WHO: Memphis Grizzlies (32-36, 2 games ahead of Portland Trail Blazers and San Antonio Spurs for 8 seed in Western Conference) @ Utah Jazz (42-25, 5th seed, 2 games behind Denver Nuggets for 3rd, in the Western Conference)
WHEN: 1:30 PM CT
WHERE: HP Field House at the NBA Bubble in Orlando, Florida
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: ESPN/Fox Sports Southeast/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
MEMPHIS: Tyus Jones (out, knee), Justise Winslow (out, hip), Jaren Jackson Jr. (out, knee)
UTAH: Bojan Bogdanovic (out, wrist)
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS:
MEMPHIS: Ja Morant, De’Anthony Melton, Dillon Brooks, Kyle Anderson, Jonas Valanciunas
UTAH: Mike Conley, Donovan Mitchell, Joe Ingles, Royce O’Neale, Rudy Gobert
The Memphis Grizzlies’ bubble experience has not been good. Since the resumption of the season, as of August 4th, the Grizzlies are in the bottom five in Field Goal percentage (43.7%) and in the bottom three in Three Point Percentage (28.1%). They’ve been riddled by slow starts, as they possess a net rating of -17.7 in the first quarter of action.
From an individual standpoint, they really miss Tyus Jones, and they could’ve used Justise Winslow. The team’s two best, and most efficient, wing scorers right now are Grayson Allen and Kyle Anderson, which isn’t a good thing. When Ja Morant is off the court, watching the offense run is a nightmare. And now they’re without Jaren Jackson Jr. for the rest of their stay in the bubble - not great!
Meanwhile, their opponent today — the Utah Jazz — have struggled in the bubble as well. All eyes have been on the Jazz these past several months, as they became epicenter of the season’s shutdown due to Rudy Gobert becoming patient zero for COVID-19, and his relationship with Donovan Mitchell crumbling. On top of the chemistry issues there, they lost a potent wing scorer in Bojan Bogdanovic. With his loss, their offense and depth have become a massive problem for this team, as they’re shooting 42.5% from the field and 25.9% from beyond the arc.
So from the looks of it, we have an offensive shootout on our hands!
Here’s what to watch for.
Can the Grizzlies hit and defend 3s?
The rims in the bubble haven’t been kind to the Grizzlies, unless your name is Grayson Allen or Jaren Jackson Jr. If you take out those two players, who are shooting combined 43.9% (18-41) from 3, the Grizzlies are shooting a rough 19.2% (14-73) from downtown. If a 2020 NBA team only has two reliable long-range threats, they’re not going to win. It’s that simple.
There’s hope though. Ja Morant isn’t going to shoot 1-10 from 3 most nights, as he’s a better shooter than that, and he’d likely cut the numbers of attempts down to convert them into easier opportunities at the rim. Dillon Brooks has shot awful in the bubble, but he showed signs of live in Monday’s game against New Orleans. De’Anthony Melton has been a nonfactor on offense, but he’s also 35.6% shooter on catch-and-shoot 3s. Maybe you start to find off-ball looks for him.
This has been a nightmare stretch of shooting for the “let it fly” Memphis Grizzlies. For them to regain momentum in the race for the 8th seed, they must start hitting shots. It’s that simple.
They also haven’t done a great job defending the 3, as opponents have shot 40.9% from 3 against them. Defending the 3-point line is imperative, as it restricts any potential explosions from shooters like Mike Conley, Joe Ingles, Jordan Clarkson, and Royce O’Neale. If they can tweak their defensive rotations, they can limit Mitchell and Gobert’s supporting cast and force them to create off the dribble.
The Memphis Grizzlies are in a rough spot, after dropping the three (presumable) easy matchups of the bubble. They are now tasked with squeaking wins against very good teams like the Utah Jazz, Oklahoma City Thunder, Boston Celtics, Toronto Raptors, and Milwaukee Bucks. That’s going to be difficult. However, there is a chance they can pull at least 1 or 2, but it has to be this week.
The Grizzlies are struggling, and so are the Jazz. The Grizzlies can’t suck forever, and neither can the Jazz. It’s a tough matchup to predict given the firepower on both ends of the floor.
But oh well, since GBB is 0-3 in predicting the bubble games, I’m going for the reverse jinx.
Final score prediction: Jazz - 105, Grizzlies - 100