Who: Memphis Grizzlies vs Minnesota Timberwolves
When: Monday March 18th, 7:00 PM CST
Where: FedEx Forum, Memphis, TN
Records: Memphis (44-21), Minnesota (22-41)
Media: SportSouth, 92.9 FM, 680 AM
Forums: 3 Shades of Blue, Grizzlies Message Board
Memphis can be heard shouting, “there’s no place like home” after the recent stretch. On the heels of an awesome win against “rival”… okay, maybe we can’t call them that yet… “adversary,” the Los Angeles Clippers in their own building, it appeared that this incarnation of the Grizzlies was in fact unstoppable. They managed a tough back to back sweep on the west coast, in the process extending their winning streak to six games. Then they traveled a bit further inland and hit a reality check. Denver took them by 7 points, and the Jazz followed, beating them by 6. Now the Grizzlies take a much needed trip home to face a definitively lesser opponent (sorry Minnesota fans) in preparation for a big game against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday. The Grizz cannot afford to let this one slip away.
Minnesota is not exactly rebuilding at this point, but due to the extended absence(s) of star power forward Kevin Love, the Wolves are experiencing somewhat of a lost season. They were initially a sexy pick as a projected darkhorse playoff team at the start of the year, but due to a mess of bad luck and a myriad of issues, the truncated court availability of Love, Ricky Rubio, and Coach Rick Adelman among others evaporated any hopes of contention that this team had. Nowadays they are struggling to find a rhythm as they have only been able to muster a total of five wins since these two teams last met on February 10th. They did however win a close one at home against the Pelicans last night, and could be extra hungry to put together their first string of consecutive wins since a four game streak in December.
Expected Starting Lineups:
Mike Conley vs Ricky Rubio:
Blond Ricky put up a very impressive performance last night, which is beginning to become the norm again for his standards. His assists are down by one a game thus far for the month of March, but his scoring numbers and percentages are on the up, and his steals are up to 2.8 a game in the span. His shooting percentages being on the rise is a good sign, but are certainly nowhere near where you would like them to be as the engine of your offense, as he’s still at only 38.6% for the month, and 35.4% on the year. On the Grizzlies side, Conley is not only likely to be fatigued after logging a lot of miles on his legs this season, but is said to be playing through a sprained wrist.
Tony Allen vs Luke Ridnour:
Ridnour is having himself a pretty nice season as a complementary piece of the Timberwolves’ backcourt. Fun fact: since joining the Wolves in 2010, he has started all but five of the games that he has appeared in. Ridnour is being asked to score the ball for the most part, as his average number of field goal attempts per game is marked at the highest it has ever been, this season, edging out last season’s career high mark by 0.2 attempts. TA has not been locking it down like we are used to in the recent stretch, but this matchup is more than favorable for him.
Tayshaun Prince vs Andrei Kirilenko:
Last time the Grizz played the Wolves, Mickael Gelabale was manning the 3 spot for the oppostion. As of last night, the extremely versatile Andrei Kirilenko has returned and reclaimed his role as their starting small forward. When healthy, Kirilenko is a valuable weapon on both ends of the floor and sports a PER of 18 on the season. Tayshaun is really beginning to fit in with the Grizzlies in a similar role to that of Kirilenko’s, but at this stage of the game, AK-47 is a more daunting force.
Zach Randolph vs Derrick Williams:
*Matchup of the Night* - Here’s an interesting one. After being written off by many, and almost rightfully so, Williams has been surging lately. So much so that I felt inclined to pick him up for my fantasy team… something I never thought I’d say. He’s been in double digits in twelve straight games, with arguably the most impressive of which coming in the form of 28 points and 7 rebounds with 3 from downtown to boot. Fear not Grizz fans, I don’t have enough stake in my fantasy league to be rooting for another one of those against the good guys tonight, and I certainly wouldn’t give him the edge over the way more established Randolph, but this is definitely one to pay attention to.
Marc Gasol vs Nikola Pekovic:
Like Kirilenko, Big Pek is another player who missed a bunch of time for the Wolves and returned last night. And by the way, he’s a darn good player. He’s a tough, brawny center with a good scoring touch and an unyielding nose for the boards. Marc has returned to Earth after his torrid play throughout the winning streak, and has a difficult assignment on his hands tonight. His saving grace here is that due to Pekovic’s nature he his highly susceptible to picking up fouls… something that Marc excels at drawing.
It’s that time again to extend a warm welcome back to our friend Dante Cunningham. The guy plays his behind off and is being rewarded in Minny (or maybe just playing by default) by seeing an increase to the point of a career high in minutes per game. We all know what Dante’s going to bring to the table. He’ll frustrate the heck out of his matchup, score on a couple putbacks, maybe sink a mid-range jumper, and give a handful of hustle plays to leave a mark on the game. Outside of Dante’s Inferno, the Wolves have the backcourt duo of J.J. Barea and Alexey Shved, and big man Greg Stiemsma, who are expected to get some burn. From the Grizzlies’ point of view, Jerryd Bayless flexed his muscles against the Jazz as the game high scorer with 24 and has sank at least one from beyond the arc in each of the last eight games. Quincy Pondexter has been awfully quiet against the Wolves’ fellow Northwest Divisioners on the road, but is probably the Grizzlies’ most consistent shooter, and Ed Davis has not produced all that much since his near double double against Portland a few games ago.
Advantage: I don’t like doing this, but… Push
A Wolf Among Wolves