WHO: Memphis Grizzlies (21-24, 13-12 home ) vs. Phoenix Suns (19-26, 10-10 Away )
WHERE: FedExForum Memphis, Tennessee
WHEN: 5:00PM CT
HOW TO WATCH: Fox Sports Southeast/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
Phoenix: Frank Kaminsky (Out, Knee), Aron Baynes (Out, Hip), Cameron Johnson (Out, Quad)
MEMPHIS- Bruno Caboclo (Out, Left Knee Soreness), Grayson Allen (Out, Hip), Jae Crowder (Doubtful. Knee)
MEMPHIS- Ja Morant, Dillon Brooks, Jae Crowder, Jaren Jackson Jr., Jonas Valanciunas
PHOENIX- Devin Booker, DeAndre Ayton, Ricky Rubio, Dario Saric, Kelly Oubre
After a tough two game losing streak last week, the Grizzlies got back on track Friday night. Led by Jaren Jackson Jr. early and Ja Morant late, and effectively supported by the bench everywhere in between, Memphis earned a needed and convincing victory. As the trade deadline approaches, each win or loss takes on a bit more meaning in determining the focus of many teams at the deadline and beyond. This especially rings true in match-ups concerning two playoff hopefuls.
Along with Memphis, the San Antonio Spurs, Portland Trail Blazers, Phoenix Suns, and New Orleans Pelicans all reasonably remain within striking distance of the eighth playoff seed in the West. Without a doubt, each remaining game on the schedule carries significance in such a tight race. When two of these five teams face each other, the fact that the outcome will cause a two game swing in the standings makes these particular match-ups critical.
If the Grizzlies were to stumble with an unexpected loss elsewhere on their schedule, they can minimize the negative impact by remaining successful in head to head match-ups against these teams. So far, Memphis has answered the call. The Grizzlies are 4-3 when facing the other four teams listed above, and have eight more games left on the schedule versus this group. The first of these all-important games is tonight as Memphis welcomes Phoenix in their fourth and final meeting of the season.
Though the future should remain the clear focus off the court, winning has rightfully become the expectation on the court. The Grizzlies continue to show a deep and resourceful offense and roster, one that has proven it can beat its opposition in many ways. While names such as Morant, Jackson Jr. and Jonas Valanciunas will be relied upon heavily for production each night, the Grizzlies also now have proof that certain lineup rotations can add significant value in earning victories.
Since December 1st, it is no secret that De’Anthony Melton, Brandon Clarke, Kyle Anderson, and Tyus Jones have been significant assets off the bench for Memphis. With Anderson now as healthy he has been in over a year and Melton fully in the rotation, the Grizzlies arguably have one of the best benches in the NBA.
Since December 1st, considering any three man lineup of the Grizzlies that has played more than 100 minutes together, one of Jones, Clarke, Melton, or Anderson are in each of the eight best combinations based on Net Rating. Six of these eight combinations contain two of these four players, while each of the top three combinations with the best Defensive Ratings contain three of these four players. Furthermore, of any three man combination that has played more than 100 minutes together in the entire NBA, the trio of Jones, Melton, and Jackson Jr. have the sixth highest offensive rating in the league. Simply put, the Grizzlies have quietly emerged as arguably one of the deepest rosters in the NBA over the past six weeks.
The effectiveness of different rotations between the starters and reserves allows Memphis to minimize the negative impact of one of their featured talents having a slow night. Their depth also allows for the Grizzlies players to remain fresh late in games. As was seen Friday Night and in their last win over the Spurs, the fresh legs of the Memphis players truly made a difference.
The Grizzlies will need a complete team effort if they are to pull off another needed victory against the Suns tonight. Though there are multiple ways in which the Grizzlies could grab the momentum early, perhaps the simplest and easiest way will be featuring their man in the middle:
Just Feed Jaren and Jonas: The Grizzlies lead the NBA in Points scored in the paint. The Suns are 21st in the NBA in allowing opponents to score in the paint. In his time in Memphis, Valanciunas has had two games in which he has scored more than 30 points against the Suns. Jackson Jr. just showed how dominant he can be when scoring both inside and outside against the Pistons. As a result, the Grizzlies will likely find that trusting their front court to score could be quite productive against Phoenix. With the potential of being without Aron Baynes and Frank Kaminsky, the Suns could be very susceptible to scoring in the paint. The Grizzlies must exploit this advantage early and often to gain momentum.
Smart Shot Selection- The Suns currently rank 22nd in opponent 2PTFG% and 25th in opponent 3PTFG%. The Grizzlies currently rank 12th in 3PFG% and 7th in 2PTFG%. The Grizzlies should have ample opportunity to find their best shot throughtout the game tonight. If they can consistently make high percentage shots, Memphis will significantly improve their chances of earning a victory.
The Grizzlies have been much better as of late in limiting secondary scoring options. As a result, while Devin Booker may get his usual production, the key for Memphis is limiting other players from having breakout games. If the Grizzlies can contain Booker’s supporting cast, that should produce enough offense to earn the victory.
Final Score: Grizzlies 118, Suns110