WHEN: 6:00 PM CT
WHERE: Time Warner Cable Arena in Charlotte, North Carolina
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: FOX Sports Southeast/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
MEMPHIS- Marc Gasol (Out, rest), Chandler Parsons (Out, rest), Mike Conley (Out, heel), Ivan Rabb (Questionable, heel)
CHARLOTTE- Nicolas Batum (Doubtful, Achilles), Michael Carter-Williams (Out, shoulder), Cody Zeller (Questionable, knee)
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP-
MEMPHIS- Tyreke Evans, Dillon Brooks, Jarell Martin, JaMychal Green, Deyonta Davis
CHARLOTTE- Kemba Walker, Jeremy Lamb, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Marvin Williams, Dwight Howard
It’s sad it has come to this. Especially with all the positivity currently in the Memphis community thanks to Penny Hardaway.
But there are only 11 games left in this season. And I am grateful. Because this season has been BRUTAL for the Memphis Grizzlies and their fans. It wears you down just watching - imagine what the players and coaches are going through! It isn’t for a lack of trying, they’re just really bad. The lineups are questionable at times (seriously, WHO WAS AT THE TWO LAST NIGHT? PARSONS? MARTIN? HELP ME UNDERSTAND WHAT THAT WAS?) and minutes are clearly being limited among veterans like Marc Gasol, Chandler Parsons, and Tyreke Evans. But when they play, they give effort.
It just results in bad play.
With Gasol and Parsons almost certainly sitting out this game, Tyreke Evans returns with quite a large task in front of him. The Grizzlies have not beaten an Eastern Conference team on the road all season long, on their way to being arguably the worst road team in the entire NBA.
Meanwhile, the Charlotte Hornets are limping to the finish themselves, looking at another lottery pick season with an older core and money tied up in multiple “meh” players. But they pulled out a come from behind win on the road in Brooklyn last night behind a 32 point-30 rebound game from Dwight Howard, and they have Kemba Walker, an All-Star level player.
So Charlotte should win this game. But what can the Grizzlies do to pick up their first road Eastern Conference win of the campaign?
Feed Tyreke and get out of the way
He is the only player who can both create his own shot and make opportunities for others at a consistent clip. He is the only athlete so versatile that he can play along just about any combination on this roster that coach J.B. Bickerstaff can throw out there. He is the only wing that can rebound, who can make the smart pass, who can understand the times where the best play are for him or for a Dillon Brooks or JaMychal Green on the perimeter open for three.
At this stage of the season, you are what you are. When Tyreke plays, he is their best player. Offensively, he needs to be the straw that stirs the drink for Memphis to have a chance.
Limit Kemba Walker
Beyond Kemba Walker’s 22.6 points per game, there isn’t much volume scoring on the wing for the Hornets. Jeremy Lamb (13.1) is respectable, but from there you’ve got Michael Kidd-Gilchrist who hasn’t made a three pointer all season and Malik Monk at 5.1 points per game. For Charlotte, who have several bigs who can score in Howard, Frank Kaminsky, and Marvin Williams (but Memphis has several bigs to defend them with), Walker is their main perimeter threat.
Memphis must take advantage of that. Kemba is good enough that “limit” is the goal instead of “shut down”, but the good news is that Walker will keep shooting even in an off night (he was 6-25 last night in Brooklyn). Get him off to a slow start, keep him there, keep yourselves in the game.
For Memphis to win, it must be because of Tyreke Evans. It starts with him. If he can be everything for the Grizzlies, and those who play alongside him rise up to his level of play, Memphis can finally win a road game against an Eastern Conference team. But that is asking a lot of a guy who was supposed to be traded five weeks ago and has been in and out of the lineup ever since. Rhythm is tough to find in the spot that Tyreke is in, and while he may be able to get his, his ability to improve those around him may not be there fully.
The Grizzlies will try. But they will lose. No answer for Dwight Howard, limited answers for Kemba Walker doom Memphis.
Charlotte 107, Memphis 94