WHERE: Capital One Arena, Washington D.C.
WHEN: 5:00PM CT
HOW TO WATCH: Fox Sports Southeast/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
MEMPHIS- Justise Winslow (Out, Back); Grayson Allen (Out, Hip)
Washington: Thomas Bryant (Out,Foot); Garrison Matthews (Out, Ankle); John Wall (Out, Achilles); Jerome Robinson (Questionable; Traded)
MEMPHIS- Ja Morant, Dillon Brooks, Kyle Anderson, Jaren Jackson Jr., Jonas Valanciunas
WASHINGTON- Bradley Beal, Ish Smith, Rui Hachimura, Issac Bonga, Ian Mahinmi
Without a doubt, the Memphis Grizzlies have been one of the best teams in the NBA since the beginning of December. An 11-4 January resulted in a firm grasp of a playoff spot, and Western Conference Coach of the Month and Rookie of the Month honors for Taylor Jenkins and Ja Morant, respectfully. This long stretch of success has certainly been a welcome surprise for many Grizzlies fans, with nothing but positive results for a franchise on the rise.
As a result of this prosperity, the expectation is established that the Grizzlies should be able to beat just about anyone in the NBA. However, as the schedule for Memphis continues to get tougher, especially right after the All-Star Break, there will be reminders that in reality there are still several NBA teams at a level or two above Memphis currently.
This was the case Friday night in Philadelphia. The Grizzlies were simply playing a more talented roster, one that featured the two best talents between the two teams. Furthermore, whenever someone comes out of nowhere to overwhelmingly have the best night of their career like Furkan Korkmaz, it quickly becomes clear that a win was simply not in the cards for Memphis Friday night.
Unfortunately, the last two Fridays have presented this experience for Memphis. Shorthanded rosters due to suspensions and the NBA trade deadline limited the Grizzlies ability to remain fresh and find a groove both nights. Fortunately, Memphis was able to bounce back with back to back victories after their loss to the Pelicans. The hope is that they will able to do the same with their two games remaining before a long and needed break.
After sailing through rough waters on Friday in Philadelphia, Memphis should find calmer seas to navigate Sunday in Washington D.C. versus the Wizards. However, that is only the case if Memphis plays effectively. Despite their 18-32 record, the Wizards have played productive basketball as of late. They have won three of their past four games, including a stunning comeback in their last contest against Dallas. The recent surge has placed the Wizards in the ninth spot of the Eastern Conference playoff race. While the postseason is likely a long shot, Washington logically has more to play for now than many expected they would this far into the season.
Though Memphis is favored in tonight’s game, they will also continue a stretch in which the best talent in their match-up is clearly on their opponent’s roster. However, the Grizzlies cannot focus solely on Bradley Beal if they expect to win. Here are a few ways in which the Grizzlies can secure a victory in the nation’s capital:
Prevent Open Looks: The Wizards rank 10th in FG% and ninth in 3PFG% in the NBA this season, and both of these statistics are big reasons they are fourth in the NBA in scoring. As a result, the Grizzlies must remain disciplined and limit the open looks the Wizards get, especially from beyond the arc.
One factor that should help the Grizzlies confidence in staying in position on the perimeter is the likely size advantage they will have in terms of talent and depth. The Wizards are 28th in total rebounds per game this season. With Gorgui Dieng and Jordan Bell likely available tonight for Memphis, and Thomas Bryant out for Washington, the Grizzlies should be able to limit second chance looks. If Memphis can consistently contest shots, they will have a very good chance to earn a win.
Intelligent Ball Movement: Washington is currently ninth in the NBA in turnovers forced per game and fifth in fouls committed per game. However, they also are 29th in opponent FG% allowed, 28th in opponent 3PFG% allowed, 28th in assists allowed per game, and 30th in points allowed per game. While the Wizards can stay disciplined on defense, there overall talent is lackluster. If the Grizzlies can limit their mistakes, and facilitate opportunities through Ja Morant, Kyle Anderson, and Tyus Jones, they should be able to find enough offense to gain a needed victory.
The path to victory tonight is pretty simple: Which Top Ten offense can get enough stops on the defensive end to win? Though the Wizards have done that more effectively as of late, the Grizzlies rotations arguably offer more upside, especially with Kyle Anderson starting and more size to feature on defense. While there may be a bit of adjustment with new faces on the roster, if the Grizzlies best talents can play to their abilities, Memphis should head home with another victory on this road trip.
Final Score: Memphis 121 Washington 110