8:00 PM Eastern Standard Time
FedExForum, Memphis, Tennessee
Line: Memphis by 6.0
Opponent Blog: Pounding the Rock
Injury Report: MEM: Randolph (knee) SA: Ford (hamstring), Ginobili (hand)
Finally. The Grizzlies are back home in the Forum after dropping all three games on their most recent road trip. When the San Antonio Spurs' visit Memphis tonight, the game marks the beginning of a two-game, two-night home-stand before the Grizzlies take it on the road again for another, tough, three-game series away from home.
Usually, the Spurs have the Grizzlies' number - both are in the Southwest division and see more of each other than the teams want. Tonight, however, with Ginobili out with a broken left hand, the Grizzlies have a good chance to walk home breaking the three-game losing streak.
More after the jump.
Zach Randolph is still out with a torn MCL on New Years Day, and Memphis is still trying to cope. After winning seven in a row, the Grizzlies capped their most recent streak to three straight losses when they took a hard 86-84 loss to the Phoenix Suns.
Although Memphis was down to Phoenix by 16 points at halftime, the team mastered the zone defense to come back and tie the game twice in the final 1:24. Unfortunately, the game ended in demoralizing fashion when Mike Conley missed a potential game-winning 3-pointer in the final seconds of the game.
There are many things that go into causing a three-game losing streak. Though one can't argue with this one: Memphis has shot 28.6 percent from 3-point range and 38.8 percent overall in the last three losses. Compare that to the 41.7 percent from 3-point range and 49.6 percent overall during the seven-game winning-streak, and there's a problem.
Flashback to the 2010-2011 season, where the Grizzlies offensively mastered San Antonio when the Spurs stepped into the Forum. In both regular-season home meetings, the Grizzlies shot 50.5 percent and averaged 102.8 points against San Antonio. The two teams then met in the first round of the playoffs, where the Grizzlies won all three home games to send the top-seeded Spurs home for the Summer.
The zone defense that was so successful in Phoenix won't be seen against San Antonio tonight. The Spurs rank third in the league with 162 3-pointers made. When the team makes at least 10 in a game, they claim an impressive 6-2 record.
In fact, when the Spurs lost to Dallas Sunday night in overtime, it was the three point shot that allowed them to come back from 18 and stay in the game. Gary Neal had three 3-pointers as the team shot 12-25. The bench was impressive, too. In all, the reserves claimed 55 points.
"We were just on fire shooting 3s and it got us back in the game. It's as simple as that. I thought the energy defensively was great; we double-teamed everywhere," Popovich said. "They were playing great. There's no sense in taking them off the court."
When the Spurs played in Memphis on Opening Night on December 26, they shot 10 3 pointers in a 95-82 home victory. Richard Jefferson and Manu Ginobili each had three of those 10. Ginobili totaled 24 points in that game, but won't see action tonight. He's still out with a broken-hand.
To win this one, the Grizzlies are simply going to have to shoot better. Offensive production is what has allowed the Grizzlies to beat the Spurs in past season and playoff match-ups. Expect more big things from Marc Gasol as he continues to fill Zach Randolph's role down low (has averaged 15.3 points and 50.8 percent shooting with 10.8 rebounds since Randolph's been gone). Don't forget Rudy Gay - the guy is truly emerging to be a solid contender night-in and night-out and filling his role as the superstar in Memphis.
Final Prediction: San Antonio 92, Memphis 88
Game thread will be up and running at 8:00 PM. See you then.