WHERE: Chase Center in San Francisco, California
WHEN: 9:30 PM CT
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: Fox Sports Southeast/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
MEMPHIS: Ja Morant (Probable, back), Kyle Anderson (Doubtful, heel), Brandon Clarke (Out, oblique)
GOLDEN STATE: Damion Lee (Probable, hand), Jacob Evans (Questionable, abductor), Stephen Curry (Out, hand), Klay Thompson (Out, knee)
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS-
MEMPHIS: Ja Morant, Dillon Brooks, Jae Crowder, Jaren Jackson Jr., Jonas Valanciunas
GOLDEN STATE: D’Angelo Russell, Glenn Robinson III, Draymond Green, Eric Paschall, Willie Cauley-Stein
In a lost season, there is no better read than an injury report in which you see your young superstar moving up the injury rankings.
Ja Morant is likely to return to the starting lineup tonight for the Memphis Grizzlies after missing four games due to injury. Considering the track record of Memphis protecting young players in the recent past (Jaren Jackson Jr. last season) and the nature of Morant’s injury - back injuries should never be taken lightly - it is a real positive to see him probable for this contest. Many (myself included) assumed Ja would be out for far more than four contests.
It appears, barring a setback, that his 18.6 points and 6.4 assists per game are about to be back in the lineup. Memphis missed them a good bit.
The bad news? Golden State, a team that soundly defeated Memphis the last time these two teams squared off November 19th, are also a heck of a lot healthier than they were when the beat the Grizzlies at FedExForum. D’Angelo Russell leads the charge offensively for the Warriors on most nights, but even with just the threat of Russell in the lineup Golden State is that much more dangerous. The Warriors are coming off of a tough win in Chicago over the Bulls, a team that just beat the Grizzlies (without Ja Morant and others).
It is risky at best, fool-hearty at worst to apply the transitive property to sports. But the eye test, injury report, and schedule tells us that if the Grizzlies do not play their A game tonight Golden State, despite their record, can beat Memphis soundly at home.
Make the big Warriors starting lineup pay
The projected starting lineup for Golden State isn’t a typo. Draymond Green - who is lauded for his versatility in all aspects of his game - would technically be a wing alongside Eric Paschall and Willie Cauley-Stein. The starters for Memphis in the front court - Jae Crowder, Jaren Jackson Jr., and Jonas Valanciunas - do not necessarily blow away this lineup. Valanciunas has been playing better of late and is better than Cauley-Stein, and Jaren should be able to outplay Paschall (although he has been a very pleasant surprise for Golden State). The gap between Green and Crowder, however, may be enough to turn the tide for the Warriors.
Truth be told, this is a game where Memphis really misses the positional options of Anderson and Clarke. Those two, in addition to the Grizzlies starters, provide better opportunity for matching the Warriors’ versatility that the Solomon Hill/Bruno Caboclo types that will eat those minutes. It will be incumbent on the starters to win individual battles in and around the paint for the Grizzlies to have a shot in San Francisco.
Feed De’Anthony Melton minutes
The Grizzlies were excited to get De’Anthony Melton from the Phoenix Suns via trade this summer. Early returns suggest they were very right to be as giddy as they supposedly were. He leads the team in defensive rating (108) according to basketball-reference.com, and among players with more than 10 games played is 4th on the team in win shares per 48 minutes (.082) and Player Efficiency Rating (16.2). He can defend and rebound well for a perimeter-based player, he fits the mold of a wing that can both facilitate offense at the point and also play off the ball, and his effort plays/aggressiveness serve as a spark plug for the roster once he steps on the floor.
He got his most recent run of opportunity due to injuries. Now, as the Grizzlies get a bit healthier, he should most certainly stay in the rotation. Tyus Jones is a competent NBA point guard that has started slow - those two likely can play together, as long as there are shooters/offensive weapons around them (Melton isn’t the strongest shooter at this stage). But the Grayson Allen (although he has been better of late) and Marko Guduric types on this roster should be on notice. Melton can play, and should be in the mix for minutes to stay.
The probable Morant return makes this one much more interesting than it was this time two days ago. It’s hard to believe that just a few years ago Golden State and Memphis were borderline rivals, with the Warriors getting the better of the Grizzlies in playoff duels. Now, both teams are lottery bound and looking to a future far off in the distance...but probably closer to Golden State than Memphis. Steph Curry and Klay Thompson will eventually be back for the Warriors. The Grizzlies, meanwhile, have a lot more roster building to do.
Golden State is favored in this game, and they should be. They have at least the best player on the floor (Draymond Green), and if D’Angelo Russell is on they probably have the two best. Memphis should keep this close throughout, but the Warriors are a little more talented than the Grizzlies, and that usually wins out in the end.
Golden State 116, Memphis 109