WHERE: FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee
WHEN: 7:00 PM CT
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: Fox Sports Southeast/ 92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
CHICAGO: Chandler Hutchison (Out, hamstring), Shaquille Harrison (Probable, hamstring)
MEMPHIS: None (For the first time in years?)
PROJECTED STARING LINEUPS:
CHICAGO: Tomas Satoransky, Zach LaVine, Otto Porter Jr., Lauri Markkanen, Wendell Carter Jr.
MEMPHIS: Ja Morant, Dillon Brooks, Jae Crowder, Jaren Jackson Jr., Jonas Valanciunas
The Grizzlies return home to Memphis in preparation of their home opener after falling to the Miami Heat on Wednesday night 120-101. The game, for at least 3 quarters, was much closer than the final score showed as the Grizzlies remained competitive and held a lead going into the 4th quarter before the bottom fell out.
Taylor Jenkins will have a quick turnaround to get his squad ready for tonight’s matchup against the youthful Chicago Bulls. The Bulls come into tonight’s game following a close loss to the Charlotte Hornets on Wednesday.
Both the Bulls and Grizzlies figure to lose some this season, with the Bulls perhaps being a dark horse playoff team, so tonight’s game is a chance for one team to get a fulfilling win. Here’s some keys for the Grizzlies to come out on top tonight.
The Battle of Top 10 Picks
Both the Memphis Grizzlies and Chicago Bulls have drafted players at similar positions in the top 10 of the last 2 NBA Drafts. Jaren Jackson Jr. (4th Overall) and Wendell Carter Jr. (7th Overall) will battle it out down low to see who can be the superior prospect (at least for one night) from the 2018 NBA Draft. JJJ went off for 17 points, 2 blocks and a steal Wednesday, but also only picked up 3 rebounds and committed 3 turnovers and 5 fouls. Wendell Carter Jr. dropped 12 points for the Bulls Wednesday alongside 9 rebounds and a block. The matchup is intriguing, but Jaren will need to attack the glass to come out on top.
Meanwhile, Ja Morant (2nd Overall) and Coby White (7th Overall) will match-up for the first time as top rookies from the 2019 NBA draft. Ja Morant had an electric first half against the Heat before finishing with 14 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists but also 6 turnovers. White, meanwhile, dropped 17 points and 7 assists off the bench for the Bulls.
Tonight’s game doesn’t necessarily mean much on the long-term outcome for any of the 4 prospects, but if the Grizzlies young guys can play better, it’ll go a long way in securing a win.
4th Quarter woes
The Grizzlies held their own against a solid Heat team (albeit without Jimmy Butler, Dion Waiters and James Johnson) but came out flat in the 4th quarter, resulting in a lopsided final score. Taylor Jenkins went 10 players deep through 3 quarters in his rotation on Wednesday, so fatigue shouldn’t have been a major issue but the Grizzlies looked like a completely team in the 4th quarter compared to the first 3. Jenkins will need to make sure he has his team ready to compete for 48 minutes tonight, instead of just 36.
To Jenkins’ credit, the Grizzlies are likely to falter in the 4th closing games out a majority of the season due to the team being so young. It’s a positive the Grizzlies were in a position to win entering the 4th in the first place.
What’s Up with Valanciunas
Jonas Valanciunas had quite the underwhelming performance against the Heat in his first game since the FIBA World Cup. The Lithuanian big man posted just 7 points, 1 rebound and 5 fouls in only 16 minutes of action. Valanciunas is likely to be on a minutes restriction the first few weeks of the season as he recovers from a sore foot, but he looked extremely rusty regardless. Valanciunas has a solid match-up against an athletic but not necessarily physical Bulls frontcourt.
It takes a few games to shake off the rust in the NBA, but it would be of great benefit to the Grizzlies if Valanciunas looks more like the 20-10 man he looked like last season tonight. Valanciunas playing like his old self could also provide the scoring presence the Grizzlies lacked in the 4th on Wednesday night.
Both the Bulls and Grizzlies have exciting young cores that will win both teams plenty of games in the future. Tonight, however, could be quite ugly. Personally, I care more about the Ja-Coby and the Jaren-Wendell matchup than I do the overall game so tonight I will give two types of predictions.
I believe the Grizzlies split the positional battles discussed earlier as Ja outplays Coby, but Wendell outplays Jaren.
With the prospect matchup being a draw, I think the steady play of Tyus Jones and the expected better from performance Jonas Valanciunas helps the Grizzlies pull out a close win in the home opener.
Grizzlies 115 Bulls 109