WHEN: 7:00 PM CT
WHERE: FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: Fox Sports Southeast/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
MEMPHIS- Bruno Caboclo (Out, knee), Grayson Allen (Out, hip)
DETROIT- Derrick Rose (Doubtful, groin), Markieff Morris (Day to Day, hip)
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS:
MEMPHIS- Ja Morant, Dillon Brooks, Jae Crowder, Jaren Jackson Jr., Jonas Valanciunas
DETROIT: Reggie Jackson, Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, Tony Snell, Sekou Doumbouya, Andre Drummond
It almost seems unfair.
The Memphis Grizzlies should be well rested after what amounted to a rare weekend off. The Grizzlies dropped a tough game Friday night to the New Orleans Pelicans down in NOLA, partly because Memphis was undermanned (especially in the front court) and partly because the Pelicans simply seem to have the number of the Grizzlies. After that loss, though, Memphis was able to come home and recharge the batteries a bit. Ja Morant had his number retired back at Murray State, and the roster got better without making a single transaction simply because Jaren Jackson Jr. (suspension) and Brandon Clarke (injury) are back in the active fold with the squad.
The Detroit Pistons, meanwhile, played the Denver Nuggets on Super Bowl Sunday afternoon, so this is the 2nd game of a back-to-back (with a few extra hours added in) for Andre Drummond and their crew. Detroit is likely a bit tired - beyond the travel involved, they had to roar back from a double-digit deficit to defeat the Denver Nuggets at home 128-123 in overtime. Add on the likely absence of the resurgent Derrick Rose, who got hurt in that game, plus the fact that the Grizzlies beat this Pistons team by 13 just ten days ago? Memphis should be favored to take this one.
Which are, of course, always the games that wind up not going according to plan.
What must the Grizzlies do to win against Detroit?
Lean on the frontcourt “depth”
Jaren and Brandon returning to the lineup in this game is music to the ears of Jonas Valanciunas. He performed admirably against the Pelicans, registering 18 points, 8 rebounds, and 4 blocks. He also fouled out with eight minutes to play in the 4th quarter, having already played 27 minutes to that point. Jonas has been just about everything you could ask him to be to this point so far for Memphis. Yes, he is flawed in pick and roll defense. But you cannot be anything but impressed with the combination of veteran experience, basketball skill, and sheer physicality he brings to the roster. When things go south offensively, the Grizzlies can count on Jonas...
As long as he isn’t the only “big”.
Jackson Jr. and Clarke eating some of those minutes - and playing next to Valanciunas at the 4 instead of Solomon Hill or Jae Crowder - will only make life easier for the big man. That’s a good thing, because Andre Drummond is one of the top bigs in the NBA. Jonas will have his hands full.
Keeping things creative
The last time these two squads squared off Ja Morant put up 12 assists - almost half of the team’s total of 27. When Memphis shares the love and scores off of assists, they’re a very good basketball team - the Grizzlies are 18-10 when they get at least 27 assists in a game. Do the math - that’s good for a roughly 52-win pace on a season. That means, however, that when Memphis gets 26 or less assists, they are a paltry 6-15. That really is the magic number it seems, and it’s dependent on a lot of things. Making baskets is part of that, of course, but it also is about attacking the rim and creating open perimeter looks while slashing and getting easy shots at the rim.
Ball movement and activity without the ball help with assists. And 27 is the goal, it would seem, for the team.
Memphis has only lost once at home in the year 2020. With the Pistons on the 2nd night of a back to back, without Derrick Rose, as well as Jaren Jackson Jr. and Brandon Clarke back in the fold for the Grizzlies, that run of success will continue.
Memphis 122, Detroit 110