Kings-Grizzlies Preview

The Associated Press

The Memphis Grizzlies have used stifling defense to win their last five games.

Facing the Sacramento Kings, however, usually brings out the best in their offense.

The Grizzlies, who have already overwhelmed the Kings once this season, look to win six in a row for the first time in six years Saturday night at FedEx Forum.

After allowing an average of 95.1 points in its first nine games, Memphis (8-6) is yielding an average of 87.2 during its winning streak. The Grizzlies forced 25 turnovers in Friday's 98-81 win over Detroit, and have at least 17 in each of the last five games. Memphis, which hasn't won six straight since reeling off seven in a row from March 14-26, 2006, forced at least 17 turnovers four times during its 3-6 start.

"We're getting better," Marc Gasol said. "One thing we do a lot better is playing defense right now."

Memphis' defense seems like it could pose some problems for the Kings (6-10), who are averaging 85.4 points on 37.4 percent shooting in their last seven games. Sacramento already had some trouble against the Grizzlies on Jan. 3, shooting 41.0 percent and committing 19 turnovers in a 113-96 loss.

The Grizzlies have outscored the Kings by an average of 16.7 points in winning the last three meetings, and have won six of seven in the series, averaging 108.7 points in the victories.

Although Zach Randolph typically was the one leading Memphis over Sacramento, Rudy Gay has also had a hand in the offense.

Playing their first game since Randolph tore his MCL against the Kings three weeks ago, the Grizzlies shot 54.9 percent and Gay had a game-high 23 points on 10 of 16 shooting. In six games against the Kings since 2009-10, Gay is averaging 22.2 points, his second-best scoring average against any Western Conference team.

Gay has also been instrumental to Memphis' current winning streak, averaging 21.8 points on 56.8 percent shooting.

He isn't doing it by himself, though, as Gasol and Mike Conley have also stepped up. Gasol is averaging 15.1 points and 11.2 rebounds in the 10 games since Randolph's injury and Conley is averaging 17.3 points on 60.0 percent shooting and 9.0 assists in the last four contests.

"We're playing really well as a group," coach Lionel Hollins said. "We're starting to find who we are and what our identity is."

The Kings might be feeling the same way.

Sacramento has won back-to-back games for the first time this season, and its latest victory was somewhat unexpected. Facing a San Antonio team undefeated at home, the Kings snapped a 12-game losing streak to the Spurs with Friday's 88-86 victory.

Tyreke Evans had 23 points and 11 rebounds, including the go-ahead jumper with 47.2 seconds left, as Sacramento improved to 2-7 on the road.

"It just shows you the type of team we've got,'' Evans said. "We've got all the pieces to this puzzle. We just have to play hard for all 48 minutes."

The Kings also need Evans to show up every night. They're 5-2 this season when he scores 20 points, but 1-8 when he doesn't

Evans has been incredibly inconsistent this month, averaging 25.0 points on 48.0 percent shooting in seven of his games, but just 7.4 points on 25.9 percent shooting in the other five. One of those lousy efforts came in Memphis, when he finished with nine points on 4 of 11 from the field.

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