Who: Memphis Grizzlies at Utah Jazz
When: 9:00 PM CST
Where: Energy Solutions Arena, Salt Lake City, Utah
Records: Memphis (44-20), Utah (33-32)
Media: NBA TV, 92.9 FM, 680 AM
Forums: 3 Shades of Blue, Grizzlies Message Board
Memphis finishes their difficult road trip at Utah closing out a 4 game in 5 night stretch of play against playoff caliber teams in each game. The Grizzlies swept the first back to back set but that was at sea level. Doing the same at high altitude is a far more difficult proposition as the team found out in Denver. Taking a 10 point lead into the 4th quarter, the Grizzlies fell apart on offense scoring only 14 points in the final quarter to lose 87-80. Now the team has to get back up and play another tough road tilt at altitude again against a Jazz team that trails the Lakers by one game for the 8th and final playoff spot.
Utah has been struggling everywhere of late as the Lakers swept past them into playoff position but received a psychological boost from a few days off and Kobe Bryant’s injury. To solidify that feeling Utah needs a quality win in the worst way. Since their three game wining streak in mid February (beating OKC, Golden State and on the road at Minnesota) the Jazz have won only twice. The Jazz didn’t make any trades at the deadline deciding to keep their core together for one last playoff push. The pressure is on to deliver that spot now. Beating the Grizzlies would be a big step in that direction and one embattled coach Ty Corbin desperately needs.
Expected Starting Lineups:
Mike Conley vs Mo Williams
Mo Williams is one of those players people love to hate. Mo is immensely confident in his game, but never really gives fans a reason to understand why. Mo is an above average mid-range shooter (the least efficient shot in the game) and struggles defensively against most guards due to his poor foot speed which keeps him off the FT line as well. Mo Williams played on the Clippers last season so Grizz fans have plenty of reasons to dislike him. Conley has been playing the best basketball of his career with back to back double-doubles including a career high 15 assists against the Blazers.
Tony Allen vs Randy Foye
Another former Clipper backcourt player with an oversized ego and an undersized game, Foye signed with the Jazz after being released from the Clippers. He has been shooting horribly of late and that isn’t likely to improve with Tony Allen guarding him. Foye is not a true combo guard. He’s undersized to guard SGs and has poor ball-handling skills making it impossible to run the PG role. He’s a player without a position in the NBA. Allen has lost the touch shooting he had in February but his defense has maintained his All-NBA level. Allen will continue to make some bone-head offensive plays, get caught cheating on defense and tweeting strange things but he will also get a key tip-in, a back-breaking steal and keep the team gritting and grinding. A fair trade in my opinion.
Tayshaun Prince vs DeMarre Carroll
Yes THAT DeMarre Carroll Grizz fans. The Grizzlies second pick from the disastrous 2009 draft, the Junkyard Dog has found a home in Utah. Over the last 10 games Carroll has been playing well hitting 46% of his FG attempts on limited attempts. Carroll is still a hustle over technique player who gives his all but doesn’t have the game to make a big impact. He’s far better suited for a bench role than a starter. My name is Prince has been sung a lot in Memphis recently after Tayshaun’s huge game against the Clipper. It shouldn’t have surprised anyone because that is what Tayshaun does. When he has a mismatch in his favor he takes advantage. When he doesn’t he doesn’t try to do too much. Tayshaun has an advantage against Carroll but it may not be more than other teammates. Not that he needs it to be of course.
Zach Randolph vs Paul Millsap
Millsap is recovering from a knee injury but did play 2o minutes at Oklahoma City and will likely replace Derrick Favors in the starting lineup for this game. Millsap is a poor man’s Zach Randolph and has struggled in previous matchups with the Grizzlies All-Star. Millsap is the type of player John Hollinger loves however because he knows the game and how to be effective despite his size limitations. Zach is coming off his own injuries but has looked good just the same. Randolph is averaging 16.7 PPG and 10.8 RPG in his last six games.
Marc Gasol vs Al Jefferson
Al Jefferson was the subject of numerous rumors heading up to the trade deadline. He is still a Jazz because no team was willing to offer more than a 2nd round pick for the big man. Surprising considering Jefferson may be one of the few Centers in the league who can rival Gasol in passing, has a deadly offensive arsenal and large hands to rebound the ball well. What Jefferson doesn’t have is Gasol’s defensive motor. Jefferson is too slow to guard most PFs and too small to be effective against big centers. Gasol is one of the bigger centers in the league. Since the Rudy Gay trade Gasol has become one of the best all-around centers as well adding an offensive spark to his defense and passing.
Memphis’ bench has been shortened of late as Hollins has decided on the players he wants leading him into the playoffs. Out of the rotation are Leuer, Days and Pittman. In are Wroten, Pondexter and Davis. The only question remaining now is Darrell Arthur’s role. The new rotation seems to be working as well with Pondexter providing a perimeter shooting partner to Jerryd Bayless and Davis matching nicely inside with both Randolph and Gasol. Gordon Heyward is a natural SF who gave Rudy Gay fits but is being played more at SG in Utah right now. Favors and Kantor, the big men in waiting in Utah, need more time to truly develop but are strong and active bigs. Former Grizzlies Earl Watson and Jamaal Tinsley alternate running the team off the bench.
Salt City Hoops