WHO: Memphis Grizzlies (20-24, 8-11 away) vs. Detroit Pistons (17-28, 8-14 home)
WHERE: Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, Michigan
WHEN: 6:00PM CT
HOW TO WATCH: Fox Sports Southeast/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
Detroit- Blake Griffin (Out, Knee), Luke Kennard (Out, Knee), Khyri Thomas (Out, Foot)
MEMPHIS- Bruno Caboclo (Out, Left Knee Soreness)
MEMPHIS- Ja Morant, Dillon Brooks, Jae Crowder, Jaren Jackson Jr., Jonas Valanciunas
DETROIT- Derrick Rose, Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, Tony Snell, Markieff Morris, Andre Drummond
A week ago, the Grizzlies and their fans were arguably at their highest point of excitement and satisfaction in years. The team had won seven games in a row, one shy of the their franchise record. They had outscored their opponents by 77 points over this stretch, while also scoring more than 120 points five times. There was plenty of discussion about Memphis becoming a more legitimate playoff threat, as well as the Grizzlies being the current “darlings” of the NBA.
Over the past week, however, the Grizzlies have come back down to earth a bit. Back to back losses to the Pelicans and Celtics by a combined margin of 34 points, along with experiencing consecutive losses for the first time in over a month, has slightly tempered the elation of the fan base. While this is a reminder that the Grizzlies had likely been playing above their heads, it is also not likely to be a “falling off the cliff” moment that the Grizzlies had experienced at times over the past few seasons.
The aforementioned reminder simply highlights the overriding theme of the season to this point: this is a young squad that is prone to frequent and extreme shifts between peaks and valleys. However, the overall talent and potential ceiling of this roster is much higher than anyone anticipated, and that is a truth that remains. While the playoffs are certainly realistic, that accomplishment should remain a “cherry on top” conclusion to a successful season. It should not become that standard that this year is judged by.
The Grizzlies had scored at least 100 points in 22 straight games before being held to 95 points Wednesday night. Before that streak, the longest streak of consecutive nights hitting the century mark for the franchise was nine games. This franchise is emerging as one of the best and brightest offensive teams in the NBA, with the last week acting as a simple suggestion that adjustments must always be made. The key to making a two game losing streak simply a two game losing streak is making those needed adjustments quickly and effectively.
Memphis will get the chance to make the needed changes tonight against the Detroit Pistons. While on paper the Pistons should be an easier opponent, they have been playing much better as of late. They also are beginning to create their own playoff buzz. The resurgence of Derrick Rose, intimidating presence of Andre Drummond, and significant bench production have helped the Pistons earn wins in three out of their last five games. Head Coach Dwayne Casey is again showing why he is one of the more underrated coaches in the NBA, as he has his team playing at a high level despite one of the NBA’s more underwhelming rosters.
Though the Pistons are favored to win, the Grizzlies path to a victory in this game seems to focus more on themselves than the Pistons. Here are a few ways the Grizzlies can earn a much needed victory on the road tonight:
Thriving with Threes- Over the past six weeks, the Grizzlies have been an above average three point shooting team in the NBA. However, they have struggled a bit as of late. Over their past five games. Memphis is 56-165 from beyond the arc, good for 34% and 11.2 threes per game. When Memphis makes 12 or more three pointers while shooting 35% or better from downtown, they are 11-6. Though the Pistons rank second in the NBA in three point attempts by opponents, they also are 24th in three point field goal percentage allowed. If the Grizzlies can find success from long distance, they can grab momentum early.
Contain the Supporting Cast- Ever since Blake Griffin went down to a season ending knee injury, Derrick Rose has emerged as the Pistons go to scorer. The Grizzlies should focus on limiting Rose’s ability to get good looks near the basket. However, must also limit the Pistons secondary scoring options. As I have mentioned before for the Grizzlies, 115 is a magical number for Detroit. They are 11-1 when they score 115 or more points. The Grizzlies are 15-8 when they allow less than 115 points. The key for the Grizzlies is to stay disciplined on defense and limit turnovers on offense
The Grizzlies simply need to play their offensive game. If Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. can regain their offensive effectiveness, the Grizzlies have the talent to earn the victory tonight. Drummond may cause issue for Jonas Valanciunas at times, so mid-range and three point shooting success will be important. In the end, I feel Memphis will rebound from their struggles this week and earn the victory.
Final Score - Grizzlies 117 Detroit 110