WHERE: FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee
WHEN: 7:00 PM CT
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: FOX Sports Southeast/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
MEMPHIS: Mike Conley (Out, heel), Chandler Parsons (Out, illness), Tyreke Evans (Out, rib), Deyonta Davis (Out, ankle), Andrew Harrison (Questionable, wrist), Wayne Selden Jr. (Questionable, knee)
DENVER: Torrey Craig (Out, hamstring), Kenneth Faried (Questionable, personal), Richard Jefferson (Questionable, wrist)
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP-
MEMPHIS- Andrew Harrison, Ben McLemore, Dillon Brooks, JaMychal Green, Marc Gasol
DENVER- Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, Will Barton, Wilson Chandler, Nikola Jokic
Have you checked tankathon.com today?
The Grizzlies are currently #2 in the NBA Lottery pecking order, only a half game behind the Orlando Magic (who Memphis plays tomorrow night.) There is a real chance that when Sunday comes around, the Grizzlies will “reign supreme” as the worst team record-wise in the NBA.
It’s not quite the race we are used to this time of year, but the reality is as the losses rack up the chances at the #1 overall improve. A Memphis team severely lacking in talent could use such a lofty selection, and with an 11-game losing streak in tow (and no likelihood it stops tonight) is looking more and more like a lock to get at least a top-5 pick.
The Denver Nuggets, on the other hand, are in the race that Memphis is used to. Denver is currently the 8 seed in the Western Conference playoff picture, only a half game in front of the Los Angeles Clippers. These are the games that if the Nuggets want to make the playoffs, they must win.
How can the Grizzlies play spoiler?
RIDE YOUR BEST PLAYERS
Sometimes it is this simple. No overly-aggressive schematic change, no advanced statistic clamoring for better free throw rate. Sometimes, you simply say your best players need to play their best in order for you to hang.
The Memphis Grizzlies are there.
Marc Gasol and JaMychal Green, to their credit, have been giving terrific effort. They have limited help, and yet they are diving for loose balls and flying around the court. You certainly cannot accuse them of poor leadership on the floor or of tanking. But they must shoot the basketball better. If they shoot below 35% as a pair, as they did against the Suns, Memphis is almost sure to lose.
If you don’t want that, you need Marc and JaMychal to be more effective on the offensive end.
CLEAN THE GLASS
Denver is not a very good defensive rebounding team, ranking 24th in the entire NBA. Where they are elite, however, is when it comes to gathering offensive boards - they are 2nd in the Association in that statistic. They are able to extend possessions and get extra ones, resulting in more opportunities for their very skilled players like Jokic, Murray, Harris, and Will Barton off the bench to score the basketball.
Memphis needs the likes of Ivan Rabb and even some wings to step up as rebounders. They have to box out and be aggressive to limit the opportunities the Nuggets have at the rim.
You have to feel for Coach Bickerstaff. He’s coaching for his next job, be it in Memphis or elsewhere, and his 2nd best player right now is JaMychal Green, by all accounts a role player on a good team at best. Ben McLemore is a potential starter, for goodness sake! It is rough in Memphis for anyone trying to win a basketball game right now.
The Nuggets haven’t been in the postseason in quite a while, and while they are young they are also hungry. It is unlikely they overlook these Grizzlies, as a loss here would hurt their playoff hopes a good bit. Look for Denver to be locked in early and put Memphis out of reach by halfway through the third quarter.
Denver 108, Memphis 97