LOCATION: FedEx Forum, Memphis, TN
MEDIA: Fox Sports South, Soul Classics 103.5 FM
TICKETS: StubHub, TICKETMASTER
Memphis(41-33) has solidified their first non-losing season since 2006-07 and in the process locked up thier 4th best record in franchise history. The Grizzlies secured their successful season with a win over a semi-depleted Spurs roster. Now the Grizzlies next target is to secure a spot in the playoffs this year, something that Mike Heisley, majority owner of the Grizzlies, promised the fans this past fall. This Grizzlies team has brought a toughness never before seen in Grizzlies squads. An example of this is the fact that the Grizzlies have not lost to a team playing the second game of a back to back series all season.
Golden State (32-43) comes to Memphis on the 2nd game of a back to back series after playing Oklahoma City and Golden State has been struggling on the road all season as well. With only 9 wins all season the Warriors will be hard pressed to reach double figures in this game considering they are playing their 3rd game in 4 days and their 4th game in six days. The Warriors as usual have a high powered offense but are rated 29th in the league in defense.
Point Guards:Mike ConleyvsStephen Curry
Stephen Curry played on Team USA this past summer at the World Championships and like most of the other veterans has improved his play this season after the experience but not as much as others from that team. His 18.2 ppg is second on the team and he still is deadly from the perimeter however. Conley is having the best season of his career in assists, steals and points while not seeing a corresponding lowering of his shooting percentage. Most importantly Conley has been producing on the defensive end of the court and not just stealing the ball. Against Rondo, Rose and Parker in the last three games he held the trio to a combined 29.3% FG shooting.
Advantage: Golden State
Shooting Guards:Tony Allen vsMonta Ellis
Tony Allen has finally started to get national attention for his defense which also happens to correspond to his raising his scoring output as well. Funny how things work that way. Monta Ellis is having another impressive offensive season but his scoring act hasn’t travelled well. Ellis hits 48% of his shots at home but only 41% on the road. That will be interesting to watch as Ellis will be tired, on the road and playing against a possible first team all-defense player in Tony Allen.
Small Forwards: Sam Young vsDorrell Wright
Dorrell Wright is a deadly perimeter shooter averaging a career high 16.6 ppg in his first season with the Warriors. Dorrell has stepped up his game lately too averaging over 20 ppg in his last 10 games while hitting 52% of his FG attempts. Wright fits in well with the Warriors perimeter oriented offense but his defense has been lacking this season. Of course, that may not be a problem against Sam Young. Never a serious scoring threat Young has relegated his offense even more as a starter and now he has a sore ankle which may limit his availability in this game. Listed as probable for the game at this time if Young can’t go expect Shane Battier to assume the SF position.
Advantage: Golden State
Power Forwards:Zach RandolphvsDavid Lee
David Lee was supposed to be the big man that helped the Warriors become a force in the west. However a tooth lodged in his elbow almost ended his career instead. The wound became infected with staff and there was actually talk among doctors if an amputation was needed. Lee has recovered from the infection but still struggles to fully extend his arm. Zach Randolph came up huge for the Grizzlies in the closing quarter against the Spurs to pull out the win. His 11 points in the quarter proved that Zach is deserving of mention on an all-NBA team this season.
Centers:Marc Gasolvs Ekpe Udoh
Marc Gasol is in the midst of his best stretch of games all season capped off with a huge baseline turnaround to put the Grizzlies up four with 36 seconds to play in the last game. Gasol has increased his scoring and rebounding over the last ten games raising hope that the injured ankle that has bothered him all season has finally healed. Ekpe Udoh has struggled with an injury this season as well. Udoh tore a ligament in his wrist during the summer and has only recently been making an impact on the court. However he is now in the lineup and averaging over 2 blocks a game in March.
Benches:Memphisvs Golden State
The Grizzlies bench was a major question mark heading into the season. Right now it could be the strongest part of the team. O J Mayo has accepted his very needed role as the scorer off the bench which allows Darrell Arthur and late season arrival Shane Battier focus on defense and rebounding. Another late addition, Leon Powe, brings muscle to the second squad as well. The point guard position has not been settled however with rookies Greivis Vasque and Ish Smith rotating depending on match-ups as the team waits for JWill to recover from back spasms. Golden State’s bench has Reggie Williams and not much else. Former Grizz Acie Law found a home in Golden State playing in 40 games for the Warriors. However, Williams, Louis Amundson and Al Thornton Were the only bench players to play against the Thunder.