Who: Memphis Grizzlies vs New York Knicks
When: Wednesday March 27th, 6:30 PM CST
Where: Madison Square Garden, New York, NY
Records: Memphis (47-23), New York (43-26)
Media: SportSouth, 92.9 FM, 680 AM
Forums: 3 Shades of Blue, Grizzlies Message Board
Memphis was moving along just fine, but an aggravation of a lingering abdominal injury to world class big man Marc Gasol has sent the Grizzlies headed on a course in the wrong direction at the worst time of the season to fall off your horse. Man, that game against Washington was pitiful to watch. John Wall lit the Grizz up like Christmas with a video game stat-line as the Wizards forced the mighty Grizzlies defense to surrender over a hundred points for the second straight game. Prior to the past two, the last team the Grizz failed to hold below the century mark was Sacramento on February 12th. I think a few eggs just fell into the “Gasol’s case for Defensive Player of the Year” basket.
New York welcomes the Grizzlies to the Big Apple for the first and only time this season. Hopefully they extend a kind welcome to my crazed fan self, as well. I’m in attendance at the Garden multiple times a year, but only once with my sights set intently on a victory for the respective night’s “enemy.” Speaking of the “case for Defensive Player of the year” basket, much like the Grizzlies’ Gasol situation, the Knicks are likely to again be without the reigning DPOY, Tyson Chandler, who is has also been tagged with one of those nebulous “day-to-day/indefinitely” labels as he is battling neck stiffness. Maybe these two teams will just come to an agreement to play small tonight, but that only stands to help the Knicks cause. They are rolling since Carmelo Anthony’s return, as winners of five straight. Now they’ve got their sights set on remaining in the 2/3 seed range to avoid a potential meeting with the juggernaut that is Miami before the Eastern Conference Finals.
Expected Starting Lineups:
Mike Conley vs Pablo Prigioni:
You can blame injuries to the Knicks’ big three all you want, and you’d have a compelling argument at that, but the real culprit for their slip in output prior to the last five has been the shakiness in terms of productivity at the one spot. When things were going well for the Knicks early this season, and believe me they were going very well, it was the new-found spectacular point guard play that set the team apart from what it was last season. Then a few things happened — Raymond Felton came back to earth and Jason Kidd began to suffer from what they call age. Prigioni is likely to get the green light for the Knicks at the one. Keep an eye out for the 36 year old rookie as he’s a sneaky, crafty player who plays the passing lanes very well — especially on the inbounds. Mike Conley has been a steady hand at the helm of the Grizzlies, and has gone for 20+ in four of the last five.
Tony Allen vs Raymond Felton:
The story of Felton’s career with the Knickerbockers (I just can’t seem to get through a simple post about the team without writing it out at least once) is quite an interesting one. He first signed on along with Amar’e Stoudemire and was having a renaissance year as a darkhorse all-star candidate prior to being shipped out as part of the ‘Melo trade. From there he sat behind Ty Lawson in Denver, then wore out his welcome fast in a short season with the Blazers. Now he is back with the Knicks, and is fluctuating between “hero” and “bum” on a game-to-game basis.
Tayshaun Prince vs Iman Shumpert:
After an impressive rookie season, one in which he showed mounds of potential as a real defensive stopper in this league, general consensus seems to be that Shumpert has regressed on many levels here in his sophomore year. To be fair though, there are two glaringly large contributions to his ineffectiveness. Primarily is of course the nasty ACL injury that he sustained in the playoffs against Miami last season, which certainly hindered his development. Secondly is the fact that he has played far more minutes than he is suited to at the small forward spot, where statistically speaking, his efficiency is cut in half.
Darrell Arthur vs Carmelo Anthony:
I feel kind of silly setting up the matchups like this. While I do feel that Lionel Hollins will strut out the starting lineup this way, I’d be pretty darn surprised if Tayshaun doesn’t end up sliding up to the four and guarding ‘Melo for the majority of the game. Either way, the point is moot. Carmelo is a phenomenal scorer from just about anywhere and any situation on the floor. Knicks fans have learned that he’s not the same player when trying to grind through injury, but he can flat out ball on the offensive end. The guy can score on the break, post up, and is lethal out of the triple threat.
Advantage: New York
Zach Randolph vs Kenyon Martin:
Here is a matchup that I’m looking forward to. Martin took a while to latch onto a team, but returned to the Metropolitan area (albeit across the river from where he used to play) as an unlikely savior for a Knicks team starved for some frontcourt depth. In his return, Martin has been very solid, posting a PER of a shade above 18 in his short sample size thus far. Martin was part of the conglomerate that was a handful for Randolph and the Grizzlies’ frontline in the playoffs last year. Randolph has struggled with his shot, going 38% from the floor in the last four contests, but the lack of interior pressure he’s about to face tonight could be the difference maker to turn it around for him.
Between injuries and adequate production out of his fellow backup bigs, Darrell Arthur just cannot seem to bring any semblance of the reliability that he gave the Grizzlies just two short years ago. To be honest, the more I think about it, the more it seems that his excellent play may have been in part due to the connection that he had with Greivis Vasquez. Beyond Darrell, Quincy Pondexter has been a mess since a few games after he returned from his injury, Ed Davis has been foul-master extraordinaire, and Austin Daye apparently hasn’t been able to use practice time to justify playing over any one of them. The good news? Jerryd Bayless has really embraced his combo guard/sixth man role, and is arguably settling into his surroundings for the first time in his NBA career. Unfortunately for the Grizzlies, the Bayless effect off the bench will likely be neutralized by the J.R. Smith effect. Last night against Boston, Smith erupted as he so often does for 32 points. There are few in the league that heat up as quickly as Smith does. Without Gasol out there to direct defenders on close-outs as well as the Grizzlies consequentially lacking the paint force to punish the Knicks for stacking the floor with perimeter players, Smith along with sharpshooters Chris Copeland, Steve Novak, and Jason Kidd can be weapons of lethal force tonight.
Advantage: New York