WHERE: Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, Louisiana
WHEN: 7:00 PM CT
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: Fox Sports Southeast/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
MEMPHIS: Jevon Carter (Questionable, knee), Dillon Brooks (Doubtful, toe)
NEW ORLEANS: E’Twaun Moore (Questionable, leg), Nikola Mirotic (Out, ankle)
PROBABLE STARTING LINEUPS:
MEMPHIS: Mike Conley, Garrett Temple, Kyle Anderson, Jaren Jackson Jr., Marc Gasol
NEW ORLEANS: Elfrid Payton, Jrue Holiday, E’Twaun Moore, Julius Randle, Anthony Davis
What a difference a month makes.
Exactly one month ago today the Memphis Grizzlies were still flying high. While they had cooled off some since a red-hot 12-5 start, Memphis was still 14-9 heading in to a show down in the Big Easy with the New Orleans Pelicans. The Grizzlies were led by a high scoring night from JaMychal Green and solid showings from Kyle Anderson and Mike Conley on their way to a 107-103 victory. 15-9, still a team with the look of a playoff contender.
Since that night? The team is a staggeringly bad 3-12, leaving Memphis on the precipice of disaster for the second season in a row. The defense that was once so stifling for the Grizzlies has left them, and that now only amplifies their offensive woes. To make matters worse, the past week for Memphis has been full of distractions, from the good (acquiring Justin Holiday from the Bulls) to the not-so-good (team meeting with physicality and the messy public divorce from Chandler Parsons).
In the midst of it all, the Grizzlies have a basketball game tonight against a Pelicans team that, much like Memphis, is fighting for its playoff lives. New Orleans has one of the top players in the world on their side in Anthony Davis, and two terrific supporting players in Jrue Holiday, that will make the Grizzlies work on both ends of the floor all night long.
How can Memphis find their footing and pull off a road upset?
Let only one of the three headed Hydra eat
The Memphis Grizzlies have no one capable of stopping Anthony Davis. In fairness, most squads in the NBA don’t have such a player, and perhaps one day Jaren Jackson Jr. will be capable of doing such things. For now, though, JJJ would be too foul happy to shut down Davis defensively, and beyond him the rest of Memphis lacks the combination of length and foot speed to compete consistently with arguably the best all-around big in the NBA.
So why bother?
Beyond Davis, you have Randle and Holiday who are both having very good seasons. After them? There is not too much to work with, especially considering that Mirotic is out and Moore may be as well. NBA players are NBA players, and if the Grizzlies allow wide open threes and cuts to the rim anyone in the Association can score on them.
But efforts should be focused on Holiday and Randle, not Davis. Whether it is JaMychal Green, Marc Gasol, or Jaren Jackson Jr., let them do the best they can in the assignment and place your energies in stopping the rest of the roster as best you can. AD is special...but he can’t do it alone. The record of the Pelicans reflects that reality.
Attack the rim, get to the free throw line
In losses this season the New Orleans Pelicans allow opposing teams to average 26.1 free throws per contest. This is 3.4 more attempts than they give up in their victories (22.7), and is a sign of two things in particular - a willingness to attack improves your chances, and in losses NOLA reaches and struggles with staying in front of their man.
Memphis struggles getting to the charity stripe at times, but they must make it a priority if they hope to knock off the Pelicans on the road. In their 18 wins this season the Grizzlies get to the line 24.4 times per game. In losses? 20.6 attempts on average from the free throw line. This offense needs all the attempts at easy points they can get - an emphasis on fighting around and through screens, clean picks and sets from screeners, and body positioning on drives is necessary so that the game slows down and scoring chances go up for Memphis.
The Grizzlies have won one other road game in the month since these two teams last met in Smoothie King Center - the random great performance against the Lakers. Memphis has struggled mightily, but perhaps the cloud of Parsons leaving the squad will breathe fresh air into a squad that desperately needs a shot of life.
Look for Justin Holiday to look more comfortable and have success in a game where his brother Jrue is on the opposing squad. It won’t be enough, though - Jrue Holiday once again limits Mike Conley as a scorer, and that dooms the Grizzlies.
New Orleans 107, Memphis 101