One night after the New England Patriots triumphed over the Seattle Seahawks in a classic Super Bowl match-up, the city of Phoenix welcomes an NBA Western conference match-up between the Memphis Grizzlies and Phoenix Suns.
Memphis enters the game second in the West and riding a six-game winning streak. Most of those victories came at home, but the one road win was an impressive 109-90 drubbing of the Dallas Mavericks. Their most recent outing was Saturday night against the Oklahoma City Thunder where they kept a Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook team to just 74 points.
“Beast Mode” Marshawn Lynch may have been dominant last night, but a different “beast” visits Phoenix on Monday. Zach Randolph is about as vicious as power forwards come in the NBA and he has been at a dominant best over the past week. He had 22 points and 10 rebounds in Dallas, followed by 15 pts and 17 boards against the Denver Nuggets, before Saturday night’s 21-point, 18-rebound performance. A remarkable 10 of those rebounds came on the offensive glass.
The Suns’ front court has undoubtedly exceeded preseason expectations, but they are still a pretty youthful bunch. It’s the type of game where the experienced Randolph-Marc Gasol duo should be able to control the inside game.
For Phoenix’s part, they endured a disappointing outing in Oakland against the Golden State Warriors on Saturday. They shot the ball poorly and turned it over far too often (not something they are generally guilty of). In general, their form since the New Year has been exceptional. They are 10-5 since the calendar turned over to 2015 and had entered the weekend on the back on good wins against the Washington Wizards and Chicago Bulls.
The backcourt duo of Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe are the engine of a Suns’ team that moves the ball well, shoots well and utilises its bench. However, the key in this match-up will be whether can generate anything on the inside. Markieff Morris is the key player for Phoenix there. The 25-year old has done a pretty good job as the team’s starting power forward, but his competitiveness on the boards is still erratic. He’s coming off two consecutive strong games against the Warriors and the Bulls, but is still averaging only 6.0 RPG on the season. Can he compete against the likes of Randolph?
Betting Preview: Memphis (-2.5) vs. Phoenix
Neither team has disclosed any significant injuries ahead of this game. This is their third clash of the season. The Grizzlies won both games comfortably. They won in Phoenix 102-91 on Nov 5 and earlier this month 122-110 at home on Jan 11.
This isn’t the ideal match-up for the Suns. They are 13-15 in the conference and continue to struggle against the league’s elite opposition. Jeff Hornacek’s team have losses against the Houston Rockets and LA Clippers in their last five.
Expect a much better game than the contest on January 11, but the Grizzlies will own the boards, while Mike Conley Jr. and Tony Allen do a strong job on Dragic and Bledsoe.
The Pick: Memphis (-2.5) (www.betonline.ag)
Writer’s Record Against The Spread: 21-15