WHERE: State Farm Arena in Atlanta, Georgia
WHEN: 6:30 PM CT
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: Fox Sports Southeast/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
MEMPHIS: Jaren Jackson Jr. (Out, thigh), Dillon Brooks (Out, toe), Kyle Anderson (Out, shoulder)
ATLANTA: Miles Plumlee (Out, knee), Alex Poythress (Out, ankle), Omari Spellman (Out, ankle)
MEMPHIS: Mike Conley, Avery Bradley, Justin Holiday, Bruno Caboclo, Jonas Valanciunas
ATLANTA: Trae Young, Kevin Huerter, Taurean Prince, John Collins, Alex Len
The Grizzlies are fun again...at least for now.
Recency bias is a very real thing, and it is human nature to get excited for success. Especially when you haven’t had it in a while. That is especially the case for the Memphis Grizzlies, who are currently in a stretch of success not common this season. They have not been on a three game winning streak since November, and have only enjoyed five such streaks (three or more wins in a row) since the start of LAST season.
That’s a lot of bad-to-mediocre basketball, with sprinkles of good, for a fan base to endure.
With that comes thoughts of of greener pastures, and possibly being better than you were with the new faces acquired via trade. But small sample size theater should be applied here - while some players (Jonas Valanciunas) could potentially maintain that level of production, others (Joakim Noah, Avery Bradley, etc.) need to be the player they are currently for longer than 8-10 games before we proclaim them as “back” or “key to the Grizzlies moving forward”.
Doesn’t mean they can’t continue the tear they are currently on. Just need to see it more.
That process continues tonight. Here’s the main thing to watch as Memphis takes on the young Hawks in Atlanta.
Conley vs. Young
As if there was any doubt.
The last time these two teams played on October 19th, the Grizzlies beat the Hawks 131-117 and while Trae Young outscored Mike Conley 20-16, it is fair to say that Mike got the better of the rookie. His shooting performance (6-13) was far more efficient than Trae’s was (7-18), and Mike’s +26 on the evening far outpaced Young’s -11. Both facilitated well (9 assists for Young, 11 for Conley), and both protected the ball relatively well (3 turnovers for Young, 0 for Conley) considering their high usage rates within their respective offenses.
A lot has changed since October 19th...especially for Memphis.
Three of the five starters in that game for the Grizzlies (Marc Gasol, Garrett Temple, and JaMychal Green) are no longer on the roster, and of all the players that got minutes for Memphis in the contest only two are still active members of the roster - Conley and Chandler Parsons. Dillon Brooks, Kyle Anderson, and Jaren Jackson Jr. are all of course still with the Grizzlies - just out due to injury.
Beyond the new players, both Conley and Young have progressed this season in different ways. As the sole leader of the team, with no co-captain in Gasol by his side, Conley has flourished, earning Western Conference Player of the Week honors this past week and dominating the final frames of games for the Grizzlies. Meanwhile, Trae Young has solidified himself as the best rookie in the NBA right now not named Luka Doncic with his awesome passing and scoring abilities, earning the Eastern Conference’s Rookie of the Month award for February.
Both Conley and Young are playing their best basketball of the season, and it should make for a fun showdown between the two point guards.
This game is a coin flip according to Vegas, with many favoring the Hawks by a single point at home. Considering how well Memphis has played of late, against better competition, that makes sense. The Grizzlies have knocked off the Trail Blazers, Jazz, and Magic in their last three wins - two of those three teams are current playoff teams. Meanwhile, Atlanta’s last three wins have come against the Pelicans, Bulls, and Timberwolves - three teams on the outside looking in of the postseason.
Considering that, and the fact that Memphis has far more incentive to win this game than Atlanta (currently 5th in the tankathon standings), give me the Grizzlies in a close one. The Hawks are not as motivated to win, but they aren’t actively trying to lose, since they are pretty much locked in to the 5th best lottery odds at this time.
Memphis 118, Atlanta 115