WHEN: 7:00 PM CT
WHERE: FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: Fox Sports Southeast/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
MEMPHIS: Omri Casspi (Probable, knee), JaMychal Green (Out, jaw), Chandler Parsons (Our, knee and back), Dillon Brooks (Out, knee)
SACRAMENTO: Kosta Koufos (Questionable, calf)
PROBABLE STARTING LINEUPS:
MEMPHIS: Mike Conley, Garrett Temple, Kyle Anderson, Jaren Jackson Jr., Marc Gasol
SACRAMENTO: De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, Iman Shumpert, Nemanja Bjelica, Willie Cauley-Stein
The Memphis Grizzlies continue to surprise...and impress.
After a truly awesome performance against the formerly undefeated-at-home Milwaukee Bucks this past Wednesday night, the Grizzlies are riding high and feeling optimistic about their chances in the Western Conference. Fans across Grizz Nation are feeling vindicated watching a healthy Mike Conley and Marc Gasol dominate basketball games against good teams; they knew all along that, as long as the two cornerstones of the Grizzlies could go, Memphis always has a chance. Combine that with timely contributions from key role players, and the good times are certainly rolling for the Grizzlies at the moment.
Enter the Sacramento Kings.
Once upon a time, also known as roughly three weeks ago, Memphis lost a game that many feel they should have won in Sacramento. The Grizzlies had the lead early and let it slip away late...a perceived missed opportunity for the bears of Beale Street. Now it appears that “bad loss” isn’t so bad, because the Sacramento Kings are also in the conversation for “team with the most surprising good start”. De’Aaron Fox has been a revelation, Buddy Hield looks the part of a good starting 2 guard in the NBA, and Willie Cauley-Stein has been a defensive force. The Kings have done it as a unit, and their NBA-fastest 105.3 pace is going to test the Grizzlies...just as it did in their first showdown back in October.
The Kings aren’t the KANGZ on the court right now. This will be another test for Memphis. Here’s what to watch for...
A surprise player to stop
When scouting the Kings, the names previously mentioned jump out at you as talented youngsters whose progression naturally makes Sacramento more of a threat than they have been in recent years. However, there is one starter outside of those three who has really outperformed expectations, and when he succeeds, Sacramento wins. Nemanja Bjelica shoots 58.3% from the field and 57.5% from three in Kings victories this season, playing 30 minutes a game and racking up meaningful stats across the board.
In losses? He free falls. 20 minutes per game, 39.5% shooting from the floor overall, and an abysmal 27.3% from beyond the arc...and the rest of his numbers fall off a cliff as well. Surprisingly, the success of the Kings so far this season appears to be pretty connected to the apparently nicknamed Professor Big Shots, according to basketball-reference.com. Jaren Jackson Jr. and Kyle Anderson especially must make sure Bjelica’s impact is limited by forcing him off his spots and making sure he’s uncomfortable both on the perimeter and in the lane by using their length and footwork.
The tortoise must slow the hare
As previously mentioned, the Kings lead the NBA in pace, pushing tempo time and again to get more opportunities offensively. The Grizzlies, of course, are the opposite of that...at 95.2, Memphis boasts the slowest pace in the entire Association. J.B. Bickerstaff and company would prefer to slow the game to a crawl, protect possession, and get the chance to play a half court game with selective transition attempts. Sacramento, meanwhile, wants to use their youth and athleticism to their advantage and get out and run. This paid off for the Kings in the first contest between the two squads - the Grizzlies were noticeably worn down in the second half, and that played a part in the run Memphis gave up.
In order to win this game at home, Memphis must be better at controlling tempo and not falling into the trap of Sacramento. If you let the Kings get out in the open floor consistently, you’re dead.
Memphis came into the Kings game earlier this season coming off the high of a great win, at Utah against a tough Jazz team. The Grizzlies were outplayed in the second half against Sacramento and were embarrassed by a hungrier (on that night), more athletic Kings team. Underestimate Sacramento at your own peril (both online and on the court) - with rookie Marvin Bagley III and the stud scorer Bogdan Bogdanovic (who did not play in the last game) helping lead a capable bench unit, and a starting group that can score and defend on the move, Dave Joerger easily has his best Kings team since he left Memphis for Sacramento.
The last time these teams faced off, Mike Conley shined while Marc Gasol struggled from the floor shooting. You also saw poor offensive performances from Garrett Temple and Shelvin Mack, and Memphis could not overcome it. It stands to reason that in front of the home crowd on a Friday night the Grizzlies will be in better spots to be successful, and even with Bogdanovic’s reserve scoring punch, Memphis will find ways to slow the Kings and get them off their game with a strong defensive effort.
It’s not going to be easy. But it should be a win to even the season series 1-1.
Memphis 102, Sacramento 100