WHERE: Amway Center in Orlando, Florida
WHEN: 6:00 PM CT
HOW TO WATCH: Fox Sports Southeast/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
MEMPHIS- Tyus Jones (Probable, Right Ankle Soreness); Grayson Allen (Out, Left Ankle Soreness)
Orlando- Terrence Ross (Doubtful, Right Knee)
MEMPHIS- Ja Morant, Dillon Brooks, Jae Crowder, Jaren Jackson Jr., Jonas Valanciunas
Orlando- Markelle Fultz, Evan Fournier, Jonathan Isaac, Aaron Gordon, Nikola Vucevic
The Memphis Grizzlies are looking to pull an encore from Wednesday’s victory, as they take on the Orlando Magic. In Wednesday night’s game, they found their groove from outside, connecting on 12 of their 23 three-point attempts — embodying Taylor Jenkins’ “let it fly” approach.
Meanwhile, the Orlando Magic are off to a rough 2-6 start. They were a sleeper team for a lot of national analysts this season, as their defensive brilliance at the second-half of last year — combined with the growth of their young talent — drew optimism. However, a lackluster offense has hindered them from gaining momentum. They average a league-worst 95.1 points a game — nearly over 4.5 points lower than the second-worst scoring team.
Though these teams aren’t very exciting to the public eye, there are a few matchups that are worth paying attention to.
For starters, the Ja Morant and Markelle Fultz battle should at least be intriguing. Morant has had a brilliant start to the season, averaging 20.4 points and 5.3 assists in his first 6 games. Fultz, on the other hand, was supposed to be what Morant is flashing now — a floor general with elite athleticism, three-level scoring abilities, and dynamic playmaking. Health made his first two seasons a lost cause, but he’s finding a niche in Orlando, averaging 10.3 points and 3.3 assists and earning the starting spot. Though Fultz isn’t what he was supposed to be, he still poses a good challenge for Morant, as he’s a bigger guard that could potentially bother him defensively.
Jaren Jackson Jr. and Jonathan Isaac is a juicy matchup that members of NBA Twitter would adore. Coming into their respective drafts, both players were recognized as projects that could evolve into the best player in the class 5-10 years down the road. In addition, both possess elite defensive potential and versatility, and that should be on display in this one. Hopefully, foul trouble doesn’t rob us of this brilliant battle.
Jonas Valanciunas and Nikola Vucevic is a classic big man battle. These two players, a few years back, embodied the traditional, back-to-the-basket centers that got buckets from the low post and gobbled up rebounds. They now evolved their games to fit today’s faster, 3-point-heavy NBA. The last time these two players faced off, Valanciunas notched a 23-point, 24-rebound performance. Though his touches and minutes have been limited in this system, he could still make a huge impact that could swing the game in the Grizzlies’ favor.
- Wing Play
Last outing, the Grizzlies’ starting wings came to play, as Dillon Brooks and Jae Crowder combined for 49 points and 9 three-pointers. For the Grizzlies to steal this road game, they’ll have to find their rhythm from beyond the arc. Crowder will have a tougher time creating on the wing, as Aaron Gordon is a strong perimeter defender. However, Dillon Brooks needs to exploit the Magic’s defensive problems at the 2 spot, as Evan Fournier isn’t a prolific defender.
- Backup PG play
Over the past 3 games, Tyus Jones is averaging 8 points and 5 assists in a shade under 24 minutes a game. He’s done a great job putting pressure on defenses by attacking the basket and finding open teammates. In this one, he’ll go up against former starting point guard DJ Augustin. Both veteran ball-handlers could end up swinging the trajectory of this game.
- Second-unit frontcourt
The Memphis Grizzlies have deployed Kyle Anderson and Brandon Clarke at the 4 and 5 this season. It’s produced strong results, as they use their defensive versatility, high basketball IQ, and efficiency around the rim to offset the lack of size either may possess at their respective positions. Tonight, they’ll be going up against more length, as Khem Birch and Al-Farouq Aminu run the 4 and 5 in the Magic’s second unit. If their length serves as any disruption to Clarke and Anderson, the Grizzlies could struggle creating offense off the bench.
Though this game won’t be any sort of Finals preview or anything, these two teams have fascinating matchups that’ll at least make it worth watching on your Friday night.