The 26-16 Brooklyn Nets have only lost one game in the month of January, at the Atlanta Hawks. Since then the Nets have won 3 straight games. This came after a 3-10 December that cost coach Avery Johnson his job. He was replaced by P.J. Carlesimo. Brooklyn has moved to within 1 game of the New York Knicks in the Atlantic Division. The Nets are also currently in the #3 spot in the Eastern Conference. Brooklyn won at the Minnesota Timberwolves Wednesday night 91-83.
Next up for the Nets is a game at the 27-14 Memphis Grizzlies Friday night. (7:00 pm Central, YES, SportsSouth, NBA LP.) The Grizzlies are 5 games behind the San Antonio Spurs in the Southwest Division, and would be the #4 seed in the Western Conference playoffs if the playoffs started today. Memphis won at home 106-93 Wednesday night against the reeling Los Angeles Lakers. The streaky Grizzlies have won 3 of their last 4 games. Brooklyn is on the third game of a 4 game road trip, and Memphis is on the third game of a 4 game home stand.
Memphis won the only meeting between the teams last season 105-100 in the lockout shortened campaign. That game was in New Jersey before the Nets’ franchise relocated to Brooklyn for this season. The Nets had won 2 straight in the series before that. The Grizzlies will make their first ever trip to Brooklyn on February 24.
Brroklyn is outscoring teams 96-94 this season. The Nets are #5 in points allowed and #16 in scoring. Brooklyn is shooting 44.2% from the field and 34.6% from 3 point range. The Nets make 75% of their free throws. Brooklyn averages 42.3 rebounds per game and gives up 39.7 per game. The Nets are #2 in rebounds allowed and #15 in rebounding. Brooklyn opponents are shooting 46.1% from the field and 36.9% from 3 point range. The Nets are near the bottom of the league in both categories. Brooklyn is averaging 20.2 assists, 7.2 steals, 4.7 blocks, and 14.4 turnovers per game.
Center Brook Lopez averages 18.6 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 2.1 blocks per game. Guard Joe Johnson averages 17.4 points, 3 rebounds, and 3.5 assists per game. Point guard Deron Williams averages 17 points, 3.3 rebounds, 7.8 assists and a steal a game. None of the three were selected to the All-Star game, but many thought they should have been. Forward Andray Blatche averages 11 points, 5.9 rebounds, 1 assist, and 1.1 steals per game. Forward Gerald Wallace averages 9.3 points, 5.2 rebounds, 2.8 assists, and 1.4 steals per game. Forward Kris Humphries averages 6.8 points and 7 rebounds per game. C.J. Watson, MarShon Brooks, Jerry Stackhouse, Keith Bogans, and Reggie Evans make up the rest of the rotation.
The Grizzlies are coached by Lionel Hollins. Memphis is outscoring teams 93-90 this season. They are second in the league in points allowed and are #27 in scoring. The Grizzlies are shooting 43.5% from the field and 34% from 3 point range. The Grizzlies are #24 in field goal percentage and #22 in three point shooting. Memphis is #4 in the league in free throw shooting at 79.2% from the line. The Grizzlies average 43 rebounds per game and give up 39. Memphis is #1 in rebounds allowed and #11 in rebounding. Grizzlies’ opponents are shooting 43.5% from the field and 35.9% from 3 point range. Memphis is #5 in opponents’ field goal percentage and #16 in 3 point defense. The Grizzlies average 20.4 assists, 9.1 steals, 5.4 blocks and 14.8 turnovers a game.
Small forward Rudy Gay averages 17.3 points per game, 6 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.4 steals a game. Forward Zach Randolph averages 16.1 points, 11.6 rebounds to lead the team, and 1.4 assists per game. Randolph is second in the league in rebounding, and was chosen a a reserve for the Western Conference All-Star team. He leads the league in double doubles with 27. Both Gay and Randolph have been the subject of trade rumors despite the great start of the Grizzlies. That probably won’t happen with the cost saving trade involving 3 reserves the Grizzlies made with the Cleveland Cavaliers earlier this week. Center Marc Gasol averages 13.3 points, 7.4 rebounds, 3.5 assists, a steal, and 1.8 blocks per game. Point Guard Mike Conley, Jr. averages 13.3 points, 2.6 rebounds, 5.9 assists, and 2.4 steals a game to lead the team in the latter two categories. Tony Allen starts at shooting guard and is one of the best defenders in the league. Allen averages 8.3 points, 4.1 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 1.7 steals per game. Point guard Jerryd Bayless, forward Quincy Pondexter, forward Darrell Arthur, guard Tony Wroten and center Hamed Haddadi make up the rest of the rotation. Forward Jon Leuer was acquired in the trade Tuesday with the Cavaliers. He is expected to join the team tonight. Pondexter is out indefinitely with a grade 2 MCL sprain. The Grizzlies also called up forward Chris Johnson from the D-League to fill out the roster.
This should be a defensive battle between teams ranked in the top 5 in points allowed. Memphis has gotten back to the defensive intensity that has been their calling card this season. The Grizzlies sometimes struggle on offense, but the offense came alive against the Lakers Wednesday night. Of course the Lakers are one of the worst teams on defense in the league. Before that game Memphis had scored 85 points or fewer in six straight contests. As hot as the Nets have been, I like them to keep up their winning ways in a low scoring affair.