WHO: Memphis Grizzlies (20-12, 8-5 away) vs. Orlando Magic (14-18, 6-10 home)
WHEN: 6:00 PM CT
WHERE: Amway Center in Orlando, Florida
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: Fox Sports Southeast/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
MEMPHIS- Deyonta Davis (Out, Foot), Brandan Wright (Out, Ankle)
ORLANDO- Evan Fournier (Questionable, Heel)
MEMPHIS- Mike Conley, Tony Allen, Chandler Parsons, JaMychal Green, Marc Gasol
ORLANDO- D.J. Augustin, Jodie Meeks, Aaron Gordon, Serge Ibaka, Bismack Biyombo
Christmas Day has passed.
In the NBA that serves as a marking post with regard to where your team is at this stage in the young season that isn’t so young, anymore.
The Memphis Grizzlies are 20-12 through 32 games, and are in the hunt for any playoff seed in the Western Conference between three and seven.
- Houston Rockets- 22-9, three seed
- Los Angeles Clippers- 22-10, four seed
- MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES- 20-12, five seed
- Oklahoma City Thunder- 19-12, six seed
- Utah Jazz- 18-13, seven seed
The San Antonio Spurs are three games ahead of the Rockets (and are also still the San Antonio Spurs) so the two seed, and the one-seed of the Golden State Warriors, seem strong between those two teams, although they may flip-flop depending on factors like health. The current eight seed in the West, the Sacramento Kings, are 13-17, a full six games behind Memphis at this point in the season.
So, barring any health-related disasters, it feels like the top-seven teams in the West are what they are through 32 games for the Grizzlies. Pretty firmly a playoff team, but match-ups and home court are up for grabs over the season’s final 50 games.
Compare that with tonight’s opponent, the Orlando Magic, and you see two teams on two different courses. At 14-18, Orlando is still in the Eastern Conference playoff picture (1.5 games out of the eight seed) but they are 4-6 in their last 10 and are one of those rare teams that is currently worse record-wise at home (6-10) than on the road (8-8). Their best player offensively, Evan Fournier, missed their last game (a win over the floundering Lakers) and is questionable for tonight. The Magic are struggling, while Memphis is ripe for a run with the return of Mike Conley.
The Grizzlies are a top-7 team in the NBA right now record-wise. The Magic are at the bottom of the top-20. How can Memphis get a post-Christmas win in Orlando?
- Get Parsons Going: Two days rest hopefully allowed for Chandler to get his legs back under him a bit. Tonight would be a great time to start having better showings than he has had lately for Memphis. Parsons has always been the x-factor when it comes to the ceiling for this Grizzlies team this season. Memphis has been a very good Western Conference team with Mike Conley, Marc Gasol, Tony Allen, and Zach Randolph leading the way in the past. But for Memphis to truly contend, they need Parsons to be what he’s been in previous stops in Houston and Dallas- not just a stand-still shooter, but a creator off the dribble and facilitator. Here’s to hoping for better movement and a good Parsons performance tonight.
- Draw Rim Protectors Away from the Lane: One of the strengths of this Orlando team in their shot blocking. They are currently third in the NBA in blocked shots per game at 5.7, led by their two starting bigs Ibaka (1.8 blocks per game) and Biyombo (1.6 blocks per game). If JaMychal Green and Marc Gasol can get their shooting fro midrange and beyond going early, that will force Biyombo and Ibaka to leave the paint and will allow for cutting lanes for Tony Allen and driving lanes for Mike Conley. Spacing will be key for Memphis to have success on offense tonight.
This is a game that Memphis should win...but those who have followed the Grizzlies for a while know those kinds of games are usually tougher than they should be. If Fournier plays, Tony Allen needs to be sure his “antenna are up” and that he is focused, because “Never Google” is a special offensive talent that can keep Orlando in this game.
The two days off, however, likely did this veteran Grizzlies team good. They should be well rested, and focused on the task at hand- banking as many wins as possible in a loaded (at least in the first seven seeds) Western Conference.
Gasol will shine, Parsons will score double-digit points, and the Grizzlies will win on the first half of their after-Christmas back to back.
Memphis 102, Orlando 95