The Denver Nuggets' big men were badly outplayed by their Memphis Grizzlies counterparts when the teams met last month, and this time their entire starting frontcourt might be missing.
Denver may have a tough time bouncing back from one of its worst offensive efforts of the season Friday night when it visits defensive-minded Memphis, which seeks a third straight win and fifth in six games.
The Nuggets (17-13) will be without leading scorer Danilo Gallinari and center Timofey Mozgov due to ankle sprains, and top rebounder Nene could miss a third consecutive game with a calf strain. That starting trio was limited to 23 points and 14 rebounds in a 100-97 overtime loss at Memphis on Jan. 31.
Marc Gasol and Rudy Gay led the Grizzlies (16-14) with 20 points and 13 boards apiece. Marreese Speights, starting for the injured Zach Randolph, had just five points and four rebounds versus Denver but is coming off his best game in a Memphis uniform - 20 points and 18 boards in Wednesday's 105-100 win at New Jersey.
"A lot of people said I couldn't do this and do that, so this is a fresh opportunity," said Speights, acquired last month in a trade with Philadelphia.
Wednesday marked just the second time in 21 games an opponent reached 100 points against the Grizzlies, who allow 91.9 per game to rank third among Western Conference teams. Memphis has won two straight and four of five since a 2-7 slump.
"At the end of the day it's about the Grizzlies getting a W, whether it's pretty or ugly," said Tony Allen, who had 21 points and five steals. "We try to do it together. This is a team thing. Ain't nothing pretty for us."
Denver's offense certainly wasn't pretty in the first matchup with Memphis, committing 25 turnovers. The Grizzlies lead the league in turnovers forced (17.9 per game) and steals (10.2).
The Nuggets had another rough night offensively Wednesday, held to a season-low 35.7 percent from the field in a 102-84 loss at Dallas.
"We struggled on offense and that affected our defense," forward Al Harrington said. "They were just a better team tonight and we've got to move on."
Denver's Arron Afflalo missed all six of his field-goal attempts and had three points after averaging 23.0 over the previous three games.
Ty Lawson had three points on 1-of-8 shooting, marking the first time he's failed to score in double figures since Jan. 4. Lawson totaled 44 points over the previous two games, and the Nuggets won both.
"Lawson's penetration is something everybody in the league is trying to solve," Dallas coach Rick Carlisle said.
He'll be matched up with Mike Conley, who is coming off his first double-double of the month with 16 points and 10 assists. Conley has averaged 17.3 points in his last four games.
Gay had 25 points Wednesday as Memphis improved to 12-4 when he scores at least 20.
His small forward counterpart, Corey Brewer, shot a season-worst 3 for 15 on Wednesday and was held to nine points for a second straight game as he fills in for Gallinari.
Kosta Koufos, starting for Mozgov, had 12 points and 14 rebounds but now faces a tough matchup with Gasol, who is averaging 16.7 points and 10.5 boards at home.
The Grizzlies have won eight of 11 at home while allowing 89.5 points per game since a loss Jan. 10 to Oklahoma City - the only visiting team to score 100 points in Memphis.
- Memphis Grizzlies
- The Nuggets