WHERE: Amway Center in Orlando, Florida
WHEN: 6:00 PM Central
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: Fox Sports Southeast/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
Orlando: Mohamed Bomba (Out, leg), Isaiah Briscoe (Out,Knee), Timofey Mozgov (Out,Knee), Markelle Fultz (Out, Shoulder)
MEMPHIS: Avery Bradley (Out, knee/wrist), Kyle Anderson (Out, shoulder), Dillon Brooks (Out, toe), Jaren Jackson Jr. (Out, thigh), C.J. Miles (Out, foot) Mike Conley (Doubtful, general soreness)
HOUSTON: D.J. Augustin, Evan Fournier, Jonathan Issac, Aaron Gordon, Nikola Vucevic,
MEMPHIS: Delon Wright, Justin Holiday, Bruno Caboclo, Chandler Parsons, Jonas Valanciunas
Wednesday night’s 126-125 victory over the Houston Rockets was a critical win for the Memphis Grizzlies. Following two horrible defensive performances that led to losing easily winnable games, Memphis was able to hedge the overall impact of those games with the upset over the Rockets. However, while the Grizzlies were able to bounce back on the court, it is the loss of two key roster components off the court that could significantly hamper the Grizzlies’ chances to convey.
The season ending injury to C.J. Miles, and the uncertainty with Avery Bradley who is out at least a week, eliminates a critical element to the Grizzlies’ offense. Simply put, Miles and Bradley have allowed the Grizzlies to have something for the past six weeks that they have not had in years: consistent outside shooting. The duo has been a big advantage for the Grizzlies when they have played together.
In the 127 minutes Bradley and Miles were on the court at the same time for Memphis, per 100 possessions, the Grizzlies made 5.6 more field goals, 3.6 more threes, and shot 12 and 18 percentage points higher on field goals and three-point field goals, respectively, then the opposition. Overall, the Grizzlies outscored their opponents at a pace of 21.2 points per 100 possessions when Miles and Bradley were in the lineup.
That production is very hard to replace. And just as the Grizzlies consistently have tried to find over the past few years when they had Marc Gasol and Mike Conley, they must again find an option behind Conley and Jonas Valanciunas. This is even more true with Conley potentially out for Friday Night’s game.
Delon Wright could answer the call, but his dribble-drive game and scoring ability at the rim really does not fill the outside shooting need. Chandler Parsons has scored 27 combined points on 10-19 shooting, including 5 threes, over the past two games. However, this is the first time he has played 20 minutes in back to back games in 14 months, and it certainly is hard to trust him in an expanded role. Justin Holiday could be an option, but his consistency has been up and down in a Grizzlies’ uniform.
The simple reality is that Memphis needs that new outside scoring option to emerge, and emerge quickly. In Orlando, the Grizzlies will play their second straight team with current playoff aspirations. In fact, five out of the next seven game for Memphis are against potential playoff teams. Of those seven games, the Magic may be one of the easier potential wins on paper.
The Grizzlies beat the Magic back on March 10th 105-97. However, the Grizzlies got a combined 60 points from Conley, Miles and Bradley. And over the past three games, the Magic have won by double digits each time and held their opponents to a 92.7 scoring average during that stretch. Their recent effort is a reflection of why they are 4th in the NBA in defensive rating. The Grizzlies are going to have to be quite efficient and effective on offense to have a chance to win.
With the Grizzlies likely to be shorthanded, they may need to shift their focus inside:
The Grizzlies one advantage on Friday is on the blocks. Valanciunas and Joakim Noah must combine for a full 48 minutes of effective play. The Grizzlies must feature both, especially Valanciunas. Back on March 10th, he only had 12 points against Magic. If Valenciunas does not score 20 points, the Grizzlies are 2-4 since the trade deadline. If he can get 15 or more shots, the Grizzlies chances to win significantly improves.
GET TO THE RIM
With Miles, Bradley and now potentially Conley out, the most likely candidate to be featured is Delon Wright. When Valanciunas has to sit, Joakim Noah becomes a critical component to the Grizzlies success. Both Wright and Noah are most effective on offense when they get to the rim.
However, the Magic commit the fewest fouls in the NBA. They are a very disciplined team. While they are good at not committing fouls, they struggle at creating turnovers. They currently are 27th in the NBA. These stats prove that if the Grizzlies can move the ball effectively with the purpose of getting it into the lane, they may have some success. If they cannot find their shot from the outside, Memphis will need to get to the line as an alternative way to score.
The urgency that Memphis found Wednesday must be present each game the rest of this season. Wright must step up with Valanciunas for the Grizzlies to have a chance. I feel that may be too much to ask to overcome the Magic’s recent good defensive play.
Magic 100, Grizzlies 93