(Ladies and gentlemen, the great HighTops! -- TZ)
Up until now we've played either the bottom or top of last season's team standings. In the Grizzlies we have a team that won 15 more games than the Kings. So, while it's still too early in the season to judge playoff potential based on this game, it's going to be nice to see how this years Kings team fairs against a near-playoff team from last year.
Last season, the Kings were 1-2 against Memphis with their lone win coming in Sac, 127-116. We were outrebounded badly, 57 to 40 and 20 to 10 on the offensive glass. Memphis got 16 rebounds from Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph and 13 from Rudy Gay. What won the game was three-point shooting, where we were 14 of 25, mostly on Kevin Martin's 7 of 10 and 48 points total. We lost the other two games, one in Memphis and the other in Sacramento.
Memphis is 2-4 with wins against Dallas and Minnesota and losses to the Lakers, Atlanta, Golden State, and Phoenix last night in double overtime. Memphis allowed Phoenix to come from four points down with 3.7 seconds to play to tie the game and send it to overtime. So Memphis comes into town to play their 4th road game in 5 nights, and the Grizzlies' starters having played extended minutes the night before. Gay and O.J. Mayo played 51+ minutes, Gasol and Mike Conley 46+ minutes and Randolph 41+ minutes.
With the Randolph just returning from a season opener injury, poor performance from their 1st rounder Xavier Henry, and the still unfulfilled promise of Hasheem Thabeet, the Grizzlies have been playing their starters extra-long minutes even before last night: Gay 39.2 mpg, Conley 38 mpg, Mayo 34.8 mpg, Gasol 31 mpg and Darrell Arthur 30 mpg. Sam Young is seeing the biggest minutes off the bench at 17.8, with Thabeet, Henry and Tony Allen all averaging less then 13 mpg.
Without Randolph, Memphis hasn't been a great rebounding team this season,and even with him they were outrebounded by the Suns 55 to 48. Before last night Gasol was averaging 9.8, Gay with 7 and Conley third averaging 5.8 per game. With their extended minutes, all the starters are averaging in double figures. But, it's Gay who leads the way with 26.4 ppg on 54% field and 52.6% from three-point range. Although, the real danger on this team might be Mike Conley who's averaging 15.8 points and 9.2 assists going into last night. Memphis also has some great three-point shooters, lead by Gay at 13-27 and Mayo, who is 17-37.
Defensively, the Grizzlies are 1st in steals 12.6 per game. They also lead the league in turnover differential, while the Kings lead the league in fewest turnovers per game. But Memphis is the 2nd worst team in three-point defense, allowing their opponents to shot 43.9%. Unfortunately, the Kings are the worst with at 44.4% .
This looks to be a game of marginal defense, quite a few three-point attempts, and a lot of fast break points. The challenge will be to stop Gay and Conley, and keep Randolph off the boards. So, it's going to be interesting to see if Omri Casspi and whomever Paul Westphal plays at the three can contain Gay. And who will defend Conley? Mayo at 6-4 and 210 lbs. shouldn't be an impossible cover for Beno Udrih, but can Tyreke Evans stay in front of Conley, or defend well on the pick-and-roll? With two days rest, the KIngs have no excuse for not out-hustling Memphis. And they need to make Memphis work on both ends of the court, meaning move the ball on offense and don't take quick shots. Should be a very fun game, especially with the Kings winning by eight.