Memphis leads the season series 2-1, having won at Arco back on Nov. 6th (100-91) and FedEx Forum in February 120-92. The only Kings win came on Dec. 29th 100-98. Of course everyone should remember the Kings win because it has its own name; The Shot.
The Kings trailed with 8 minutes to play in the fourth quarter, 83-74. But, they tied the game 93 all with 57 seconds left. Randolph made a running hook and Conley made one of two from the FT line to give the Grizzlies a 3pt lead with 31 seconds left. But the Kings took it right back as DeMarcus hit a jumper and with 16 seconds left Tyreke stole the ball from Mayo and drove the length of the court for a breakaway dunk. Memphis called timeout and inbounded the ball in the front court. Rudy Gay missed a jumper but the ball went out of bounds off the Kings and Memphis got one more try. They inbounded the ball and Mayo hit a running jumper with 1.5 seconds left for a 98-97 lead. The Kings had no timeouts although most of the Grizzlies didn't know that. In the confusion, DeMarcus inbounded the ball to Tyreke who put up a prayer from 50 feet and the rest is history, 100-98 Kings.
The last game was one day after the trade deadline. Newly acquired Marcus Thornton came off the bench for the Kings and Shane Battier played 25 minutes for the Grizzlies. Tyreke was undergoing PF treatment so Jermaine Taylor started at the 2. Points off of 3PT shots were even as were points from the FT line. The Kings shot a respectable 45% from the field, but the Kings turned the ball over 8 more times and had 3 fewer offensive boards. It gave Memphis a 10 FG attempt advantage. They made the best of it by shooting 55% from the Field, and made 14 more baskets; 52 of 95 for the Grizz and 38 of 85 for the Kings.
The Kings had a 28-23 lead at the end of the first quarter, but the Grizzlies went on an 8-1 run at the end of the 2nd to take a 56-49 advantage at the half. The teams exchanged baskets and at 9:10 of the 3rd Beno hit a jumper for his 22 pts to make the score 64-57 advantage Memphis. Beno would only score 2 more pts in the entire game. The Kings scored only 9pts in the last 9 minutes of the quarter while the Grizzlies scored 25 and took an 89-66 lead going into the fourth.
JT left the game with 2:24 in the 3rd with a sprained ankle; Memphis' bigs took control of the paint, and stretch the lead to as high as 33 pts. The Grizzlies ended up with a franchise record 78 points in the paint outscoring the Kings 78-46. Forward Zach Randolph had 23 points, center Marc Gasol had 21, Forward Darrell Arthur added 17, and seldom used Hamed Haddadi had 10. In his first game back with Memphis, Battier had 2 pts/ 2 rebs/ 3 asts and 3 blks on 1-3 shooting in 25 minutes.
Beno was the leading scorer for the Kings with 24, and the only starter in double figures. Omri had 8, JT had 4, Sam had 7 and Taylor had 9. Thornton had 15pts on 7-18 and 0-4 from 3 in his first game as a King. Darnell Jackson had 6 pts in 21 minutes, Pooh Jeter was 2-6 for 4pts and Donte was 1-1 for 3pts in just 5 minutes. Cousins was 4-11 for 12pts in 27 minutes off the bench. In the Charlotte game the day before, PW pulled Cousins 15 seconds into the third quarter after he committed his 6th turnover and sat him for the rest of the quarter. He did return for the first 6 minutes of the 4th quarter when he committed his 7th turnover. DeMarcus lost his starting spot for this game and the next two games to JT before regaining it.
Since the trade deadline the Grizzlies are 12-7. They are currently in 8th place in the West with a record of 44-34, one game behind 6th place New Orleans and 7th place Portland. They are four games in the loss column ahead of Houston with 4 games to play. Houston does own the tie breaker with a 3-1 advantage in the season series so they're not mathematically out of it. So, a win against the Kings or a loss by Houston will guarantee Memphis a spot in the playoffs, although they have announced that playoff tickets go on sale Saturday.
On the season, the Kings and Grizzlies are very close statistically with the Kings having a slight advantage in Total Rebounding, Offensive Rebounding and 3P%. And, Memphis has a slight advantage in FG%, FT%, Steals, Blocks and a big advantage in Turnovers. Offensively Memphis scores about 1pt more than the Kings and defensively they give up 7 less points. But, in the last 10 games the defense of both teams has improved, so the difference is closer to a 4pts advantage for Memphis.
Sam Young has been starting at SF since early January and averages 7 pts/ 2 rebs on 47% field and 30% from three. Zach Randolph is averaging 20 pts/ 12.2 at PF, and Marc Gasol has started every game averaging 14 pts/ 7 rebs/ 1.6 blocks. Mike Conley has started every game at PG, averaging 14 pts/ 6.6 asts/ 3 rebs on 44% from the field and 37% from three. Tony Allen has been starting as SG since Feb 22nd after Rudy Gay partially dislocated his left shoulder. Allen is not a 3pt threat having only attempted 22 all season and only making 4. As a starter he's averaging 13.7 pts/ 3.7 rebs on 54% field.
Since rejoining the Grizz, Shane Battier is averaging 4.4 pts/ 4.6 rebs in 24 mpg on 39% field and 29% from three. Darrell Arthur is averaging 9 pts/ 4.3 rebs in 20 minutes off the bench. And, OJ Mayo is averaging 11 pts/ 2.4 rebs/ 2 asts in 26 mpg, shooting 41% from the field and 37% from three. Rookie second round pick Greivis Vasquez gets about 11 minutes off the bench and averages 3 pts & 2 asts. The only real 3pt threats are OJ Mayo, Mike Conley and the injured Rudy Gay. So, the main challenge will be to stop their inside game, and based on the size of Randolph and Gasol that's a big challenge.
Memphis is 7-3 in their last 10 games and had won 6 in a row at home before losing to the Clippers 82-81 on Tuesday. They have only allowed their opponent an average of 87 ppg in those 7 games. So, how will the Kings fair? The bigger question may be. How bad is DeMarcus' shoulder injury? It's been bothering him for about a month, but seems to be getting worse lately, as he's been wearing a brace even though he doesn't feel comfortable with it. Against the Spurs he played without it until he got hurt and had to go to the locker room and came back out wearing it again. In spite of the injury, Cousins is averaging a double double thru February, March and April, but Memphis may be the biggest challenge he'll have to face this month. Cousins has missed only one game all season after being left home after the Donte debacle, and Dalembert has missed 2, one due to injury and one to bury a friend. If this game is going to come down to whose big men are the toughest. I like our chances.