WHERE: FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee
WHEN: 7:00 PM CT
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: FOX Sports Southeast/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
MEMPHIS- Ben McLemore (Probable, knee), Deyonta Davis (Questionable, knees), Tyreke Evans (Questionable, illness), Mike Conley (Out, heel), Chandler Parsons (Out, knee), JaMychal Green (Out, ankle), James Ennis III (Out, calf)
PHOENIX- Brandon Knight (Out, knee), Alex Len (Questionable, ankle), Alan Williams (Out, knee)
MEMPHIS- Andrew Harrison, Wayne Selden Jr., Dillon Brooks, Jarell Martin, Marc Gasol
PHOENIX- Devin Booker, Troy Daniels, T.J. Warren, Marquese Chriss, Tyson Chandler
In the wake of the announcement that Mike Conley will indeed miss the remainder of the season due to his heel issue, these Memphis Grizzlies feel like they may finally have a direction...at least a public one. Now, with GM Chris Wallace’s email to season ticket holders, the organization has acknowledged that this season is all but lost. The time has come to invest minutes in young players (which they have already done), limit the minutes of players like Marc Gasol and begin to (if they have not already done so) seriously discuss trading players like Tyreke Evans.
None of this, of course, means these Grizzlies players do not do their best to try to win. The Phoenix Suns enter tonight’s game in a similar boat to Memphis. They are getting their young assets a ton of minutes and even experimenting with their rotation, as Devin Booker has played a lot of point guard of late. The Suns are coming off of a double-digit loss to the Houston Rockets last night, but when you are a lottery-bound squad you cannot overlook anyone. Memphis could easily lose this game.
How can they ensure they don’t? Some keys.
Take advantage of Booker the point guard
Here’s an interesting situation, to say the least. The Suns are trying to figure out what they have in all these young players that are on their roster, and the time is coming soon (summer of 2019) where they will have to decide whether or not Devin Booker is worth the max contract he will surely command as he ends his rookie contract. He is a tremendous scorer of the basketball (24.5 points per game) and is a sharpshooter from beyond the arc (38% from three, the best percentage of his career). But can he make his teammates better?
They’re forcing the issue to decide as Devin plays point guard. It has had mixed results so far- Booker had 10 assists along with his 31 points in the Rockets loss, but Booker leads the Suns in 3.6 turnovers per game. He is learning on the job, and on a team like Phoenix whose front office doesn’t necessarily care if they win or lose at this point that is perfectly fine. But Memphis can take advantage of that.
Force Booker in to mistakes. Make him uncomfortable when he is trying to initiate offense. The turnover opportunities will feed the Grizzlies offense.
Regardless of what Memphis does, Booker is going to score. He is that good offensively. What the Grizzlies cannot allow to happen if they hope to win is another dominant shooting performance, and the player for Phoenix most capable of that is T.J. Warren. He is averaging 19.7 points per game and is doing it as a scorer inside the three-point line (20% from three - not very good). He is an excellent slasher and penetration is the strength of his game, given his size of 6’8” 230 pounds and athleticism.
In case you weren’t aware, the Grizzlies do not have a healthy wing with that type of size. If Warren goes off and owns this game alongside Booker, Memphis will be in a tough spot. Collapsing on him and forcing him to move the ball outside must be a priority.
Phoenix is on the 2nd night of a back to back, after playing a game in Houston in which their two young studs Booker and Warren played a combined 80 minutes (41 for Booker, 39 for Warren). So far this season the Suns are 4-6 on the 2nd night of a back to back and 2-4 when that 2nd game is on the road. The Grizzlies are 3-5 on two days rest themselves, but are 2-2 when they are at home in games on 48 hours of rest. Neither team is special, of course, but Memphis has a little bit more going for them in terms of time off.
The key here will be Tyreke Evans. If he doesn’t play, this game could definitely go to the Suns. If he does? A fresh Gasol and Evans in crunch time will be enough for a Grizzlies win. Since Evans practiced this weekend, we will assume he plays and the Grizzlies will win because of it. Check back for updates regarding Evans.
Memphis 105, Phoenix 100