WHO: Memphis Grizzlies (9-17, 4-11 home) vs. Miami Heat (19-7. 8-6 away)
WHERE: FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee
WHEN: 7:00 PM CT
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: Fox Sports Southeast/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
MEMPHIS: Grayson Allen (Out, ankle) Jae Crowder (Questionable, Ankle)
Miami: Dion Waiters (Out, suspension), James Johnson (Out, personal), Justise Winslow (Out, Back), Goran Dragic (Out, Groin)
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS:
MEMPHIS: Ja Morant, Dillon Brooks, Jae Crowder, Jaren Jackson Jr., Jonas Valanciunas
MIAMI: Myers Leonard, Duncan Robinson, Kendrick Nunn, Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo
What a week for the Memphis Grizzlies and their fans!
During a four-game week, where Memphis concluded a West Coast road trip and returned home for a back to back, the Grizzlies won three out of four games. Their only loss was against the best team in the East, the Milwaukee Bucks. Furthermore, fans were able to witness Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr., and Brandon Clarke each take the lead role for the offense. It is exciting to begin seeing the potential of this team transform into production.
Though the Grizzlies enter tonight 9-17, they continue to evolve and improve into a team that can compete with most teams in the NBA. Their production numbers across the board continue to indicate a team that is adjusting and getting more competitive. While there are a plethora of statistical options that could be featured to suggest “when the Grizzlies do this, they win”, one number in particular has emerged as a true indicator of the Grizzlies potential success on any given night.
That number is 115.
Currently, the Grizzlies are scoring 109.9 points per game while allowing 116.2 points per game. Those numbers rank 16th and 26th in the league, respectively. However, it appears the magic number for the Grizzlies this season for points scored or allowed is 115. When the Grizzlies score 115 or more points, they are 6-2. When they score less than 115, they are 3-15. When the Grizzlies allow 115 or more points, they are 3-10. When they allow less than 115, they are 6-7. For instance, this past week, the only time the Grizzlies lost was when they allowed more than 115 points. In two of their three wins, they scored more than 115.
The 115-point threshold could be an important aspect to watch for tonight against the Miami Heat. The Heat are 19-7 overall entering tonight’s contest. They are 12-0 when they score 115 or more points in a game. However, they are 0-5 when they allow 110 or more points in a regulation game. The fact that the Heat have only allowed 110 or more points in eight of their 26 games is a big reason for their early season success. They are a very good defensive team, especially on the perimeter.
Despite their recent success, the Grizzlies do enter tonight’s game as the underdog. However, due to their recent play, if they can perform well in a few key areas, they have a decent shot at pulling an upset. Here are a few keys to victory:
Three-Point Production: Currently, the Grizzlies are 19th in 3PFG% and 24th in 3PFG% allowed. The Heat are currently third in both categories. Miami is very good at finding good looks from beyond the arc on offense, and just as good at limiting those looks on defense. The Grizzlies must continue featuring their intelligent passing and improved shot selection to have a chance to win. Just as importantly, the Grizzlies have to communicate on defense to limit open looks for the Heat.
The Grizzlies must keep up their effective defense the entire game. Miami currently has four players averaging two or more made threes per game, two starters and two reserves. Though they will be without Winslow, Waiters, and Dragic, the Heat will likely have multiple three point specialists on the court for most of the game. Memphis has to keep a defender on these shooters at all times.
Win the Rookie Battle: While it is hard to find a team that has enjoyed more instant success from their 2019 rookie class than the Grizzlies, the Heat come close. Both Kendrick Nunn and Tyler Herro are enjoying excellent starts to their NBA careers. In fact, Nunn was the Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month in November, the same honor Morant won for the Grizzlies in the West.
A fun trend to watch could be which rookie tandem between Nunn and Herro versus Morant and Clarke scores the most. When Herro and Nunn score 15 or more points individually, the Heat are 8-2 and 11-1, respectively. With Clarke and Morant, the Grizzlies are 3-4 and 6-7, respectively. This shows that when each team’s rookie combination has success scoring, it provides a big boost to each team’s chances of winning. If the Grizzlies rookie combination can outscore their Heat counterparts, it will have a much better chance to win.
If the Grizzlies play as they did against the Suns and the Wizards last week, they have a realistic chance against the Heat. However, if both teams are playing at the top of their games, it will be hard for Memphis to keep up with the Heat’s shooting talent. Though the Grizzlies have been competitive against potential playoff teams this year more often than not, they will have to remain efficient and effective all game long to earn the win tonight.
Score: Heat 123, Memphis 113