WHERE: Philips Arena in Atlanta, Georgia
WHEN: 6:30 PM CT
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: FOX Sports Southeast/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
MEMPHIS- Wayne Selden Jr. (Questionable, knee), Mike Conley (Out, heel), Chandler Parsons (Out, knee), Deyonta Davis (Out, knees)
ATLANTA- DeAndre’ Bembry (Out, groin), Tyley Cavanaugh (Out, ankle)
MEMPHIS- Andrew Harrison, Dillon Brooks, Wayne Selden Jr., JaMychal Green, Marc Gasol
ATLANTA- Dennis Schroder, Kent Bazemore, Taurean Prince, Miles Plumlee, Dewayne Dedmon
If you’re watching this basketball game tonight, one of three things is true.
- You’re a degenerate gambler.
- You really like the Grizzlies or Hawks.
- Both 1 and 2 simultaneously.
There isn’t much to say about this battle of two of the NBA’s worst squads. Both teams have shown minor signs of life recently, with both Memphis and Atlanta going 4-6 in their last 10 games, and both teams are propelled by youth at this stage of the season with a sprinkling of veteran savvy. Both teams also have sneaky rookies having good first seasons considering their inexperience (Dillon Brooks for Memphis, John Collins for Atlanta), so there are some solid similarities to talk yourself in to viewing this contest.
But then there’s the fact both teams are bad at basketball. And that dampers things.
It is a far cry from the Grizzlies and Hawks teams of recent years who prided themselves on consecutive playoff appearances. Both streaks will end this season (7 for Memphis, 10 for Atlanta) with both front offices looking to sell at the upcoming trade deadline while also looking ahead to the NBA Lottery a few months from now. For the fan bases suffering through these dog days, searching for positive growth in young talent and watching YouTube clips of Marvin Bagley and Trae Young is what helps ease the pain. For one night, at least we have each other.
Here’s how Memphis can take a win on the road against their lottery counterpart, the Hawks.
Ride Big Spain
There have been times in the past where I have been hard on Marc Gasol. I have questioned his leadership, his ability to carry the team, and his understanding that sometimes the best play is his to make, not someone elses. It would be unfair to criticize him now. He is doing everything that Head Coach J.B. Bickerstaff is asking of him, and then some. He is not just the Grizzlies leading scorer (now that Tyreke Evans is a DNP- about to be traded), he is a coach on the court for this young roster and is actively talking players through defensive rotations and offensive sets. A lot of the guys now making up the rotation night in and night out are not who was supposed to be playing with Marc this season, but he has tried to make the most of a tough spot and hasn’t laid down. He’s embraced this role, and is not asking for a trade (yet).
To this point, he is a man of his word. He is also still a pretty good basketball player. No offense to the bigs of the Hawks and the likes of Dewayne Dedmon and John Collins, but Marc should have a pretty solid night against Atlanta, especially on the perimeter. He is too skilled to be held down for long by this front court.
Let Big Spain eat.
BYOB- Bring Your Own Bench
The reserves of the Toronto Raptors drastically outperformed those of the Memphis Grizzlies in their Super Bowl matinee showdown this past Sunday. If Memphis hopes to hang in with Atlanta tonight, they must have a better showing out of their bench players. This really is in the hands of veterans like Mario Chalmers and James Ennis III, as well as Brandan Wright who should see some key minutes with Deyonta Davis out. Sure, their expiring contracts will probably be the subject of trade machine fodder the next 54 or so hours, but they have to try to tune out the noise and perform the way they have shown they are capable of in the past.
Who knows, a good performance may be their ticket out of Memphis and on to a playoff contender. Selfishness could help the Grizzlies in this one, at least if you are hopeful that Memphis win this game.
In a season where youth is finally being served, it will be on the veterans of the Grizzlies to pull off the victory. Big nights from Gasol and the elder statesmen of the bench will be necessary to offset Schroder, Bazemore and the Hawks. Look for the young players on either side to make plays, and mistakes, throughout the game. When the moment calls for it, the best player on the floor, Marc Gasol, will make the deciding play. It will result in a Grizzlies victory.
Memphis 104, Atlanta 102