WHERE: AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas
WHEN: 7:30 PM CT
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: Fox Sports Southeast/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
MEMPHIS: Dillon Brooks (Out, knee), Chandler Parsons (Out, knee/back)
SAN ANTONIO: Pau Gasol (Out, foot), Lonnie Walker IV (Out, knee), Dejounte Murray (Out, knee), Davis Bertans (Questionable, concussion)
PROBABLE STARTING LINEUPS-
MEMPHIS: Mike Conley, Garrett Temple, Kyle Anderson, Jaren Jackson Jr., Marc Gasol
SAN ANTONIO: Bryn Forbes, DeMar DeRozan, Rudy Gay, Dante Cunningham, LaMarcus Aldridge
You’re not seeing things - the Memphis Grizzlies currently have a better record than the San Antonio Spurs.
While both teams have undergone drastic changes since the last time they squared off in a divisional battle, it is fair to say that the Spurs are worse off after the busy summers for themselves and the Grizzlies. Gone is Kawhi Leonard, of course, but also departed are Tony Parker, Danny Green, and our own Kyle Anderson. Multiple key contributors departed, and new ones have arrived, and yet the Spurs are still hovering around .500 and in the mix in the loaded Western Conference, because Gregg Popovich is the man.
Meanwhile, the new role players alongside Marc Gasol and Mike Conley are currently thriving. Jaren Jackson Jr. has shown more and more flashes of brilliance, Garrett Temple has played the part of super glue guy well, and the return of JaMychal Green strengthens a Grizzlies front court in desperate need of improved rebounding. The longer the season grinds along, the closer we get to Christmas, and the distinct possibility that Memphis may...actually...be good again.
A win in San Antonio, against the Spurs, would be another nice feather in the Grizzlies cap. How can they get it done on this Thanksgiving Eve?
Limit the role players
The key cogs to the Spurs machine are DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge, two of the best offensive players the NBA has to offer when they are on. While the Grizzlies defense will surely do their best to limit their effectiveness, it would be in the best interest of Memphis to not forget about the players around DeRozan and Aldridge...because they’re on fire right now.
Bryn Forbes in particular is en fuego - he is shooting a scintillating 47% from beyond the arc while taking over five threes a game, and while he isn’t a traditional point guard (more on that in a moment) he can create serious mismatch issues and get hot fast from three. Meanwhile, former Grizzlies Dante Cunningham and Rudy Gay are embracing the Spurs culture and are capable of scoring effectively (Dante was 7-7 from the field in San Antonio’s latest game, a loss to New Orleans and Rudy is 48.4% from range) and defending multiple positions and switching on pick and rolls. That doesn’t even mention notorious Grizz killers Marco Belinelli and Patty Mills...
DeRozan and Aldridge are the stars, but the Spurs roll deep in terms of guys that can hurt you in a variety of ways. San Antonio has 11 players who average over 10 minutes per game, depending on the night, so the depth of the Grizzlies roster will be tested.
Fight unconventional with the unique
Quick, who leads the Spurs in assists per game this season?
Quick, which two players combine to average over 50% of assists when they are on the floor.
DeRozan and Pau Gasol.
The departure of Tony Parker, and the injury to Dejounte Murray, have led to San Antonio being a bit different in terms of how they facilitate and attack offensively. Derrick White, Bryn Forbes, and Patty Mills, who all see minutes in the traditional “point guard” role, average only 1.4 more assists per game combined than DeRozan does...which safe to say is not the role DeMar is used to playing.
The Grizzlies should fight fire with fire, and take advantage of the unique lineups and looks of San Antonio with some experimentation of their own. A Garrett Temple/Kyle Anderson/Omri Casspi/JaMychal Green/Jaren Jackson Jr. lineup, for example, could switch EVERYTHING. Literally everything. Now scoring may be difficult (although this would be a cool opportunity to feature Jaren), but this is just one example of a way Memphis can combat Point DeMar and be aggressive defensively in a new way.
Even if Bickerstaff opts to stick with what has been working, they must be ready for different looks than the Grizzlies are accustomed to.
San Antonio is a very different team than the one Memphis will remember, but these are still the same old Spurs in terms of their culture and coaching. They will be up to the task against these Grizzlies, and it will take a very good gameplan and precise execution of it to give Memphis the victory. Aldridge and DeRozan are both coming off lackluster scoring performances against the Pelicans, and will be looking to right those wrongs against the elite Memphis defense.
The Grizzlies will have their hands full, per usual, and it will not be pretty at times. The Grizzlies are playing too well right now, though, and Memphis will muddy up the Spurs enough to win in the end.
Memphis 96, San Antonio 93
Stats provided by basketball-reference.com.