By Kyle Sullivan
The Sixers return to action Friday as they head to FedEx Forum to take on the Memphis Grizzlies. The Grizzlies, who sit one game out of the eighth seed in the West, are coming off a 107-102 win over the Miami Heat on Wednesday that helped keep their playoff hopes alive. The Sixers flew in from Toronto after suffering a 125-114 loss at the Air Canada Centre.
Matchup to Watch
Point Guard: Mike Conley vs. Michael Carter-Williams
In their last matchup, Mike Conley had 19 points on 5-of-9 shooting, with 7 of his points coming from the free throw line (7-8). He also contributed four rebounds and four assists. On the other end of the court, Michael Carter-Williams gave his side 23 points on 10-of-16 shooting, also notching eight rebounds and three assists.
During Memphis’ win over the Heat on Wednesday, Conley contributed 26 points on 10-of-18 shooting and also added six assists, three rebounds, and two steals. He was one of three Grizzlies to score 20+ points, the other two being Zach Randolph (25) and Marc Gasol (20). Conley is averaging 17.3 points, 6.0 assists, 2.9 rebounds, and 1.5 steals this season.
In his last game against the Raptors Wednesday night, Carter-Williams put up 19 points on 7-of-12 shooting while adding in nine rebounds and eight assists; he was one rebound and two assists away from his third career triple-double. Carter-Williams is averaging 16.7 points, 6.3 assists, 6.1 rebounds, and 1.9 steals per game on the year.
New City, New Man
Henry Sims, who logged just 168 minutes in 20 appearances with the Cavaliers earlier this season, has reinvented himself as a 76er. The second-year center was acquired by Philadelphia at February’s trade deadline. Since then, he’s played in 22 games, starting 21 of them. Since putting on a Philadelphia uniform, Sims is averaging 11.8 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 1.8 assists per game. During his time in Cleveland earlier this year, Sims averaged 2.2 points, 2.8 rebounds, and 0.3 assists in just 8.4 minutes per contest. Sims has been given a chance to shine here in Philadelphia and he’s taken full advantage of it.
Memphis has been defined over the past several years for its defense, and this season is no different. The Grizzlies are third in the league in points allowed per game (94.5 OPPG) and third in the league in points allowed in the paint per game (38.5), an area where the Sixers excel. Memphis has the reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year on their squad in center Marc Gasol and a three-time NBA All-Defense honoree in Tony Allen on the perimeter. It should be noted that the Grizzlies rank last in possessions per game (93.4). Stil, they rank in the top 10 in defensive efficiency.
Against the Memphis Grizzlies, the Sixers have a chance to play late-season spoiler. With a win, Philadelphia can take a serious shot at Memphis’ playoff hopes, potentially putting them in a situation in which three wins to end the season could be their only shot at making the postseason. Saturday against the Bobcats in Charlotte, the Sixers again have the opportunity to affect the postseason. The Bobcats and Wizards are currently tied for sixth in the East. Both have four games to play in the 2013-14 season, and the team that falls to the seventh seed will likely find themselves matched up against the Miami Heat in the opening round.
|Category||Sixers (17-61)||Grizzlies (46-32)|
|PPG||Thaddeus Young – 18.0||Mike Conley – 17.3|
|RPG||Henry Sims – 7.1||Zach Rudolph – 10.1|
|APG||Michael Carter-Williams – 6.3||Mike Conley – 6.0|
|SPG||Thaddeus Young – 2.1||Tony Allen – 1.6|
|BPG||Jarvis Varnado – 1.4||Marc Gasol – 1.3|