The Grizzlies embark on the second half of the season tonight against a Brooklyn Nets team that's gone 10-1 in January and is pushing its way up the Eastern Conference standings.
This is likely to be a much tougher test for the newer-look Grizzlies than the Lakers provided Wednesday night.
As always, three thoughts:
Prior to yesterday's announcement, I did a quick survey of media picks around the web. Of the 11 I found, only one — CBSSports.com's Ken Berger — had no Grizzlies on the team. Two — ESPN.com's Marc Stein and Ethan Sherwood Strauss — picked both Randolph and Gasol. And the other eight all had Gasol making it over Randolph. Still, I wasn't surprised the coaches went the other way. Randolph's per-game stats (16-12-1) are a little more impressive than Gasol's (13-7-4), and Randolph has the easily digestible pegs of “second in the league in rebounding” and “first in the league in double-doubles.” For Randolph, it's an outside affirmation of his full return from last season's knee injury.
Gasol's offense has waned along with the team's over the past month, but his chief calling card is his rock-solid but rarely flamboyant defense, where he anchors the conference's best unit. The choices of Joakim Noah and Tyson Chandler in the East proves the coaches don't ignore defense for the sake of scoring averages, but in Gasol's case, with so much worthy competition, his subtle excellence on that end wasn't enough.
Gasol will be matched up tonight with another “snub” in Nets center Brook Lopez, who is having a bounce-back season with the Nets, averaging 19 points a game on 52% shooting.
2. Inevitable Perimeter Mismatches: With Quincy Pondexter still taking in games in street clothes, the Grizzlies had a tricky time Wednesday night covering Kobe Bryant whenever Tony Allen wasn't on the floor. They slid Jerryd Bayless up, which didn't work well, then slid Rudy Gay down, which worked a little better. There's no Kobe on the floor tonight, but the Nets' big, talented perimeter trio of Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, and Gerald Wallace. None of those three are at their peak but as a trio they're pretty tough. Rudy Gay should match-up fine with Wallace, and Tony Allen can handle either Johnson or Williams. But he can't guard both, which will leave the Grizzlies with either a size (Mike Conley, Jerryd Bayless) or experience (Tony Wroten, Chris Johnson) disadvantage whenever the Nets' starting backcourt is on the floor.
3. Ticket Giveaway: We've got a pair of lower-bowl tickets available for tonight's game. We're holding the drawing at noon today and winners must be able to pick up the tickets at the Flyer's downtown offices by 5 p.m. You can enter here.