When: Monday, November 25th, 7:00 PM CST
Where: The Grindhouse!
And now, the Marc-less stretch begins. We don’t know how long it will last, we don’t know how the team will perform. But tonight we dive in and see what this team is made of without Big Spain around. The Rockets are certainly not the ideal to play in a game like this – they have one of the league’s best centers in Dwight Howard, and probably the best backup center in Omer Asik, Kosta Koufos will have his work cut out for him tonight. Let’s hope he – and the rest of the Grizzlies – are up to the challenge.
Expected Starting Lineups:
Mike Conley vs Patrick Beverley
Beverley doesn’t have the flashiest numbers in the league – in fact, he may have the unflashiest – but he’s not a player to sleep on. He’s a sneaky good shooter, especially from downtown. With the Rockets essentially trying to emulate the Heat, Beverley is their version of Mario Chalmers, a quietly effective point guard who puts no emphasis on stats, just doing whatever the team needs from him. Conley was brilliant against the Spurs on Friday, scoring 28 points, and giving the Grizzlies a decent chance to win in a game where they were severely overmatched. With Marc gone, Conley will depended on for even more offense than before. Tonight will be a good litmus test as he goes against a solid defender in Beverley.
Tony Allen vs Jeremy Lin
No James Harden tonight, so Lin, the usual sixth man, enters the lineup as the starting 2-guard. We’ve seen a minor revival of Linsanity this year, as Lin exploded for consecutive 30-point games a few weeks ago, and generally seems to have figured out how to harness his considerable energy. With harden out of the lineup, Lin will be the primary scoring guard for Houston, but his matchup with Tony Allen may prove rather unpleasant for him. Allen is good at forcing turnovers from any player, but Lin’s fatal flaw has always been his tendency to turn the ball over. Allen and Conley are both near the top of the league in steals in each year, so look for them to force Lin into a lot of mistakes. In a vacuum, Lin is the better player, but with him playing out of position, and going against two defensive guards who can exploit his weaknesses, it’s not unreasonable to suggest he’s in for a rough night.
Tayshaun Prince vs Chandler Parsons
Chandler Parsons is quietly getting a bit better each year, emerging a the their best player on a potential contender. Nearly every aspect of Parsons’ offensive game is enjoyable. He’s athletic, he’s smooth in transition, and he’s a surprisingly strong passer (averaging 4.1 assists per game this year). Prince played well in the first half against the Spurs, scoring 10 points while his jumper looked better than it has all year, but he was essentially out of the equation in the second half. Prince can still look solid in spurts, but his tendency to disappear from games is a problem, and it’s why were seeing more and more of Mike Miller, who is probably playing too much for someone his age.
Zach Randolph vs Terrence Jones
Whatever you do, don’t sleep on Terrence Jones. It’s tempting to see him as an afterthought, since he didn’t do much as a rookie, but since entering the starting lineup, Jones has looked much better than anyone would have expected. He’s shooting .554 from the field, and looks like a much stronger scorer than many would have expected. the Rockets offense has looked smoother since Jones has replaced Omer Asik in the starting lineup, and it appears that this is the starting five they’ll be going with for the long haul. Z-Bo’s run of 20-10 games ended against the Spurs, when he managed 16 points, but he still looks rejuvenated after a rough start. Randolph is likely the most physical 4 Jones has matched up with, and he made in for a rude awakening. This figures to be one of the more intriguing matchups of the evening.
And so it begins. When the Grizzlies traded Darrell Arthur for Kosta Koufos, it felt like a good move; one that would solve the Grizzlies problem of having one center and four power forwards. As it turns out, we didn’t know the half of it. With Gasol sidelined indefinitely, the Grizzlies are much better off with Koufos than if they were forced to play, say, Ed Davis at center. It’s a bit unfortunate for Koufos that he has to make his debut in the starting lineup against one of the best centers in the league. Dwight may not be as dominant as he was in 2011, but he’s still pretty hard to go against. If Koufos forces Dwight into a mediocre performance, it would go along away in winning over the fans, and convincing everyone that the team’s playoff chances aren’t doomed because #33 is out for a while.
Both teams have been forced to insert bench players into the starting lineup for this game, so things could a little thin. Still, you’d have to look at Houston as the deeper team here. Aaron Brooks is probably the best third-string point guard in the league, and Francisco Garcia is a useful three-point shooter who can get pretty hot at times. Asik might be bummed out about his move to the bench, but it really does help the team, allowing their starting five to space the floor, while giving them one of the best backup centers in the league. With Koufos starting, Davis will likely be the first big off the bench. This stretch without Marc will likely mean more minutes for Davis, who is just recently getting back into the rotation. Let’s hope he flashes some of the skills he displayed in Toronto that got Grizzlies fans so excited about him to begin with.