Grizzlies-Kings Preview

The Associated Press

The Memphis Grizzlies are a stronger team when Zach Randolph is healthy, but they're still trying to find a rotation that works since the All-Star forward returned from injury.

That may not be a concern against the Sacramento Kings, who have had little success in slowing down the Grizzlies of late.

Memphis opens a road-heavy portion of its schedule Tuesday night when it goes for a fifth consecutive victory in this series and a season sweep.

After going 23-14 with Randolph sidelined with a torn MCL, the Grizzlies (25-18) have split two games since he's returned. Marreese Speights has remained in the starting lineup, though Randolph has been playing more than 24 minutes per game compared to over 12 for Speights.

Randolph scored 13 points and grabbed nine rebounds in a 97-92 victory over Washington on Sunday as the Grizzlies salvaged the finale of a three-game homestand. They won despite shooting 40.0 percent from the field and allowing the Wizards to make 47.4 percent.

"It's been a little bit of a challenge," point guard Mike Conley said of having Randolph back. "... I think everybody is just learning their roles, and some roles have been adjusted."

While another adjustment will have to be made after point guard Gilbert Arenas decided to join them Tuesday, the Grizzlies seem unlikely to change anything about their approach against the Kings as they begin a stretch of four straight and nine of 11 on the road.

Memphis has won both matchups this season by a combined 50 points while shooting 54.6 percent, including 41.7 from 3-point range. Rudy Gay has scored 23.0 points per game in the series to lead four Grizzlies averaging at least 17.0 against Sacramento in 2011-12.

The Grizzlies have outscored the Kings by 20.7 points during their four consecutive wins in the series.

Memphis' lone loss in its last eight versus the Kings came in its last visit to the California state capital Dec. 29, 2010. Leading by one with 1.5 seconds left following an off-balance jumper by O.J. Mayo, the Grizzlies fell 100-98 on Tyreke Evans' buzzer-beating 3-pointer from beyond midcourt.

Evans, though, has been relatively ineffective against the Grizzlies this season with 22 total points. He's questionable for Tuesday after missing the last two games with a sprained left ankle.

The absence of the former Rookie of the Year hardly hurt his team in those contests, as Sacramento routed Boston 120-95 on Friday and defeated Minnesota 115-99 on Sunday.

The Kings (16-29), 14th in the Western Conference, can match a season-high three-game win streak set Feb. 2-6. Sacramento has shot 48.3 percent from the floor during its current 4-3 stretch.

"We're having fun right now, playing the game the right way,'' said rookie point guard Isaiah Thomas, averaging 14.8 points and 4.8 assists in 16 games since being inserted into the starting lineup. "It's always nice when guys are knocking down shots."

Marcus Thornton has averaged 30.0 points in the last two games, while Jason Thompson has made 14 of 17 shots and scored 34 points with a team-best 25 rebounds in those contests.

The Grizzlies took the most recent matchup 128-95 at home Jan. 21. DeMarcus Cousins had 19 points and 11 boards for Sacramento, but his team allowed Memphis to shoot 54.3 percent from the field and go 8 for 16 from beyond the arc.

Sacramento rookie guard Jimmer Fredette has gone 7 of 12 from beyond the arc and scored a team-best 37 points against the Grizzlies.