WHERE: FedExForum in Memphis, TN
WHEN: 7:00 PM CT
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: FOX Sports Southeast/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
Memphis- Tyreke Evans (Questionable, rib), Mario Chalmers (Doubtful, hamstring), Mike Conley (Out, heel), Andrew Harrison (Out, wrist)
Chicago- Lauri Markkanen (Out, back), Paul Zipser (Doubtful, foot)
Projected Starting Lineups:
Memphis: Kobi Simmons, Dillon Brooks, Jarell Martin, JaMychal Green, Marc Gasol
Chicago: Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine, David Nwaba, Noah Vonleh, Robin Lopez
Back in late January, CBS Sports and 92.9’s own Gary Parrish said on his radio broadcast that he wanted the Grizzlies to stay on 18 wins “forever”. At the time, it seemed funny to say that as the Grizzlies were a bad team, but not as bad as the Suns, Magic or Mavs among others. Yet here we are a month and a half later and the Grizzlies are still stuck on 18 wins on the season, currently on an 18 game losing streak. The Grizzlies haven’t won a game since defeating the Phoenix Suns on January 29th.
It’s been a frustrating month and a half as the Grizzlies fumbled the trade deadline with Tyreke Evans and have stacked up the injuries ever since. The Grizzlies have greatly increased their odds of getting a franchise-changing talent in this upcoming draft, but the losses are getting to the team as Gasol, among others, is getting visibly frustrated with the inability to win. Fortunately for the Grizzlies, they’re facing off against a Bulls team that got warned just last week about tanking themselves, so tonight presents a nice opportunity for the Grizzlies to snap the streak and boost a little team morale. Here’s what needs to happen for the Grizzlies to get win number 19 on the season.
Stop playing weird lineups
J.B. Bickerstaff has done an admirable job filling in for the fired David Fizdale in what has been a disaster season. J.B. will likely get the interim tag removed from his job title this summer, but that doesn’t mean he’s perfect. On Monday night against Milwaukee, J.B started Jarell Martin, a power forward, alongside JaMychal Green and Marc Gasol. That’s either prime tanking or naive coaching. The team has shifted its focus to player development, but how much is Martin actually developing if he’s being put in positions he’ll likely never play when the Grizzlies are healthy? Dillon Brooks should also not be starting at shooting guard when the Grizzlies have both Ben McLemore and Wayne Selden on the roster able to start at the position.
I get J.B. is trying to get creative with his lineups as the injuries have piled on, but just sticking to the basics and keeping players at their positions can go a long way in snapping this streak.
Up the Tempo
These aren’t the Grizzlies of the previous 7 seasons. In an attempt to change their style of play, the Grizzlies have a plenty of players who excel in an up and down style of game instead of the usual slow it down “in the mud” style the Grit-N-Grind Grizzlies were known for. Right now, things just don’t go right when the Grizzlies slow it down. Those possessions typically lead to a Gasol post up and fade-away or a forced 3 as the shot clock winds down. With players like Kobi Simmons, Jarell Martin, Wayne Selden Jr., JaMychal Green, etc. the Grizzlies should push the tempo and get in transition. The Grizzlies were able to make things interesting with the Bucks on Monday by pushing the tempo and nearly came back. The best Grizzlies offense this season has been a faster offense. If the Grizzlies can push the tempo and get some easy fast-break baskets they’ll give themselves a chance to snap the streak.
Last week, I predicted the Grizzlies would snap the streak against the Bulls and if it wasn’t for a monster 4th quarter from Dillon Brooks, the Bulls would have blown out the Grizzlies. Part of the reason the Grizzlies have struggled pushing the tempo in games is because they’re defense doesn’t get enough stops. It’s hard to push the tempo after an opponent's made basket and if the Grizzlies can’t stop the Bulls from scoring, they won’t be able to push the tempo.
The key factor in the game could be the absence of Lauri Markkanen for the Bulls. Last week Markkanen went off for 22 points against the Grizzlies and it will be difficult for the other Bulls big men to replicate Markkanen’s production. However, I also don’t expect Dillon Brooks to go off for a career high again. If Evans is able to play, the Grizzlies chances to win increase, but I fully expect him to be on a minutes restriction and be rusty so I think the Grizzlies drop another game, extending their losing streak to 19.
Bulls 115 Grizzlies 110