WHEN: 7:30 PM CT
WHERE: AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: Fox Sports Southeast/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
MEMPHIS: Chandler Parsons (Out, return from injury management), Mike Conley(Questionable, shoulder)
SAN ANTONIO: Dejounte Murray (Out, knee)
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS:
MEMPHIS: Mike Conley, Garrett Temple, Kyle Anderson, Jaren Jackson Jr., Marc Gasol
BROOKLYN: Derrick White, DeMar DeRozan, Bryn Forbes, Rudy Gay, LaMarcus Aldridge
There was a time in the not-so-distant past that Memphis vs. San Antonio games were circled with the hint of a rivalry. For most, that isn’t true anymore - the teams look so different on both sides of the ball. The Gasol brothers will get their annual hug at center court, but other than that, these teams don’t resemble one another from years past.
This season the Spurs started slow, but now they are winners of seven of their last nine games. It took until mid-December for them to hit their stride that has pulled them back into the playoff picture. Their opponent on Saturday night, our frustratingly beautiful Grizzlies, has gone down quite the opposite road. Memphis is 2-9 in their last eleven games and this team becomes more confusing as the season progresses.
The Grizzlies beat San Antonio in the first meeting of the season, 104-103, a nail-biter that would put Memphis as the number one seed in the Western Conference (for about one minute it seemed like). The last Spurs matchup was perhaps one of the only times this season that both Marc Gasol and Mike Conley have played well in the same game. They carried the team like most expect them to and it was truly fun to watch.
Fast forward to this Saturday night and San Antonio has finally figured out what works for them. DeMar DeRozan is playing like he is happy to be away from Toronto and LaMarcus Aldridge is taking advantage of his uptick in usage. In usual Spur fashion, they have bench players that know their role and a few no-name players that consistently produce. Coming off the high of stomping the Raptors and their former superstar, Kawhi Leonard, the Spurs are truly feeling themselves right now.
Memphis needs a win against a solid conference foe. Its too early to call the Spurs championship contenders, but a win against a familiar division opponent could be the momentum this team needs. With the addition of Justin Holiday and trimming off dead weight in the process, Memphis looks to be making strides toward an attempted playoff push. A road win against the Spurs would help get things back to good for the Grizzlies.
LaMarcus Aldridge is the key to stopping this Spurs team. That is a new development this season with less playmakers on the floor. His efficiency through December was incredible and the dynamic between him and DeRozan is at an all-time high. Add in the lethal shooting of Bryn Forbes and this team is tough to stop. Memphis does a great job of keeping teams below their scoring average and causing turnovers, that will be imperative on Saturday night.
On the offensive end, Marc Gasol and Mike Conley should have their way. Just like the last matchup, the point guard and center position can be exploited on the Spurs’ defense. There isn’t a true center on the San Antonio roster, aside from Pau Gasol who has been in and out of the lineup, so the two big men for the Grizzlies (Jaren Jackson Jr. and Gasol) should have a heyday. Justin Holiday is one game into his Grizzlies tenure, so this could be a game for him to establish his role now that he has settled in. On the second night of a back-to-back, Memphis will need contribution from the full roster to beat the pesky Spurs.