USA TODAY Sports
The Brooklyn Nets, sans shooting guard Joe Johnson, host the Memphis Grizzlies.
First-time All-Star Brook Lopez, rebounding machine Reggie Evans and utility man Gerald Wallace pose as a talented enough frontcourt to challenge Memphis' Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph. But while the battle in the interior could be the difference on Sunday night, it's Brooklyn's dynamic backcourt that must answer the most questions.
Point guard Deron Williams, as he has all season, is working through troublesome ankle issues. Adding to the Nets' issues is heel soreness that has shooting guard Joe Johnson sitting out his second game in a row and second of the entire season. Brooklyn (33-23) missed one of the NBA's best clutch performers and a 17-point per game scorer in a 106-96 loss to the Houston Rockets on Friday that ended the team's four-game winning streak.
Memphis will employ a deliberate offense to go with the second-best defense in the NBA that gives up 100.2 points per 100 possessions, according to Basketball-Reference.com. At the same time, the Grizzlies might be a tad vulnerable seeing as they only defeated the lowly Orlando Magic on Friday in an ugly 88-82 barnburner.
Matchup to watch
Arguably, Gasol was as deserving to make the NBA All-Star game as Randolph. While Gasol didn't get the nod and Randolph did, it's no secret that he is of equal importance in the Grizzlies' offense.
Gasol goes head-to-head against Lopez, who made his debut in the All-Star game once Boston's Rajon Rondo was ruled out with a season-ending injury.
Lopez is coming off a 27-point game on 13-of-21 shooting against the Houston Rockets, but in the teams' first meeting this season, a 101-77 Memphis win, Lopez scored 18 but was outplayed by Gasol outside of the scoring department. The Memphis center had 20 points on 10-of-15 shooting to go with nine boards. Lopez's low rebounding rate is an issue magnified against the Grizzlies, and that was on display in that Jan. 25 game as Gasol grabbed four offensive boards, equaling Lopez's total for the game.
Watson no slouch
Backup point guard C.J. Watson is rolling over the course of his last four games, averaging 17.5 points and 4.3 assists per game. In place of Johnson in the starting lineup in the loss to the Rockets on Friday, he scored 17 points to equal Johnson's season average.
Time: 7 p.m. ET
Odds: Memphis opened as 3.5-point favorites.
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