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Memphis Grizzlies vs. Portland Trail Blazers (again) Game Preview

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Will the Grizzlies right the ship in the Rose City?

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Memphis Grizzlies Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

WHO: Memphis Grizzlies (16-14, 7-8 away) vs Portland Trail Blazers (17-13, 11-4 home)

WHEN: 9:00 PM CT

WHERE: Moda Center in Portland, Oregon

HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: Fox Sports Southeast/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis

INJURY REPORT:

MEMPHIS- Kyle Anderson (Probable, hip), Mike Conley (Questionable, hamstring), Joakim Noah (heel), Dillon Brooks (Out, knee), Chandler Parsons (Out, knee)

PORTLAND- NONE

PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS:

MEMPHIS: Mike Conley, Garrett Temple, Kyle Anderson, Jaren Jackson Jr., Marc Gasol

PORTLAND: Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum, Maurice Harkless, Al-Farouq Aminu, Jusuf Nurkic


Sometimes a little extra motivation can snap you out of a funk...and make no mistake, Marc Gasol of the Memphis Grizzlies could use the extra “oomph”.

In the month of December, a major piece of the current Grizzlies swoon and tumble down the Western Conference standings, Marc has been...shall we be nice and just say “bad”? According to basketball-reference.com, in nine games this month Gasol has shot a horrific 36.8% from the floor overall and 29% from three. His net rating, a dominant +12 in November, has fallen completely off a cliff during the holidays - a -16 would go down as one of, if not the, worst months of Marc’s career. While his assist numbers have stayed consistent, he is scoring and rebounding at very low levels, and Memphis has struggled as a result.

Anyone shocked? No? Didn’t think so.

The good news is, Marc Gasol really isn’t a fan of Jusuf Nurkic. They have a bit of a rivalry, and perhaps Marc looking to dominate his individual matchup with Nurk can get him back going the right way. Memphis literally doesn’t stand a chance without him.

Beyond Gasol, here is how Memphis can pull off the upset tonight.

Go Big

NBA: Preseason-Memphis Grizzlies at Houston Rockets Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

I wrote about this idea in depth yesterday for GBB here, so I won’t go as deep in this space about it. With rebounding remaining such an issue for Memphis, it makes sense to try to get a player like Omri Casspi more run and allow for Kyle Anderson to play more in the back court. Both players can still rebound, but more size would only amplify the uniqueness of the Grizzlies lineup and make Portland find a way to counter their size. Casspi and Anderson could switch on screens as well, potentially limiting the effectiveness of McCollum.

Portland will be ready for the Memphis defense tonight in ways they weren’t last week. The Grizzlies need another counter punch. This would be a “big” one...

Be aggressive

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Memphis Grizzlies Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Memphis needs all the scoring help they can get. That is not new information. What is relatively uncommon, however, is for the Grizzlies to shoot more free throws than their opponents. Against the Golden State Warriors (27-18) and the Houston Rockets (25-17) Memphis lost the free throw attempt battle, but when the Grizzlies took on the Miami Heat (25-18) they found a way to win that particular part of the game (even though they did not get the victory, at least Memphis could keep it close this way).

Between extra scoring opportunities and putting opponents in foul trouble, this needs to be a focus for the Grizzlies not just tonight but moving forward if they hope to right this ship and get back on their feet as an aspiring playoff team.

The Prediction

This is going to shock you all - this game will come down to Mike Conley and Marc Gasol. If Conley plays, and Marc Gasol attacks Nurkic and is more himself, then the Grizzlies will knock of the Trail Blazers. If both are out/struggling, the Grizzlies will get run off the court.

The most likely scenario? One or the other occurs, not both, and the Grizzlies are in a fight to the end but are unable to knock off Portland.

Portland 103, Memphis 97

Stats provided by basketball-reference.com

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