WHERE: FedExForum in Memphis, TN
WHEN: 7:00 PM CT
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: FOX Sports Southeast/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
MEMPHIS - Wayne Selden Jr. (out, quad), Tyreke Evans (day-to-day, right shoulder), Brandan Wright (out, groin), Mike Conley (out, ankle)
PORTLAND - none
MEMPHIS - Mario Chalmers, Dillon Brooks, Chandler Parsons, JaMychal Green, Marc Gasol
PORTLAND - Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum, Maurice Harkless, Noah Vonleh, Jusuf Nurkic
The good news is, the last team the Memphis Grizzlies beat was the Portland Trail Blazers. That was just under two weeks ago in Portland, Oregon. A lot has changed since that game - no wins for the Grizz, no Mike Conley, and most certainly there is a team in Memphis that is searching for answers.
This game could be just what the Grizzlies need. Portland has played some good basketball this year, though their only solid win came against a struggling Oklahoma City Thunder team. Memphis is already 0-2 in this home stand, with one more home game on November 22nd to round out the four game stint. A win over Portland followed by a quality performance against Dallas on Wednesday could put Memphis right back on track.
The last four games have been disappointing, but the Grizz are due to bounce back. Injuries are again becoming an issue, with Wayne Selden Jr. is visiting the injury report yet again, Brandan Wright was ruled out for tonight’s game yesterday, and let’s all hope Tyreke Evans plays, he is more than essential to the Grizz’ offense.
Here are a few keys to tonight’s game:
Win the Bench Scoring Battle
The Memphis Grizzlies bench has single-handedly kept this team in games most of the season. As one of the best scoring benches in the league, they have to pull their own weight against a less than stellar Portland bench. Memphis won the bench battle in the first meeting 38-32, but will have to find other scoring options off the bench tonight; in the first meeting Parsons and Chalmers came off the bench.
With limited bench players and Ben McLemore back, it’s time for someone else to contribute significant playmaking ability off the bench beside Tyreke Evans. It has been fun for everyone to watch Reke do his thing, but its obvious he needs help. This team needs scoring options, and the bench can provide that spark that clearly needs to ignite this team.
Corral C.J. McCollum and Damian Lillard
I suppose this goes without saying, but McCollum and Lillard are the Trailblazers first, second, third, fourth, and only options to score. Evan Turner can get his when he chooses to, but with these two guards on the floor, you can bet they are going to be the ones to get the first shots. In the first meeting, McCollum went for 36 and looked dominant, Lillard: not so much, just 12 points on 4-16 shooting. These guys are professional scorers, so defending them is not an easy task. But the Grizzlies are notorious for keeping elite scorers in check, I can only expect the same tonight.
If the game is close in the final minutes, as it was the first go around, put money on one of these two taking the final shot, whoever has the hot hand. They are scary in crunch time, let’s just hope it doesn’t have to come down to that.
JaMychal Green in Full-Force
Green has played two games since coming back from injury and looked very good in his limited minutes. He has only missed three out of 12 shots in two games and averaging 11.5 points. His mobility will take some time to return, but its his aggressiveness and shot selection that are key to getting back in the groove of NBA basketball. So far he has chosen shots wisely, taking what the defense has given him and not putting too much strain on his ankle.
After logging 23 minutes against Houston, this game he will likely be back in true form, playing significant minutes, especially in the fourth quarter. Protecting his health is the number one priority, but now this team needs answers. JaMychal Green could be that answer. Look for him to show signs of life tonight against the slower bigs of Portland.
After losing four straight, this is as much as a panic-button game as you can have this early in the season. In general, Memphis has played average basketball and their record shows it. Marc Gasol has looked dominant, and Portland’s bigs can’t match up with him, so he should have another solid performance. With Mike Conley out, the secondary scorer on this team is a wild card. Although Evans should be that guy, he may be out come game time, and the luxury that he has had coming off the bench is that he doesn’t have to be that scorer every night. That could change, we will see if he is up to the task.
JaMychal Green and Chandler Parsons are starting again, which is a good sign for Grizzlies fans, this is a game to create that chemistry that we have all been anticipating since the Parsons signing. And finally, there is the back-up point guard named Mario Chalmers. Let’s be honest, he can’t guard McCollum or Lillard, especially with how foul happy Chalmers is. This could be a huge story line for this game, especially with the next point guard being Andrew Harrison. Portland would be wise to exploit this match up.
Optimism may get the best of me tonight, but this is a good game to get back on track.