WHEN: 8:00 PM CT
WHERE: FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: FOX Sports Southeast/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
MEMPHIS- Mike Conley (Out, Achilles), Wayne Selden Jr. (Out, Thigh), Brandan Wright (Out, Groin), Chandler Parsons (Out, Rest)
BOSTON- Daniel Theis (Questionable, Facial Laceration), Gordon Hayward (Out, Leg), Marcus Morris (Out, Knee)
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS-
MEMPHIS- Tyreke Evans, Andrew Harrison, Dillon Brooks, JaMychal Green, Marc Gasol
BOSTON- Kyrie Irving, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, Al Horford, Aron Baynes
From one of the worst teams in the NBA to one of the best, the Memphis Grizzlies are seeing both ends of the Association’s spectrum this weekend. Last night the Grizzlies beat a terrible Atlanta Hawks team, who Memphis could potentially be competing with for the worst record in the NBA. Meanwhile, tonight’s opponent, the Boston Celtics, are playing great basketball and boast one of the best records in the NBA without their major free agent signing, Gordon Hayward.
Surely if Memphis was not able to put away the dreadful Hawks the Grizzlies don’t have a chance in this game. But crazy things happen every night up and down the NBA schedule, and these Celtics have lost 3 of their last 5 games, 2 of which being on the road. While it is improbable, it isn’t impossible.
How can Memphis make this a game?
Put size on Kyrie
Kyrie Irving is thriving as a scorer out of the shadow of LeBron James in Cleveland. In Boston, he attacks and he shoots with a heightened confidence and understanding that he is “the guy”. He dropped 33 points on the Jazz last night with Ricky Rubio, a solid defender, on him much of the contest. Memphis does not have a Ricky Rubio...
They do, however, have an Andrew Harrison.
Harrison had another good game against the Hawks, and clearly is playing very hard and very effectively of late. His energy and effort is noticeable, and contagious. This is not to say that Andy could stop Kyrie - that isn’t possible. What is possible, though, is the size and length of Harrison giving Irving fits for limited stretches of the game.
You can’t stop Kyrie. But with Harrison, you can hope to contain him.
Try to Out-Horford Horford
Al Horford is a player who needed to step up when Gordon Hayward went down, and to this point in the season he has. He boasts a terrific +18 net rating, as well as a .203 win shares per 48 minutes, and has been a force defensively. He can create for teammates, he can protect the rim, he can do a little bit of everything...
That used to be Marc Gasol, who continues to struggle to put together complete games. He had multiple bad turnovers against Atlanta, and aside from a scoring burst at the start of the 3rd quarter was largely a non-factor. If Marc cannot go toe to toe with Horford right now (which makes me sad), players like JaMychal Green and James Ennis III need to be productive in a variety of ways. Without that competition, Horford will have his way and Boston will win easily.
This is a game Memphis is supposed to lose...but the Celtics aren’t playing their best basketball.
Boston in the last ten games:— Hardwood Paroxysm (@HPbasketball) December 16, 2017
108 defensive rating, negative net of -0.5
Of course the Grizzlies are worse, but these aren’t the dominant Celtics of their recent winning streak. They’ve cooled off, and there is potential for last night’s victory to serve as a launch pad in to some success for Memphis. Maybe it builds Mario Chalmers’ confidence. Perhaps it makes Deyonta Davis and others feel more comfortable.
Or maybe it’s a win over the NBA’s worst team.
The Grizzlies are bad. The Celtics are good. Memphis has a puncher’s chance...but not much more than that.