WHERE: FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee
WHEN: 7:00 PM CT
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: Fox Sports Southeast/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
MEMPHIS: Ja Morant (Out, injury maintenance - back), Brandon Clarke (Out, injury maintenance - oblique), Grayson Allen (Out, ankle)
MILWAUKEE: Giannis Antetokounmpo (Questionable, quad), Kyle Korver (Out, back), Dragan Bender (Out, ankle)
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS:
MEMPHIS: Tyus Jones, Dillon Brooks, Jae Crowder, Jaren Jackson Jr., Jonas Valanciunas
MILWAUKEE: Eric Bledsoe, Wesley Matthews, Khris Middleton, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Brook Lopez
The Memphis Grizzlies are far more fun when Ja Morant is in the lineup. They’re a better basketball team as well, of course...and entering a rare home-home back-to-back, surely Grizzlies fans were hoping to see Ja excite the Memphis faithful not once, but twice this weekend.
Unfortunately for them, Ja Morant will not be participating in the full festivities.
The Grizzlies have (wisely) decided to sit both Morant and Brandon Clarke for the first half of the back to back against the mighty Milwaukee Bucks, winners of 16 straight games and arguably the best team in the entire NBA. The real loser here is the fan who paid their hard earned money to see Memphis play (and Morant especially) who now gets to witness more of the Tyus Jones experience instead. But with both Ja and Brandon coming off of injuries - and the Grizzlies about to embark on a three games in four days swing - it made sense to rest these two guys in one of these games. Why not the one that would be the almost certain loss whether they played or not?
Giannis (assuming he plays) and his crew are that freaking good.
So, how do the skeleton Grizzlies compete with Coach Taylor Jenkins’ former squad?
Wear Down Brook Lopez
This may surprise some of you, but the fact of the matter is that Jonas Valanciunas is not very good at perimeter defense.
Once you get over the shock of that statement, come back. I’ll wait.
Sarcasm aside, Jonas has been exposed by the likes of Frank Kaminsky and other bigs that can play off the dribble as well as shoot the three. Brook Lopez, while not as nimble as he once perhaps was, can certainly knock down the long ball when he is on. The good news for the Grizzlies is, that hasn’t really happened for the Bucks yet so far in 2019. Lopez is shooting a measly 30.1% from beyond the arc, meaning that as long as he doesn’t choose this game to rediscover his stroke (which may well happen, because Jonas 3 point defense) Valanciunas should be able to relax a bit on that end most of the night.
Jonas must attack Lopez and make him work defensively. Fatigue is Jonas’ friend here - body him and bang with him down low on the block, and take his legs from him so that three point shot stays cold.
Make sure Dillon Brooks scores a lot
When Dillon Brooks scores at least 20 points, Memphis is 6-0.
So the answer is simple. Let Dillon Brooks shoot the basketball a lot of times, right?
It’s not that simple, of course. There is no denying the impact that good Dillon has on this Grizzlies team, however. He is the one player not named Ja Morant that can consistently get their own shot. He is capable of attacking the rim and converting from three. He is supremely confident in his abilities - perhaps too confident at times - and he is willing to fight/shoot through slumps. He is an offensive weapon that Memphis needs even when Ja is in to be a bucket getter. With him out? He must be smart in his opportunities, but he also must understand a majority of the the time the best shot will be his shot.
8-16 teams overly rely on players like Dillon Brooks. Tonight will be no exception.
The Grizzlies are feeling good about themselves right now after winning two straight games. But Milwaukee is an entirely different animal. Even if Giannis does not play, the absence of Ja and Brandon Clarke will hurt Memphis and lead to a double-digit win for the Bucks.
Milwaukee 119, Memphis 107