|2013/2014 NBA Season|
|January 29th, 2014|
|Sleep Train Arena in Sacramento, CA|
|9:00 PM CDT|
|Fox SportsSouth/ 92.9 FM ESPN|
|Mike Conley||PG||Isaiah Thomas
|Courtney Lee||SG||Marcus Thornton|
|Tayshaun Prince||SF||Travis Outlaw|
|Zach Randolph||PF||Jason Thompson|
|2013/14 Advanced Stats|
|92.4 (30th)||Pace||97.3 (11th)|
|102.7 (19th)||OEff||104.0 (T-13th)|
|103.0 (T-14th)||DEff||106.8 (29th)|
The Memphis Grizzlies are in Sacramento tonight, playing the second half of a back-to-back against the Kings. After a huge win against one of the top teams in the Western Conference in Portland last night, it would only be natural for the Grizzlies to possibly come in to this game a bit flat.
After all, tonight's contest could be against a Sacramento team that looks much different than the team that pushed them to the brink in Memphis a couple weeks ago. Isaiah Thomas left Monday's game with a stomach issue and is listed as Day to Day. Rudy Gay was a game time decision Monday night and wound up not playing. DeMarcus Cousins is coming off of an ankle injury and is the most likely of the three Kings stars to not play. This Sacramento roster is banged up and depleted.
These are the games that the Grizzlies need to find ways to win. The second half of back-to-backs are tough, and the Kings before all of the injuries were playing better basketball, so a win is not guaranteed. They have an opportunity to steal a game that they were possibly going to struggle with and get another step closer to the playoff picture.
How can it be done? Three keys.
Feed the Bigs
If Boogie Cousins does indeed sit this one out, that could mean a starting Power Forward/Center tandem for Sacramento of 6'8" Derrick Williams and 6'11" Jason Thompson, with Quincy Acy, Carl Landry and Aaron Gray getting increased burn. If Rudy is able to play, he could get minutes at the 4 as well. The Kings will be playing small throughout the evening and are thin talent wise at the front court spots without Boogie.
This bodes well for the Memphis Grizzlies, who have two of the top 10 bigs in the NBA when full strength in Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. Add in to that arguably the best back-up center in the NBA in Kosta Koufos and a tremendously athletic and long back-up PF in Ed Davis, and you create all sorts of mismatch problems for the Kings. Against the Kings small-ball lineups, even James Johnson can play some stretch 4 and force the Kings to contend with his presence and intensity on defense.
The Kings' weakness on this night will be against the Grizzlies' greatest strength. It needs to be attacked and exploited throughout the evening.
Time for the Bench to Shine
On nights like tonight, where the starters go from playing a current Western Conference power in the Portland Trailblazers to the lowly Sacramento Kings, chances are that energy will be low to start with. This is where players such as "Dr. JJ" James Johnson, "Big Boss" Ed Davis and company can have a tremendous impact. Energy can be infectious, and if these two and their bench cohorts can attack the game with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind, it will feed into the game of their starting counterparts.
Attack the rim, attack on defense, attack the game. The bench will be depended on for production and fire on this night.
Conley vs. Thomas: Efficiency Reigns Supreme
Isaiah Thomas, while not a guarantee to play, is probable as his stomach problem seems to not be a serious issue long term. Thomas has been a scoring machine this season, averaging 22 points per game in the month of January. he also is averaging 7 assists and 3 rebounds per game. While Thomas has been on a tear, Mike Conley has been just as impressive this month, averaging almost 20 points per game along with 6 assists and 3 rebounds.
The difference between the two is efficiency. Thomas is getting his points on 41% shooting, while Conley is shooting 47% this month. The point guards are also a bit difference in terms of turnovers, as Thomas is averaging 1 more turnover per game than Conley this month. If Mike is able to force Thomas into mistakes and to score his points via volume shooting, it will make the speedy Kings' guard less effective and therefore less dangerous.
Second night of a back-to-back games are always tough to predict. However, if this Grizzlies team is truly back on their way to the top they should take this game against a Kings roster struggling with injury at the moment. Expect a big game from the bench and Mike Conley, with minutes for Jamaal Franklin and Jon Leuer in the 4th quarter.
Memphis 101, Sacramento 89.
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