WHERE: FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee
WHEN: 7:00PM CT
HOW TO WATCH: Fox Sports Southeast/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
MEMPHIS- Kyle Anderson (Questionable, Heel)
UTAH- Ed Davis (Out, Ankle); Nigel Williams-Goss (Out, Toe)
MEMPHIS- Ja Morant, Dillon Brooks, Jae Crowder, Jaren Jackson Jr., Jonas Valanciunas
UTAH- Mike Conley, Donovan Mitchell, Bojan Bogdanovic, Royce O’Neale, Rudy Gobert
It is time to break into the Thanksgiving leftovers and turn on some Grizzlies basketball. It one of the best days of the year. Friday night will also be another occasion for the city of Memphis as they welcome back Mike Conley. It will be his second time back to Memphis within the month which may be another dusty night in FedExForum.
As everyone remembers quite well, in the last match-up between these two teams, the Grizzlies won 107-106. It felt like a fitting passing of the torch between Ja Morant and Mike Conley. This night was an emotional night and tribute to what Mike Conley did for the city of Memphis. The cherry on top was that the Grizzlies took home the win in the end, and Ja Morant led them there.
Tonight, it will be a whole new game. The Grizzlies are coming off a close home loss to the Los Angeles Clippers. It was a game they were in the whole way through but lost it down the stretch. The Jazz are coming off their own loss to a Indiana Pacers team. This will be the second game on the road for this Utah team. While Mike Conley will be on center stage once again, it will be another important game for the Grizzlies to build against a top of the Western Conference team. They will already have the confidence needed having beaten them about two weeks ago.
Here’s two things to watch for in tonight’s contest:
The continued offensive surge of Ja Morant
It is almost not even worth mentioning with this kid, but every game he just takes his game to another level. Last game, it was against the Clippers and one of the best defensive backcourts in the league. Tonight, he will once again be in the spotlight as he will be compared to what Mike Conley does all night long. It happened in their first game and will happen again here tonight.
In this game, he will have another tough match-up finishing around the rim. Rudy Gobert will be standing in the way from him and a bucket, but that does not stop him as we saw in their previous battle. Morant knows the way to use his body to shift around the defensive player of the year’s outreached arms to finish around him. He knows how to force on-ball defenders to stay close, so the help defense does not come by. The buckets around the rim he had in their first game came mostly with a guy on his back. Gobert did not think to switch over to impact the shot. Not ideal, but it created results.
There are other ways to help Morant out around the rim against such a elite defensive player like Gobert. One is to spread out the floor as much as possible and make Gobert either stick to his man around the arc for Ja to finish, or for him to collapse on the help defense leaving open the three point shooter on the outside. Either way will need to be schemed up by Coach Jenkins to give Morant the opportunity to succeed. Keep an eye out early on for plays drawn up to do either of these two things.
The battle down low
Another subplot to watch in this game is the battle in the paint between Gobert and Jonas Valanciunas. Yes, Gobert will impact the game defensively with shot blocking, but another way the Grizzlies can go after him is the bully-ball style of ball down near the block. Valanciunas is coming off a monster game against the Clippers scoring 30 points and grabbing 16 rebounds. He is playing great basketball becoming a offensive force for this team.
Against Gobert, it will be important to make him earn every rebound and point he gets. Gobert is good enough to have a solid game, but it will be crucial for him not to take over completely. Valanciunas grinds enough down low to throw him off his usual game. JV needs to push Gobert around and continue his success, and this will give the Grizzlies the best chance at the win.
All in all, I am not sure if the Grizzlies can pull it off. This Jazz team will not be sleeping on the Grizzlies tonight. Conley has finally started to play much better this season, and he will have to at least have one good game in one of his comebacks to the Forum. Look for him and Donovan Mitchell to pack the scoresheet. The Grizzlies will fight early, but they will find another way to squander it down the stretch.
Spread: Jazz -6
Take the Jazz in their quick return to FedExForum.
Jazz- 119, Grizzlies- 103