WHEN: 7:00 PM CT
WHERE: FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: Fox Sports Southeast/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
MEMPHIS: Jevon Carter (Probable, knee), Tyler Dorsey (Probable, knee), Joakim Noah (Probable, heel), Jaren Jackson Jr. (Questionable, quad), Kyle Anderson (Out, shoulder), Dillon Brooks (Out, toe), Jonas Valanciunas (Out, personal)
LOS ANGELES: Luc Mbah a Moute (Out, knee), Wilson Chandler (Out, quad)
PROBABLE STARTING LINEUPS:
MEMPHIS: Mike Conley, Avery Bradley, Justin Holiday, Ivan Rabb, Jaren Jackson Jr.
LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Patrick Beverley, Landry Shamet, Danilo Gallinari, Ivica Zubac
The Memphis Grizzlies are back, but even after a week off the team still faces a smorgasbord of uncertainty.
An injury report full of various players, including three likely rotation pieces that are sure to be out, is becoming commonplace but leads to questions about rotation. Speaking of rotation, the return of Chandler Parsons to Memphis and FedExForum brings about skepticism over whether Parsons will be able to stay healthy and concern over how he will be received by Grizzlies fans once he steps foot on the floor. Meanwhile, Mike Conley and company are trying to win as many games as possible in the organization’s pursuit of their goal, which was likely the goal all along but at least now they are being honest about it - to convey they draft pick obligation to the Boston Celtics this season in a draft most agree is fairly weak outside of the top 3-4 players.
There are plenty of storylines to keep an eye on with the Grizzlies as the final 23 games of the season play out. It all starts up tonight, against a Clippers team (with old friends JaMychal Green and Garrett Temple with them) that still sees themselves as playoff contenders. If Memphis is serious about converying their pick this summer, this is a game they need to pick up at home.
Here’s what to watch for tonight in Memphis-
Mike Conley Beast Mode
One is the loneliest number...unless you are one-one.
Mike Conley stands alone as the last remaining member of a bygone era. Now, in the wake of Marc Gasol’s departure via trade to Toronto, it is on Conley to rise up and be the leader of this team. That doesn’t mean he needs to be a vocal and aggressive in-your-face person...at this stage it is clear that is not Mike’s leadership style. He does, however, need to own the successes and failures of the team moving forward. In the absence of viable front office communication (when Chandler Parsons comes across as more believable in a dispute than you at this stage of his stint with the Grizzlies, you have some issues) and coaching consistency (rotations and scheme weakness lead many to wonder if J.B. Bickerstaff is coaching for his job the next two months), Mike must be the steadying presence.
He can do that through his play.
He’s never been THE man in Memphis. Even now, you can make an argument he shouldn’t be - Jaren Jackson Jr. should be the focus of scheme and playing time moving forward. But for at least the next two months, Conley remains the conductor and captain of this franchise. He must rise to this opportunity and dominate every chance he gets. He is their best option on the perimeter...and it isn’t really close.
He has to play that way.
The Clippers bench is cause for concern
The Clippers have one of the best reserve duos in the NBA in Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell. These two combine for 35.8 points per game, and with the departure of Tobias Harris via trade Williams (1st) and Harrell (3rd) are in the top-3 on the team in scoring. Harrell in particular is a monster - he has a net rating of +16, and his .200 win shares per 48 minutes is best on the Clippers. With Williams’ ability to score and Harrell’s overall impact on both ends of the floor, as long as L.A.’s starters have a lead or keep in close, the Clippers have the luxury of being able to build leads or get back in to games on a nightly basis with their 2nd unit.
Memphis...has Delon Wright and Joakim Noah. Not quite the same.
Limiting the effectiveness of these two is going to be a challenge, but if the Grizzlies can find a way to play even with the Clippers bench they have a chance with their starters to win the game late. Williams and Harrell going off will spell doom for Memphis.
The Grizzlies will miss Jonas Valanciunas a lot in this one. It set up as a game where his physicality could create mismatch issues for the Clippers starting bigs, and his presence could allow for Jaren to play the 4 and perhaps attack Gallinari in the post. That still may happen, but Ivan Rabb will not be able to dominate the Ivica Zubac match-up the way Jonas theoretically could.
As a proud member of #PlayToConvey, this prediction is going to be more hope than head. My heart thinks they pull out a win here, thanks to a darn impressive Mike Conley performance. If Jaren Jackson Jr. is out, the game changes, but the conductor goes off in what should be a competitive game that the Grizzlies hopefully win. If L.A. wins there will be no surprise here at all, as they are the better team.
Sometimes, however, you got to believe.
Memphis 103, L.A. Clippers 101
Stats provided by basketball-reference.com