Grizzlies vs. Kings preview - 1/29/14
By Jeff Bartl
Tipoff: 9pm on SportSouth, 92.9FM/680AM ESPN Radio
The Memphis Grizzlies have knocked off some of the Western Conference's top teams during their hot stretch and have seemingly turned things around after a disappointing start.
They'll seek their ninth victory in 10 tries Wednesday night while looking to earn a seventh consecutive win over the host Sacramento Kings, who have dropped four straight while dealing with a plethora of health issues.
After a run to the Western Conference finals last season, Memphis (23-20) started just 10-15 under first-year coach David Joerger. It has gone 13-5 since and earned a third straight victory with a 98-81 win over Portland on Tuesday.
The Grizzlies also have beaten Phoenix, Oklahoma City and Houston twice over the last two-plus weeks, and they've held their last seven opponents to an average of 85.4 points.
"We're going into every game telling ourselves we're going to win the game," guard Courtney Lee said. "We just need to go out there and execute, like I said, on both ends and we'll get the win."
Zach Randolph finished with 23 points and 10 rebounds Monday for his 27th double-double, and Mike Conley added 19 points and seven assists.
"I've been very happy with our focus in practices and shootarounds and preparation for the game," Conley said. "So, it's spilling into the first quarters, second quarters, and it's giving us a good start to games that we haven't had in the last couple months."
Memphis got a tough challenge from Sacramento (15-29) on Jan. 17 before pulling out a 91-90 victory behind 25 points from Conley. The Kings were fully healthy at that point, something they can't say now.
DeMarcus Cousins (ankle sprain) and former Memphis star Rudy Gay (Achilles strain) have missed the last three games with injuries, and they're considered day to day. Gay participated in warmups but was a late scratch for Monday's 106-99 loss at Utah.
The Kings, who have dropped four straight, also played the second half without Isaiah Thomas after he fell ill at halftime. It's unclear if Thomas, who entered Monday averaging 27.6 points over his previous five, will be able to play in this contest.
"Some of our guys were like, `Oh boy, what are we going to do now?' Now we have Isaiah, Rudy and DeMarcus all out," coach Mike Malone said. "It was shellshock."
Jason Thompson finished with 19 points and 11 rebounds starting in place of Cousins, and Derrick Williams had 17 points and 15 boards in Gay's place. Ben McLemore came off the bench to score 14 for Sacramento, which trailed by as many as 20 before trimming the lead to five in the final minutes.
Sacramento made Utah shoot an NBA season-high 53 free throws while trying to foul poor free-throw shooters to get back into the game.
"We really competed in the fourth quarter," Williams said. "That's all you can do, especially when you have three starters out."
Gay, who was traded to Toronto last season before the Raptors dealt him to Sacramento on Dec. 9, scored 19 points in the last meeting with his former team, though he turned the ball over in the closing seconds when the Kings had a chance to win.
Memphis has won four straight on the road and has won its last three visits to Sacramento.
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