WHEN: 7:00 PM CT
WHERE: FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: FOX Sports Southeast/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
MEMPHIS- Mike Conley (Questionable, Achilles)
MEMPHIS- Mike Conley, Dillon Brooks, James Ennis III, JaMychal Green, Marc Gasol
INDIANA- Darren Collison, Victor Oladipo, Bojan Bogdanovich, Thaddeus Young, Myles Turner
The cavalry is coming...sort of.
Tonight the Memphis Grizzlies take on the Indiana Pacers back in the friendly confines of FedExForum after five games straight on the road. Aside from the energy that the hometown crowd will hopefully give their limping Grizzlies (2-5 in their last 7 games), Memphis should stand to benefit from the returning JaMychal Green. JaM only played four minutes in the season opener before injuring his ankle, but now he is back to potentially give the starting lineup a much needed boost.
This comes not a moment too soon, as the Grizzlies are struggling in their starting five. Mike Conley’s issues have been well documented, and as great as players like Dillon Brooks and Tyreke Evans have been they cannot make up for the absence of The Conductor’s production. Marc Gasol has been ok-to-good all season long, but the Grizzlies have not been able to withstand this long stretch of poor/mediocre play from their two best players.
Maybe JaMychal will provide a spark. Here’s how the Grizzlies can get the job done against the Pacers tonight.
Make Their Bigs Play Small
With the departure of Paul George, the Indiana Pacers are now Myles Turner’s team (with a side of Victor Oladipo, but more on him in a moment.) Turner is a talented big who does excels exactly at what has given Marc Gasol fits in the past- being athletic and long, with the ability to run. Myles is still young, of course, but he has a ton of potential and has been given the keys to the Pacers kingdom. With the freedom from expectation that he and his Indiana teammates enjoy, they are free to make mistakes and play the game without pressure.
This could spell trouble for Memphis. Because Turner isn’t their only athletic/talented big- Thad Young, Domantas Sabonis, and TJ Leaf all also will likely see big minutes for Indy. There may well be more healthy depth in the front court for the Pacers than the Grizzlies. It will be a test of JaMychal’s ankle, as well as Chandler Parsons’ effectiveness as a bench big playing against true bigs in reserve minutes.
Oladi-no Comfortable Shots for Victor
Lots of folks shook their collective heads when Sabonis and Victor Oladipo were all the Pacers got in return for the sure-to-depart-Indy Paul George. Now, the trade does not appear quite as lopsided. Sabonis is doing well off the bench, but even more importantly Oladipo is showing just how good many thought the former Indiana Hoosier could be in the NBA. His 23.4 points per game average is the best of his career and good for 11th in the Association in scoring, and his 44.4% shooting from beyond the arc so far this season is the best percentage among those 11 top scorers.
Oladipo is getting buckets. He has been especially hot the past two games (a win over Chicago and a loss to Houston), shooting a combined 22-37 from the field and 3-8 from three point land. Do the math there, folks- he’s 19 of 29 on two-point attempts, or 65.5% overall. He is attacking off the dribble and having his way with opponents. Memphis cannot allow for him to get in to a rhythm. They must be aggressive over screens and be prepared to help/hedge to throw off his angles to the rim. Force the ball out of his hands, make someone else beat you.
This game should be a win for the Grizzlies...in theory. But Memphis, even with all the roster turnover, has shown to once again be a team that rises and falls to the levels of their competition. This game, after a long road trip, has trap game written all over it for all the reasons listed above and then some.
Indy has young, hungry talent that isn’t afraid of losing, because that is what is expected of them. They can take risks, and attack, and play loose, and their offensive rating (106.2) is good for 9th in the NBA. They will be able to score. The Pacers are not a strong defensive team, though (106.6 defensive rating- 23rd in the NBA) and the Grizzlies should be able to keep up and then some with players like Reke and Dillon Brooks playing so well of late.
Memphis is a better team, but this game will be like many Grizzlies games and be much closer than it probably should be. Look for Tyreke Evans to continue his tear and for flashes of vintage Mike Conley/Marc Gasol pick and roll action to rule the day as Memphis pulls away late.
Memphis 107, Indiana 101