night* - Last time these teams met, which was in March of last season, it was borderline mean how downright abusive Cousins was to the Grizzlies frontline. Despite playing only 25 minutes due to fouling out, the damage was done with his 23 points, 2 blocks, and 4 steals. His sick combination of agility and size makes him an absolute terror for anobody to deal with, and when he is engaged on the defensive end as well, it’s hard to look good against him. Speaking of the defensive end, Marc has been taking care of business on that end of the floor this year. How he handles Cousins should be very interesting to see.
Man, the Kings have a ton of weapons off the bench. Their second unit has got it all. Aaron Brooks, Tyreke Evans (if he plays), and Jimmer Fredette are all viable options at either guard spot that can light up the scoreboard for 15 plus on any given night. Marcus Thornton isn’t expected to play, but if he was to, the same can be said for him. James Johnson and Travis Outlaw are long, versatile wing players, and Johnson can really D-up. In the post, rookie forward, Thomas Robinson is an athletic freak with a nose for the ball, and Chuck Hayes is an undersized but crafty beast on the defensive end and the boards. Somehow, the Kings have managed to get production to some extent out of all these guys this year. If there’s any silver lining for the Grizzlies, it’s that in the game of basketball you can only play 5 guys at a time, but I still don’t like the sheer number of capable fresh legs the Kings can throw out there against our likely to be tired group.