Who: Memphis Grizzlies vs San Antonio Spurs
When: Friday, January 11th, 7:00 PM CST
Where: FedEx Forum, Memphis, TN
Records: Memphis (23-10), San Antonio (28-10)
Media: SportSouth, 92.9 FM, 680 AM
Discuss at: 3 Shades of Blue, Grizzlies Message Board
Memphis makes a much needed return to the FedEx Forum, as they make it back from the three-game Pacific Division trip in their baby blue alternates unscathed. They dispatched usual enemies in Phoenix, made quick work of a lesser opponent, mounting a Wayne Ellington aerial assault in Sac-town, and took care of business closing out a close one in Oakland. Things are clicking for the Grizzlies. Tony Allen is making his layups (save a few), the bench is making up the difference in the absence of Quincy Pondexter, and the Grizzlies’ defense is doin’ work. On the road trip, they held all three opponents below 90 points, dropping the points allowed average to a league best 89.1 per game. In fact, the Grizzlies have held the opposition below 90 for seven straight contests. It’s time to hang up those baby-blues, and hop into the white jerseys at the Grindhouse, as they’re going to need more of that D tonight against an opponent that is 3rd in the league in points per game so far. Also, it would be nice to set the tone with a W, as we’re set to play them again next Wednesday in San Antonio.
San Antonio is not quite the homecoming gift of an opponent that you would like to receive coming off a road trip. They’re a perennial power, doing what they do best: ravaging the opposition in the regular season as they’re matched by only the Clippers with a league best 28 wins. Not to mention, they’ve got a chip on her shoulder from what the Grizz did to them in the playoffs two years ago. The Grizz are winless against San Antonio ever since that series (o-5 for those counting). When these two teams last squared off, I sat at a bar in NYC with a bunch of rabid Grizzlies fans and Chris Wallace, in a fit of rage and disappointment as the Grizz let a 13 point lead on the division rival into the 4th quarter whither away to an even score, sending the game into overtime. From there, continued stagnation and sloppy passing on the Grizzlies part sealed a San Antonio victory. The Spurs come into this one at 3rd place in the league in assisted baskets, so if the Grizz can disrupt the passing lanes and flow of the offense, it could help greatly in taking them off their game.
Expected Starting Lineups:
Mike Conley vs Tony Parker:
Mike Conley played his heart out guarding Stephen Curry in the last game, and a travel day back to Memphis is hardly the type of rest that he could use heading into a matchup with Tony Parker. Parker has just been one of those guys that has had Conley’s number throughout his career. He’s a quiet possibility as a hall of famer, who typically makes good decisions with the ball as the initiator of the Spurs offense, and gets to into the lane at will. He’s having another fantastic season so far, averaging 19.2 points per game while upping his field goal percentage to over 50%.
Advantage: San Antonio
Tony Allen vs Danny Green:
Happy birthday to the Grindfather, as he turns 31 years young, today! Tony Allen was a missing link in the last one against San Antonio, as he was out nursing a groin injury. Danny Green is a good player who can get hot from the arc, but was a complete non-factor in the last contest. If he couldn’t get it going with Wayne Ellington on him, I like Tony’s chances to keep him in check. However, while I’m keeping this section strictly as starter matchups, it should really be Tony Allen vs Manu Ginobili, which I’m not nearly as optimistic about. I expect Tony to be matched with Ginobili minute-for-minute once he enters the game. Tough birthday gift!
Rudy Gay vs Kawhi Leonard:
Kawhi Leonard is just one of those guys. We were missing Allen when we last played the Spurs, but just the same, they were missing Leonard against us. Like Allen, Leonard’s impact in the game cannot be measured in box score stats… well, the ones on his side, anyway. Looking back to last season, Rudy Gay shot a grand total of 32.9% from the field against the Spurs, with a whopping 14.3% from the land of plenty. Kawhi Leonard was largely the reason for this trend. He’s a Popovic guy to the tee.
Advantage: San Antonio
Zach Randolph vs Tim Duncan:
*Matchup of the night* – I love watching this matchup. Two juggernaut power forwards who’ve been nothing short of absolute forces in this league for 10+ seasons now. I can’t get enough of seeing big men like them work. Nowadays all the bigs coming out want to be high-flyers and jump shooters, but these guys can back you down and win it with the footwork inside. I love me some Zbo, but Duncan may very well be the best 4 of all-time. Zach dipping into hero mode arguably won us the series two years ago, but Duncan is bigger, more skilled, and a far better defensive player. Duncan never ages and went all “vintage Timmy,” going 11-17 from the floor for 27 last time, and chipped in 15 boards to top it off. With the Spurs starting Tiago Splitter at the 5, instead of Dejuan Blair, I actually expect these two to match up against each other more, which does not bode well for Zach.
Advantage: San Antonio
Marc Gasol vs Tiago Splitter:
Ever since David Robinson retired, the go-to for the Spurs has been to pair up a garbage man alongside Duncan. The current incarnation of such is the active and physical big man, Tiago Splitter. Marc Gasol and Splitter are familiar with playing one another, dating back to their days in the Euroleague. Splitter was at a time the more heralded prospect, but clearly their trajectories have gone in different directions. Not to say that Splitter isn’t a good player, because he is, but he’s not an all-star or cornerstone of his team.
San Antonio’s bench is just scary. When you’ve got Dejuan Blair, Matt Bonner, Nando de Colo, and Patty Mills logging “DNP: Coach’s Decision”s the way they did against Los Angeles, you know you’ve got some depth. Manu Ginobili is the definition of supersub, and Stephen Jackson is good enough to start on many teams. Gary Neal can hit a shot from anywhere on the court, and Boris Diaw is incredibly versatile, which is everything you could as for in a bench player. The Grizzlies bench is going to miss Pondexter in this one, as it’s really going to fall on Tony and Rudy to keep all four of Green, Ginobili, Leonard and Jackson in check, all of which are capable of going off for 20. Mike Conley logged 5 fouls in the last outing against Parker, so Jerryd Bayless might be needed to come up big. Lastly, the only advantage I can see for the Grizzlies, here, might be Darrell Arthur. The Spurs frontline is starved for athleticism, so I’m looking for Lionel to exploit that with a lot of DA, tonight.
Advantage: San Antonio
48 Minutes of Hell