The game we've all had circled on our calendars since the Sixers shipped Marreese Speights off to Memphis earlier this year has finally arrived.
Ok, maybe that's not the case. Speights has generally played poorly for the Grizzlies since being traded there, averaging 8.4 points and 6.6 rebounds in 22.8 minutes per game sporting a woeful 47.2% true shooting percentage. But you know Speights is eager to show Doug Collins that he made a mistake. Speights didn't see any minutes in the Sixers first 4 games before being traded for a bag of basketballs. That probably means he is ready to shoot a plethora of 18 foot jumpers tonight.
To Speights credit, he's been playing better of late after it began to look like he was close to losing his starting job. Speights is averaging 12.5 points and 10.4 rebounds per game over his last 8 games, shooting 54.2% from the field over that stretch (while averaging 0.8 assists per game, 0.4 steals, and 0.6 blocks. Indifference!). Perhaps most impressive is he's been shooting more near the rim of late, getting shots off of offensive rebounds, pick and rolls, and off his teammates dribble penetration. Speights always had the skills to play that kind of role offensively, but then somebody showed him the 18 foot jumper and completely derailed his career.
That being said, I hardly expect Speights to be any sort of difference maker tonight, nor anywhere near the most intriguing matchup. How will the Sixers defend Marc Gasol in the post? Can Iguodala shut down Rudy Gay like he has in the past (ignore this game)? Will Jrue Holiday and Louis Williams be effective against Tony Allen? How will Jrue defend the Mike Conley/Marc Gasol pick and roll? Can the Sixers (fewest turnovers in league) take care of the ball against the Grizzlies (best in forcing turnovers)? Can they keep the Grizzlies off the offensive glass?
This will be a tough road test. The Grizzlies have won 5 of their past 6 at home and are 12-5 there on the season and the Sixers are struggling, losing three in a row for the first time all year. The Grizzlies are one of the best teams in the league at forcing turnovers and getting out in transition, and if the Sixers are sloppy (or settle for long jumpers -> long rebounds -> transition), they could be in for a tough night.
Game is at 8 PM eastern.