WHEN: 7:00 PM CT
WHERE: United Center in Chicago, IL
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: Fox Sports Southeast/92.9FM ESPN Memphis
MEMPHIS – Ja Morant (Out, back), Kyle Anderson (Questionable, heel), Brandon Clarke (out, oblique), Jonas Valanciunas (Questionable, illness)
CHICAGO – Christiano Felicio (Out, wrist), Otto Porter Jr. (Out, foot), Chandler Hutchison (Out, shoulder)
PROBABLE STARTING LINEUPS
MEMPHIS – Tyus Jones, Dillon Brooks, Jae Crowder, Jaren Jackson Jr., Jonas Valanciunas
CHICAGO – Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine, Wendell Carter Jr., Lauri Markkanen, Tomas Satoransky
Tonight the Memphis Grizzlies travel to Chicago to face the Bulls of the Eastern Conference. It probably goes without saying, but both teams are bad and have been for the last couple of years. Both are in severe rebuilds with promising talent. Unfortunately for Memphis, that promising talent will be watching from the sidelines in street clothes rather than in uniform, with Ja Morant and Brandon Clarke out for the near future with injuries.
Memphis is coming off a tough loss against the Indiana Pacers, but have played decent on the road; Chicago is riding high of a win against the Sacramento Kings, ending a three game losing streak. Both teams play young talent with an eye toward development, which could keep this game close for 48 minutes. Here are a few keys to the game:
Jaren Jackson is coming off a stellar 31 point performance against the Pacers on an efficient 10-19 from the field. The flip side is that he was basically the only post player in that game, which could be true against Chicago if Jonas Valanciunas is still out with an illness. This is an issue for JJJ because of his foul tendencies but also load management in a 48 minutes NBA game. The next closest “post-players” would be Solomon Hill and the young Bruno Caboclo. Perhaps we will see a Yuta Watanabe appearance.
Chicago also is questionable in the front court. Lauri Markkanen is a decent player with a larger role this season, taking some of the veteran Thaddeus Young’s minutes. Wendell Carter Jr. is promising, but hasn’t developed his go-to strengths yet, and the Bulls don’t rely heavily on their bench in general. If Memphis can control the front court, this could be a swing factor toward a win.
Grizzly Guard Play
Tyus Jones is struggling from the field this year. He is shooting a tough 38% FG and an even worse 20% from three. With Morant out for the near future, Tyus Jones just got promoted to lead this team in a way that may not be possible for him, but necessary for the starting lineup to compete. Dillon Brooks has played well in his two December games, with efficiency that is admirable and likely to fade. Expecting consistency from Brooks is like saying you’re a really good Roulette player. This is a prime time for him to become that go-to player for this team, however.
Grayson Allen and De’Anthony Melton will have larger roles now as well with the missing guard in Morant and role player Kyle Anderson potentially out as well. Both played 25+ minutes against Indiana and will likely get more minutes until the injuries subside. Allen is barely shooting 30% however, and Melton hasn’t had the opportunity to show his value yet - now is the time for them to step up. Corralling Zach LaVine is a tough ask, and Kris Dunn can be a good player as well. The young Memphis guards will need to step up.
This is a toss up. The game will be competitive, two bad teams creates for an even playing field. The presence of Valanciunas is a huge factor; if he plays, Memphis wins, if he doesn’t I think Chicago edges it out. Either way, I see this as a five point or less game, with small scoring runs by each team throughout the game. Expect big games again from Dillon Brooks and JJJ, but Memphis has to keep Zach LaVine on the ground, he can truly explode.
Memphis 107, Chicago 103