WHEN: 8:00 PM CT
WHERE: Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: FOX Sports Southeast/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
MEMPHIS: Ivan Rabb (Questionable, heel), Mike Conley (Out, heel), Andrew Harrison (Out, shoulder), Tyreke Evans (Out, personal)
UTAH: Tony Bradley (Questionable, concussion), Raul Neto (Out, wrist), Thabo Sefolosha (Out, knee)
Projected Starting Lineup:
MEMPHIS: Mario Chalmers, Dillon Brooks, Jarell Martin, JaMychal Green, Marc Gasol
UTAH: Ricky Rubio, Donovan Mitchell, Joe Ingles, Derrick Favors, Rudy Gobert
The Memphis Grizzlies are on...a winning streak?
Believe it or not, the Grizzlies are playing their best basketball in months. Two months, to be exact- the last time Memphis was 3-4 in a seven game stretch was January 20th-31st. Since that time, Memphis is 3-22, but three of those wins are in the last 13 days. The Grizzlies have been doing this not against bad teams, but squads supposedly fighting for their playoff lives (Denver and Minnesota) or positioning as a top seed (Portland). Yes, Jimmy Butler and Damian Lillard were both out for their respective squads, but considering Memphis has been playing Marc Gasol, JaMychal Green, half of Chandler Parsons and a G-League roster?
Memphis still should have lost. But no one told the players and coaches apparently...and that is OK, because it is not their job to lose. Players like Jarell Martin and Wayne Selden Jr. have been playing better of late (as discussed here) and that, coupled with poor performances from the competition, have led to a suddenly streaking squad in the Grizzlies.
Utah better show up, or else they will be the latest good team embarrassed by the lowly Grizzlies. Here’s how Memphis can quiet the Jazz.
More MarShon, please
With so few games to go, you may as well double down on the hot hand. There is no hotter hand for the Grizzlies right now than MarShon Brooks, who took advantage of his first NBA game in years and dropped 21 on the heads of the Portland Trail Blazers. Brooks has always been able to score, and he showed some real growth in just how he gets those buckets in his minutes on Wednesday night. In game two of his NBA return, Memphis needs to commit to continuing to give him minutes and letting him get his shots. There’s always a decent chance this offense will get stuck in the mud.
When that happens, let MarShon get his. It can possibly kick start things for the Grizzlies. What else do you have to lose, aside from lottery ping pong balls? Let’s have some fun.
Make Joe Ingles uncomfortable
While there are irrational, borderline-crazy Utah Jazz fans who swear up and down that Ingles is a top-5 NBA small forward (this is silly, by the way), Ingles is the straw that stirs the Jazz on the perimeter. He boasts the best offensive rating (115), net rating (+9), and win shares per 48 minutes (.134) of any Jazz perimeter player who has played at least 1,000 minutes this season (h/t basketball-reference.com). He can facilitate offense, he can score from the perimeter, and he can defend all five positions.
Which is good for him, because tonight he is going to have to defend a power forward masquerading as a wing.
Jarell Martin and other Grizzlies perimeter players can take advantage of how crazy like a fox their recent lineups have been by throwing looks at Ingles and Utah that they have not seen. Ingles defending Martin? A size advantage for Memphis, with Martin still being prety athletic. Donovan Mitchell defending Chandler Parsons? In theory, another potential mismatch. There are a variety of opportunities available, depending on how Head Coach J.B. Bickerstaff deploys his troops tonight.
Forcing Ingles out of his comfort zone will be key to a good Grizzlies performance.
On this week’s GBBLive podcast (which you can listen to here) both Brandon Conner and I predicted an 0-3 week for Memphis. The recent winning ways have certainly helped take the edge off the past five months of Grizzlies basketball, but they don’t change the fact Memphis doesn’t have the horses to compete for a full 48 minutes on most nights. After the Minnesota and Portland wins, it is hard to imagine the Grizzlies sneaking up on a Utah team a bad loss away from possibly being out of the playoffs.
Utah and Memphis both play a slow pace. That will keep the scores low, and close. But the Jazz will end the Grizzlies winning streak.
Utah 102, Memphis 97