WHERE: FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee
WHEN: 7:00 PM CT
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: Fox Sports Southeast/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
NEW ORLEANS- Dante Cunningham (Out, personal), Terrence Jones (Out, thumb), Quincy Pondexter (Out, knee)
MEMPHIS- Mike Conley, Tony Allen, Chandler Parsons, JaMychal Green, Marc Gasol
NEW ORLEANS- Jrue Holiday, Buddy Hield, Solomon Hill, Anthony Davis, Alexis Ajinca
The All-Star break is upon us.
The Memphis Grizzlies are currently sitting in a spot where not too many folks thought they’d be. They’re eleven games over .500 and within striking distance of the four seed in the stacked Western Conference playoff picture, only a game or so behind everyone’s perennial overrated favorites, the Los Angeles Clippers. Some (not this writer, but I digress) felt the Grizzlies would be lucky to be the seven or the eight seed. Some were nervous they would not make the playoffs at all.
That sounds pretty silly now, doesn’t it?
Behind the efforts of Marc Gasol and Mike Conley, the professionalism of Vince Carter and Zach Randolph, and the improvement of JaMychal Green, James Ennis, and others, the Grizzlies are again bucking the trend. Memphis ain’t dead yet, and the reports of their demise have been greatly exaggerated.
All these good feelings could be dulled a bit, however, if the Grizzlies cannot take care of the New Orleans Pelicans tonight in Memphis. The Pels have given Memphis fits in the past, and they have two players in particular - Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday - who are playing pretty darn good basketball currently. These two can cause real problems, and if Memphis isn’t ready to play, they could go into the upcoming seven full days off with a bad taste in their mouth.
How to avoid such a tough spot? Some keys to tonight’s contest:
Bite the Bench Monster
Davis (27.9 points, 12.1 rebounds, 2.5 blocks per game) and Holiday (16.2 points, 7.5 assists, 38.8% three point percentage per game) are the straw that stir the NOLA drink. But the Pelicans have four players currently coming off the bench that could create chaos for the Memphis bench unit. Tyreke Evans, Langston Galloway, E’twaun Moore, and Donantas Motiejunas were a major reason New Orleans beat the Suns in their last game. Those four players scored a combined 43 points on 50% shooting.
Assuming the Grizzlies have a full allotment of players tonight, it will be on James Ennis and Vince Carter especially to contain Moore and Evans, who scored 30 points against Phoenix and can score the basketball in a variety of ways.
No Second Chances
The Pelicans are one of the worst offensive rebounding teams in the NBA, currently ranking 27th in the Association at 8.6 per game. Unfortunately, the Memphis Grizzlies allow the seventh most offensive rebounds per game to their opponents in the NBA at 9.3 per contest. The Pelicans are a damn good defensive rebounding team- they are 1st in the NBA, thanks in large part to Anthony Davis- so if the Grizzlies hope to not get blown out on the glass, they have to limit NOLA to one possession a trip on offense.
Look for wings like Chandler Parsons and Tony Allen to be aggressive clearing out the boards and helping to ensure that Davis and company do not get multiple shots at the rim.
This game is a scary one. Even though Memphis has handled their business against bad teams during their current stretch of success (seven wins the last nine games), the Pelicans are a divisional rival with an elite player in Anthony Davis. The Grizzlies are at home, ready to go on vacation or home or in Marc Gasol’s case to the All-Star festivities themselves this weekend. If there was ever a game to slip up on, it could very well be this one.
But these Grizzlies seem locked in at the moment. They are walking tall, winning without key players due to rest and executing well on both ends of the floor as they are led by their two leaders, Conley and Gasol. It is hard to see this veteran squad allow for themselves to go on vacation a day early- not with the clock ticking on the “Grit and Grind” era.
Behind solid Conley and Gasol performances, Memphis heads in to the break winners of eight of their last ten after securing a win over a game Pelicans squad.
MEMPHIS 106, NEW ORLEANS 100