WHEN: 7:00 PM CT
WHERE: FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: Fox Sports Southeast/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
MEMPHIS: JaMychal Green (Probable- knee), Kyle Anderson (Questionable- ankle), Omri Casspi (Doubtful, knee), Dillon Brooks (Out, toe), Garrett Temple (Out, shoulder), Chandler Parsons (Out, mad at Chris Wallace)
DENVER: Jamal Murray (Out, ankle), Isaiah Thomas (Out, hip), Michael Porter Jr. (Out, back)
PROBABLE STARTING LINEUPS:
MEMPHIS: Mike Conley, Jevon Carter, Justin Holiday, Jaren Jackson Jr., Marc Gasol
DENVER: Will Barton, Gary Harris, Torrey Craig, Paul Millsap, Nikola Jokic
Saturday night was fun for Memphis and their Grizzlies.
Regardless of what comes next - trades or no trades - the city will at least have one more memory to latch on to in the face of an impending long-term rebuild. Whether one, both, or neither of Marc Gasol and Mike Conley are no longer on this team come February 8th (the day after the trade deadline), there is a long period of losing coming that will almost certainly occur without Marc or Mike on the roster. All good things must come to an end...that certainly made Saturday night’s hugs and smooches that much sweeter after a needed win against a wounded Indiana Pacers squad.
While tonight’s opponent will be also be without a talented perimeter player in Jamal Murray, the Denver Nuggets are built differently from the Pacers. Their best player, Nikola Jokic, is healthy and playing the best basketball of his career. Gary Harris and Will Barton have recently returned to action and Paul Millsap adds another big to a stacked lineup. The Nuggets are the 2nd best team currently in the Western Conference, and appear to be solidifying their place among the NBA’s elite.
Two franchises, two different directions. How can Memphis slow the rise of Denver?
Conley must create
Jamal Murray’s absence makes Denver’s starting lineup unique, but make no mistake they are still very solid at the point guard position. Monte Morris comes off the bench for Denver and is having a hell of a season - shooting 44.1% from beyond the arc on four attempts per game, Morris has the second best offensive rating on the Nuggets and fourth best Win Shares per 48 Minutes according to basketball-reference.com. He is one of the Nugget’s best players - but he usually is not the focus of opponents, as Murray has the pedigree...and is also really, really good.
Mike Conley should have opportunities against larger, but less fleet of foot, opponents. He must take advantage and attack early and often, both for opportunities at the rim and free throw line and for the sake of opening up shots on the perimeter for teammates. Memphis actually has a slight depth advantage at the point going in to tonight - they must win this match-up if they have any chance to win.
Bruno’s run of luck must continue
Bruno Caboclo was an unlikely hero Saturday night as Memphis pulled an upset over the Pacers. His athleticism and length are unquestioned - those natural gifts are obvious, and the 23-year-old displayed them alongside improved basketball skill in a larger than expected role against Indiana. With Kyle Anderson returning from injury (at best), JaMychal Green banged up, and the other injury issues facing the Grizzlies, Caboclo has to have a similar performance for Memphis to compete for a full 48 minutes.
The good news? Denver won’t have too much of a scouting report on Bruno because of the nature of the beast that is the NBA. The element of surprise could still be effective, but it is up to Caboclo to use it to his advantage and continue to make the most of his latest NBA opportunity.
It was wonderful to see FedExForum celebrating victory again. The streamers, the music, the love...it was a shot of life in a dreary season.
It will be short lived.
Hold on to that moment, Memphis. Because it won’t be relived for a while. The Grizzlies hit the road for a few games after this one, and the Nuggets will likely send them out with a loss. They’re the superior team.
Denver 107, Memphis 99