Memphisattempts to win their third straight game of the season after beating Detroit and Miami this week. The Grizzlies were led against the Pistons by Zach Randolph’s 21 points and 12 rebounds. O J Mayo was moved to the bench for the time being to help bring more scoring punch and so far the move has paid off as the Grizzlies bench has been their most productive this season over the last two games with Mayo coming off the bench. Lionel Hollins did say this move wasn’t permanent but it would continue for the time being as he had been contemplating this move for some time. With Mayo coming off of the bench he can focus more on being a primary scorer rather than sacrificing his offense in favor of Rudy Gay, Zach Randolph and the more aggressive Mike Conley.
Golden Statehas been in a free fall since losing David Lee to surgeries to his elbow. The two surgeries were necessary after Lee’s elbow became infected after a collision with Knicks forward Wilson Chandler. Lee was cleared yesterday to begin light conditioning workouts but is not expected to play against the Grizlies. The Warriors are led by their dynamic backcourt of Monta Ellis and Stephon Curry but backcourt duo is havinga bit of a problem operating together. The Warriors have attempted to correct their largest problem in the past by shoring up the front line by signing David Lee but with Lee out the same interior problem exists in Golden State. Former fifth pick in the draft Brandon Wright has yet to develop as either a PF or SF which hasn’t helped either.
Stephon Curry, like the Grizzlies Rudy Gay, returned from his summer with the USA National team a more complete player. No longer a shooting guard playing point guard, Curry has begun to develop the skills needed to run a team as their leader at the point. Curry at 6-3 causes matchup issues with most PGs but likewise has defensive issues against the quicker PGs in the league. A true combo guard, Curry is capable of hitting any shot he wants and has range out to 26 feet or more which means teams can’t leave him alone for an instant. Conley has improved his defense this season but his steals have come from cheating off his man and doubling down more than stopping penetration from the point. Curry will make Conley work for everything he gets. Conley seems to have won the backcourt battle with O J Mayo and will have more of a green light to score with Mayo on the bench but his defensive problems remain as does his poor shooting percentage.
Advantage: Golden State
Xsvier Henry has replaced O J Mayo in the starting lineup but not because he is better than Mayo. He just fits the team’s needs for a starting SG better than Mayo and Mayo fills the need for scoring off of the bench better. Henry played 13 minutes in his first start and likely won’t see many more minutes in this game as Ellis knows how to create contact while shooting and Henry will likely be in foul trouble early in this game. Ellis and Curry haven’t jelled well as a backcourt duo but both are individually extremely talented and Ellis know with David Lee out the team needs him to stand up as the team leader. Ellis has a green light to shoot and Henry will struggle but at least his size can make it more difficult for Ellis.
Advantage: Golden State
Wright was let go by Miami after signing the big three and Golden State was only too happy to pick him up. Wright had a career night against Rudy in their first meeting going 7-13 from the arc on his way to a career high 25 points. Wright has followed that up with a couple of 24 point games so other teams are finding out he’s a shooter as well. Rudy Gay became the unquestioned leader of the team with his clutch basket over LeBron James to beat Miami. However Rudy’s scoring has been declining of late. He has broken 20 points only once in the last five games and that was a 20 pt game against Portland. With some teams that could be seen as a problem but Rudy is not trying to dominate the offense but rather taking what is available while making sure others are involved. Rudy scored 35 points in the last game against Golden State but that was without Z-Bo. Gay will need to focus on defense more this game while still looking to score more than he has.
Biedrins is finally playing his natural PF position but it really hasn’t had much of an impact on his numbers. Biedrins is simply a physical power player who lives off of hustle and positioning for rebounding and offense. Defensively he can block shots but isn’t an outstanding shot blocker. However he’s a strong and lanky player who focuses on rebounding not scoring and thats the type of player that gives Z-Bo his greatest difficulty. Randolph has been taking too many outside shots early in games but once he settles into the paint has been close to unstoppable. His consistency is shocking. Over the last four games Z-Bo has scored between 19 and 21 pts every game and grabbed between 12 and 14 boards as well. Z-Bo has a clear advantage over Biedrins however and will likely look to improve both numbers in this game. As long as he stays in the paint that should happen too.
When Keith Smart envisioned his revamped starting front line he didn’t see Dan Gadzuric starting at center. After signing David Lee over the summer Smart dreamt of a double-double machine who would strengthen the front line while being able to outrum opposing centers down the court. Lee will return but not in this game so Smart has to go to plan B. Marc Gasol was slowed for most of the season with a bad ankle but that hasn’t appeared to be a problem of late. Gasol’s skillful passing game and deceptive hook shot make him a devastating offensive force but he wasn’t strong defensively until recently. Now teams enter the lane at their own risk.
There is confusion about the Grizzlies bench. Lionel Hollins said he moved O J Mayo to the bench to allow him greater scoring opportunities and to improve the defense on the starting five. If that was true why did Mayo not enter the game until after Tony Allen against Detroit? One thing is certain, Mayo’s shooting slump hasn’t corrected itself by the move. Mayo is 5-18 in his two games off the bench and has scored only 11 points in those two games. However the Grizzlies bench has exploded with production in those two games scoring 35 and 41 points respectively. Sam Young, Darrell Arthur and Greivis Vasquez are starting to jell and the addition of Mayo makes the second five a dangerous, if young, group. Golden State’s bench is led by Reggie Williams who averages 10 ppg and works nicely with Curry or Ellis in the lineup. Former Memphis TIger Rodney Carney has cooled off after a hot start to the season. No one other than Williams averages more than 6 ppg off the bench however and no one has exhibited a great love of defense either. Two of the weaker benches in the league will be on display but Memphis’ bench is on the rise.