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MLK Jr. Day Game Preview: Memphis Grizzlies vs. New Orleans Pelicans

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In the midst of a season in crisis, a moment to pause and reflect.

NBA: Sacramento Kings at Memphis Grizzlies Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

WHO: Memphis Grizzlies (19-27, 11-10 home) vs. New Orleans Pelicans (21-25, 6-19 away)

WHERE: FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee

WHEN: 4:30 PM CT

HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: TNT/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis

INJURY REPORT:

MEMPHIS: Marc Gasol (Probable, back), Joakim Noah (Out, personal), Kyle Anderson (Out, ankle), Dillon Brooks (Out, toe)

NEW ORLEANS: Anthony Davis (Out, finger)

PROBABLE STARTING LINEUPS:

MEMPHIS: Mike Conley, Garrett Temple, Justin Holiday, Jaren Jackson Jr., Marc Gasol

NEW ORLEANS: Elfrid Payton, Jrue Holiday, E’Twaun Moore, Nikola Mirotic, Julius Randle


Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. - Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

In times both good and bad, as the years grind along and we move further away in terms of time from the Civil Rights era, the words of Dr. King echo through the national consciousness. There are universal truths in the teachings and actions of King, lessons that remain as relevant now as they were then. The struggle that so many endured to simply enjoy the principles that our country was founded upon - life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness - continues to impact our society, in positive and challenging ways.

Nowhere is this more true than in Memphis, where Dr. King was slain and the Lorainne Motel, the site of the assassination, stands now as the National Civil Rights Museum. Daily life shows both the progress of the movement and the ground that still needs to be made up compared to other urban areas in the United States. Income inequality and urban decay mix with renewal and a passion and soul that is both unquestioned and unforgettable. The identity of Memphis is uniquely and painfully beautiful - and it will always be my second home.

Today, as part of remembering Dr. King and the movement he led, the Grizzlies will honor his memory as the eyes of the NBA turn to Memphis. For one day, the focus shouldn’t be totally on the collapse of this team this season, and what the future will hold. It should be on the remarkable work the Grizzlies franchise does in the community, both on this day with the Sports Legacy Symposium and the celebration game itself as well as their daily impact on the city of Memphis. A major reason the Grizzlies were brought to Memphis was to be a unifying force, an economic spark plug but more importantly a civic point of pride. While the on-court product has suffered lately, this is a day to remember why the Grizzlies call Memphis home...and why Memphis is lucky to have the Grizzlies, in good times and bad.

Thank you, Dr. King. Long live the dream.

On to the preview.

No Brow? Attack now.

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Toronto Raptors Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Anthony Davis is out, and a team that struggles to defend with one of the best defensive players on the floor just got a lot worse. This season when Davis is on the floor the Pelicans post a 115 defensive rating - that isn’t good. When AD isn’t out there, the defensive rating tumbles to 121.4. That is worse.

Hard-hitting analysis aside, the Grizzlies must be able to take advantage of a team that struggles mightily to defend as a unit. Jrue Holiday is playing defense at an elite level, as Mike Conley has found out twice so far this season, but with Davis out Jaren Jackson Jr., Marc Gasol, and JaMychal Green need to have a feast in the paint. Also look for plenty of cutters and drives to and through the lane without The Brow by the rim for the Pelicans.

Know who you want to shoot the ball.

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at New Orleans Pelicans Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

If Julius Randle, who is having a terrific season for the Pelicans, is allowed to get to the rim as he did in the picture above it is going to be a long early evening for the Grizzlies. The key is to collapse on his attempts and force him to shoot from the perimeter, where he is far less effective. Without the physical freak that is Anthony Davis on the floor, the Pelicans offense is far more predictable. Holiday and Randle are far more effective around the rim, while Moore and Mirotic are better perimeter offensive players. No superstar means no need to double consistently, and an opportunity to effectively game plan and rotate to limit what each key Pelican does well.

Here’s to hoping the film watched by J.B. Bickerstaff and his staff has led them to solid adjustments, and pre-determined counter punches once NOLA adjusts. If Memphis can survive the third quarter within a couple of possessions, or goodness gracious, a lead, they have a shot.

The Prediction

Memphis, on any other day, should be picked to lose this game given their recent performance. 1-11 in your last twelve games does not inspire confidence in finding victory. With Anthony Davis out and the Pelicans adjusting to that new reality, though, this game is ripe for a Grizzlies win. Marc Gasol, JaMychal Green, and Jaren Jackson Jr. pace Memphis, who will pull away late in the fourth quarter.

Memphis 103, New Orleans 98

Stats provided by basketball-reference.com.

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