WHERE: FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee
WHEN: 7:00 PM CT
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: Fox Sports Southeast/ 92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
New York- None
Memphis- James Ennis III (Questionable, Calf), Mike Conley (Out, Achilles), Chandler Parsons (Out, Knee)
New York- Jarrett Jack, Courtney Lee, Tim Hardaway Jr., Kristaps Porzingis, Enes Kanter
Memphis- Tyreke Evans, Andrew Harrison, Dillon Brooks, JaMychal Green, Marc Gasol
The Grizzlies are coming off a solid performance against the Lakers (sans Lonzo Ball and Brandon Ingram) to show out on national TV for MLK Day. Tonight Memphis faces off with the Knicks with a chance to get their first winning streak since late October. The last time these two teams played, the Grizzlies had just snapped their 11 game losing streak but the loss to the Knicks started another run of losses for the Grizz. This time around, the Knicks are losers of 10 of their past 13 games albeit the Grizzlies aren’t much better.
With the Kings, and Zach Randolph, coming to town on Friday the Grizzlies have a great chance to go on a short winning streak to try and get back in playoff contention. Yes, it would probably be better to lose these games to get ahead in the tank but since the Grizzlies are trying to win games, this is their best chance for a streak to start.
Here are a few keys to the game for the Grizzlies to start a winning streak:
Wear out the Unicorn
Earlier this month Kristaps Porzingis in a post game interview said he was “so tired right now”. The return of Tim Hardaway Jr. has helped Porzingis carry the load some, but the Knicks have still played 8 games already in January, while the Grizzlies have only played 5. Porzingis is far and away the Knicks best player, so if the Grizzlies can wear him out he will likely have a poor performance, especially in the second half where he tends to be unable to play up to his usually high standards. Slowing down Porzingis will go a long way in a potential Grizzlies win.
Limit Role Players
The Grizzlies limited Porzingis to 18 points and 5 rebounds in their first matchup, but lost the game because they allowed Jarrett Jack, Courtney Lee, Enes Kanter and Michael Beasley to all score in double figures. Slowing down Porzingis does nothing to benefit the Grizzlies if they allow role players to go off for high scoring games. With the Grizzlies defensive issues, it’ll be hard to limit every single role player, but even limiting guys like Lee and Kanter will benefit the Grizzlies greatly.
The Grizzlies shot 51% from the field and 45.5% from deep, scoring 123 points in their win over the Lakers who had limited opponents to 95.3 points per game during the Lakers 4 game winning streak. The Knicks are a mediocre defensive team at best, so if the Grizzlies can continue their hot, consisten shooting then they should be able to outscore the pesky Knicks.
Enjoy the Little Things
In this lost season, I think it’s important to acknowledge and recognize the little things despite the losses. The Lakers win, although bad for the tank, was nice because Dillon Brooks showed off his skills scoring 19 points, while Deyonta Davis had himself a block party swatting away 5 shots. The Grizzlies may very well lose this game, so instead of focusing on the wins and losses look at what the future of this team is doing. Guys like Brooks, Davis and Wayne Selden playing well can give you a glimmer of hope for the future.
The Knicks are struggling and the Grizzlies are not good. The Grizzlies have the advantage of being at home, but the Knicks have the game’s best player. That alone doesn’t give me much confidence in the Grizzlies tonight.
Ultimately, I expect this game to be very similar to the first matchup. Memphis should ride behind the home crowd to an early lead and then give it up thanks to a poor second half and another Courtney Lee “revenge game” to remind us how awesome he is.
Knicks 110 Grizzlies 103