WHERE: FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee
WHEN: 7:00 PM CT
HOW TO WATCH: Fox Sports Southeast/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
MEMPHIS- Jae Crowder (Probable, Back Soreness); Jaren Jackson Jr. (Probable, Right Knee Soreness); Grayson Allen (Out, Left Ankle)
MINNESOTA- Jordan Bell (Day-to-Day, Calf); Shabazz Napier (Day-to-Day, Hamstring); Jeff Teague (Day-to-Day, Illness)
MEMPHIS- Ja Morant, Dillon Brooks, Jae Crowder, Jaren Jackson Jr., Jonas Valanciunas
MINNESOTA- Jeff Teague, Andrew Wiggins, Treveon Graham, Robert Covington, Karl-Anthony Towns
The Memphis Grizzlies are back at it Wednesday night as they conclude their three game stand trying to leave the city on a happy note. They have dropped the previous two home games to the Phoenix Suns and Houston Rockets. This is not the start of the season the Grizzlies wanted with young talent and a rookie head coach. It is of course only six games into the season, so there is still plenty of time to form opinions on the struggles.
As for tonight, the Minnesota Timberwolves come to town led by Karl-Anthony Towns who is fresh off his two-game suspension after his brawl with Joel Embiid last week. Towns will be looking to prove himself in his first game back. Because of that, it is even more important Jaren Jackson Jr. is ready to play tonight. This will be a big test for the second-year star of the Grizzlies.
The Timberwolves will be coming off a thrashing at home against the Milwaukee Bucks, but, again, that was without Towns. He will be the key to victory for the Grizzlies tonight. Limit him as much as possible and make Jeff Teague or Andrew Wiggins have to beat you on the perimeter. If they can so be it, but it is much more likely to get the win limiting Karl-Anthony Towns.
Here are two major things to look for in tonight’s contest:
Continue the First Half Success
The Grizzlies this season have had a huge problem of closing out games after halftime. In their six games this season with a record of 1-5, the Grizzlies have been leading four times at halftime. Also, they have lost every single one of their third quarters this season. That is less than ideal, and it is starting to look more and more like a systemic problem with what goes on at halftime.
First, it is worth mentioning, the entire blame does not fall on Taylor Jenkins. He may still be getting used to adjustments and adapting to what the other team throws at them at the second half. It will take some time to understand how it works in real time, however, he has got to sure up some things quickly. With that being said, the players must take it on themselves to not get complacent. Players like Jae Crowder, Solomon Hill, and Kyle Anderson need to lead by example and keep these young guys focused for four quarters.
This problem is very hard to exactly diagnosis because it seems to be a mindset issue instead of something tangible to fix. These young guys just have to keep the pressure on for 48 minutes and not let up. If they can carry the lead into the fourth quarter, then, the adrenaline will rise, and it will be tough to slip up. Tonight, watch for the Grizzlies’ play in the third quarter no matter the score. They can not lose another third quarter and expect results in this league.
Managing Ja and Jaren
Another thing to watch in tonight’s game is the management with the two young stars- Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. This may actually tie in with the first point a bit because of the rotations Taylor Jenkins roll out there in the second half. With this, there are two smaller issues that impact his decisions. The first is how many fouls has Jaren racked up, and the second is not overworking Morant too early in the season.
For Jaren, tonight will be a huge test for him against KAT down low. Valanciunas will head-to-head to start, but Jaren will face off with him as well. He will find himself in many many situations where he will have to fight off his first instincts and defend without fouling. If he is successful with this, he can stay on the floor and battle crunch-time minutes when the team needs him the most. If not, which we have seen multiple times before, he will be sitting out long chunks of minutes disrupting the rotations Jenkins had in mind of his bench.
Hopefully for Morant’s sake, Jackson Jr. will not pick up early fouls. The offensive burden could be evened out a bit more and have both guys contribute down the stretch of these games. Above all else, Taylor Jenkins will have to manage these two correctly in this game, and also down the road. He has to commit and trying to keep at least one of these stars on the court most minutes of the game. The Grizzlies are not deep enough to go without them long stretches even at the end of quarters. Manage these two without overexerting them early in the season, and that may bring positive outcomes for this team.
Of course, this plan is much easier said than done, and, because of this, I predict the Timberwolves win in convincing fashion. Unfortunately, I don’t think Jaren will be able to not foul Towns as he is on a mission tonight when he is guarding him. I think Jaren will pick up early fouls trying to help out on defense leaving him on the bench for most of this game. Then, Brandon Clarke will not be able to compete similar to the Anthony Davis situation against the Lakers. Look for Ja Morant to have a big night against an aging Jeff Teague, but it will not result in a win.
Spread: Timberwolves -4.5
Take the Wolves and lay the points.
Memphis- 97, Minnesota- 113