WHEN: 6:00 PM CT
WHERE: Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, Louisiana
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: FOX Sports Southeast/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
MEMPHIS- Mike Conley (Out, heel), Chandler Parsons (Out, knee), James Ennis III (Out, calf) , Brendan Wright (Out, illness), Mario Chalmers (Questionable, shoulder), Andrew Harrison (Questionable, shoulder), Ben McLemore (Questionable, knee)
NEW ORLEANS- Alexis Ajinca (Out, knee), Tony Allen (Out, leg), Frank Jackson (Out, foot), Solomon Hill (Out, hamstring)
Memphis- Tyreke Evans, Andrew Harrison, Dillon Brooks, JaMychal Green, Marc Gasol
New Orleans- Jrue Holiday, Rajon Rondo, E’Twaun Moore, Anthony Davis, DeMarcus Cousins
After an emotional victory over Zach Randolph and the Sacramento Kings last night, the Memphis Grizzlies are suddenly on a three game winning streak. This matches their longest of the season when they started out 3-0 all the way back in October. The Grizzlies are walking talk and playing with confidence despite not having Chandler Parsons or Mike Conley. They are winning without dominant performances from Marc Gasol, who did not play this past Wednesday and had a relatively quiet 6 points and 8 rebounds against Sacramento. It is Tyreke Evans and the younger Grizzlies such as Dillon Brooks leading Memphis at the moment.
How sustainable is that? Recent history tells us not very. Memphis has benefited from a very easy schedule in January, both in terms of games played (7 games in 19 days) and the recent quality of competition. Two of the three teams the Grizzlies have beaten this week are in the lottery chase with them (Lakers and Kings) and the other is the Knicks, who are also below .500. Against the teams the Grizzlies have played this month with winning records, Memphis is 1-3.
The good news for Grizzlies fans (at least if you want the team to keep winning) is that that one win was against the New Orleans Pelicans, tonight’s opponent. New Orleans is currently the 7th seed in the Western Conference, but the Pelicans dropped their last game against the Atlanta Hawks so they’re susceptible to taking bad losses. Losing to these Grizzlies at home would be a bad loss for NOLA.
Here’s how the Grizzlies can keep the streak alive.
Contain the All-Star Bigs
The last time these two teams got together Anthony Davis did not play, which allowed for Marc Gasol to get a little more comfortable and for Tyreke Evans to have a little more success getting to the rim. That won’t happen tonight, as the twin tower All-Star starters will make life very difficult for Memphis. Cousins and Davis both are putting up absurd stat lines, as is evident in their All-Star selections. Gasol and JaMychal Green will have their hands full trying to limit their effectiveness.
There is no way to completely stop two talented played like Boogie and The Brow. Memphis can, however, double team when the opportunity presents itself (as teams do to Marc Gasol in the post) and force them to make tough, quick decisions with the basketball. If the other Pelicans make you pay and beat you by converting open shots, so be it. The way to defeating New Orleans is to make Davis and Cousins as uncomfortable as possible through different defensive looks and physical play.
Attack Jrue Holiday (and other perimeter players)
New Orleans’ 3rd best player is having a solid season himself offensively. His three point percentage (34.2%) could be better, but he is shooting roughly 49% from the field and is posting a 16.6 PER, 3rd best on NOLA behind Davis and Cousins. What he isn’t doing particularly well, however, is defend- his 111 defensive rating is pretty high, especially considering he will draw a tough assignment against Tyreke Evans throughout tonight’s game.
The crazy thing about Holiday’s defensive rating, though? It is the 3rd best on the team among players who have played at least 600 minutes. In fact, outside of Cousins (103) and Davis (106) every NOLA player who has played over 600 minutes has a defensive rating of 111 or higher. The perimeter defenders of the Pelicans are not particular good as a whole, and it will be up to Dillon Brooks, Ben McLemore, Wayne Selden Jr. and Evans, among others, to try to take advantage and rack up some points.
The Pelicans go as far as Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins take them. That is not surprising. What is surprising is just how well Memphis has played of late, and how the Grizzlies figure to make this a game tonight despite the fact NOLA is just better this time around than Memphis is. There is no denying that the Grizzlies are playing better basketball of late, and that run of success is huge for the younger Grizzlies players who have been the main contributors to this winning streak.
However, this recent run of wins has been against other bad teams, and they have been at home. This one is on the road, against a squad with arguably the best pairing of big men in the entire NBA. Add in the fact that the Grizzlies are on the second game of a back to back (Memphis is 3-5 in such games this season) and the 1st game was an emotionally trying one with Zach Randolph coming home to Memphis for the 1st time? All signs point to the streak ending tonight.
It was fun while it lasted, though.
New Orleans 104, Memphis 100