The New York Knicks come to The Bluff City to take on the Grizzlies tonight at The FedExForum. The guys from Gotham are riding high on a four-game winning streak, while the Memphis squad has been singing the blues of late.
Memphis had a tremendous run heading into the playoffs in 2011 and pounded their opponents on the boards, but they’ve had difficulty picking up where they left off due to injuries. Just prior to the late start of this shortened season the Griz lost 6’9” backup C/PF Darrell Arthur, who tore his Achilles tendon during practice. And they’ve been without their key big guy 12th-year PF 6’9” Zach Randolph since he injured his knee in the fourth game.
Randolph led the Grizzlies in both scoring and rebounding last year. Without Z-Bo’s interior toughness and at times prolific scoring and board work, Coach Lionel Hollins needs his other big men, especially 4th-year 7’1” C Marc Gasol, to step up their production, execution and intensity. This is especially important tonight with the Knicks boasting what many basketball brains consider the top frontcourt in the 30-team league. With 10th-year 6’11” 6X-All Star PF Amar’e Stoudemire, 9th-year 6’8’ 4X-All Star SF Carmelo Anthony and the new addition of 11th-year 7’1” shot-blocking C Tyson Chandler, coach Mike D’Antoni’s frontline is formidable at both ends of the court.
New York last played yesterday, which may bode well for Memphis. The Knicks beat a Philadelphia team that was on a six-game winning streak 85-79. Carmelo Anthony had 27 points and 9 boards; Amar’e Stoudemire scored 20 points and pulled down 10 rebounds; and Tyson Chandler led both teams with 13 boards in the victorious effort at MSG.
Tonight’s contest is the second of a four-game home stand for the Grizzlies, who were an impressive 30-11 at home last year. They played and lost on Tuesday to the Oklahoma City Thunder 100-95, their third loss in a row. After the Knicks, the Griz host New Orleans and then Chicago, so a win tonight could be just the answer to get Rudy Gay and company over their early season struggles. On the flip side, an ‘L’ to the men from MSG will leave the Grizzlies searching for answers.
Memphis’ backcourt trio of PG Mike Conley, SG O.J. Mayo and SG/defensive stopper Tony Allen will be matched up against the Knicks young one and two. 2nd-year SG Landry Fields and rookie combo guard Iman Shumpert have handled much of New York’s backcourt burden along with 3rd-year PG Toney Douglas. So while most of the attention will be paid to the Knicks front three triumvirate, the battles at the guard positions may ultimately decide this game.
Marv Albert, Reggie Miller and I will bring you the first matchup of tonight’s doubleheader on TNT when the Memphis Grizzlies host the New York Knicks at 8:00 PM EST.