WHEN: 6:00 PM CT
WHERE: Spectrum Center in Charlotte, North Carolina
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: Fox Sports Southeast/NBA League Pass/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
MEMPHIS: Grayson Allen (Doubtful, ankle), Ja Morant (Out, ankle), Jaren Jackson Jr. (Out, ankle), De’Anthony Melton (Health and Safety Protocols), Justise Winslow (Out, hip), Xavier Tillman Sr. (Out, Patella), Killian Tillie (Out, hamstring), Jontay Porter (Out, knee)
CHARLOTTE: Cody Zeller (Out, hand)
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP:
MEMPHIS: Tyus Jones, Desmond Bane, Dillon Brooks, Kyle Anderson, Jonas Valanciunas
CHARLOTTE: Terry Rozier, DeVonte Graham, Gordon Hayward, P.J. Washington, Bismack Biyombo
The evening before every game, the Grizzlies PR staff provides an injury report for the following night’s contest. It has of course been long in the past...but on New Year’s Eve, @GrizzliesPR did not send out a Grizzlies Injury Report tweet. They sent out a Grizzlies Injury Report thread.
That is never good.
Nine healthy bodies are ready to try to get the Memphis Grizzlies a win to start the new year, a victory that would put them in a position to also somehow claim a 2-1 road trip. That would be quite impressive, if they could pull it off...and in theory, the Hornets are not the team that the Nets (who of course had their own guys out Monday) and Celtics are. But overlook Charlotte’s ability to run Memphis off the floor at your own peril. They did just that to the Dallas Mavericks, in Dallas, the last time this Hornets team played. Charlotte was up on Dallas 98-69 entering the fourth quarter.
For Memphis to knock off the Hornets, they will have to play much better than they did against Boston. The good news? That is possible.
Protect the rock
In his first night as arguably the best player for the Memphis Grizzlies, considering how well he started this season, Kyle Anderson was less than ideal. 9 points on 11 shots, only 4 rebounds...simply put Kyle has to do better to allow for Memphis to have a chance. But one area where he must be better than even as a rebounder or scorer is with his turnovers. He played really, really poorly against the Celtics there, committing 8 turnovers to 9 assists. That is a bit better than a 1:1 Assist to Turnover ratio...that simply isn’t good enough.
This Grizzlies offense needs all the possessions they can get to try to score. So 8 turnovers from Anderson, 5 from Jonas Valanciunas, and 3 by Dillon Brooks as the team’ best three offensive options at the moment will certainly lead to losing basketball. Give some credit to Boston - their defense was stifling - but they weren’t 16 turnovers from three players good. Prioritizing protecting the rock must be a focus of the game plan for Memphis to knock off a Charlotte team that is not elite at forcing turnovers.
Finding rotation fits
If Grayson Allen is indeed out, Memphis will be using their third different starting lineup in three games. Rookie Desmond Bane started the second half against Boston, which is why he is listed as the projected starter in this game, but it is important to understand that with only nine healthy players starters are not as important as how you maximize all of the talent at your disposal. Bane must get more catch and shoot looks - same with Sean McDermott. Coach Taylor Jenkins must be willing to try John Konchar at the 4 at times whenever matchups allow it, like when Miles Bridges or Gordon Hayward are in that spot for Charlotte, so he can provide his multiple skills (including rebounding) in a different place positionally. Finding spots on the floor for Gorgui Dieng to space out the court, and utilizing that room to get Brandon Clarke rim runs in the paint, have to be prioritized.
You can’t make guys something they aren’t right now. Watch film, find holes defensively and offensively, and fill those spots with what you know these nine guys can do. Simplification could go a long way in the here and now.
Look for Charlotte to be anywhere between a 3 and 5 point favorite in this one. The Hornets beating up on Dallas should catch everyone’s attention, and especially considering the strength of Charlotte is their depth (LaMelo Ball and Miles Bridges are two very good reserve options right now for James Borrego’s squad) if the Grizzlies can’t keep it close early they will have issues with not allowing the Hornets bench to build a lead.
Call this a bet on learning from the sins of Boston. Memphis will suck it up, right the ship with the turnovers while playing a bit better defense, and squeak out a win that should brighten the spirits of the team heading in to a Sunday and Tuesday home date with the reigning NBA champions, the Los Angeles Lakers.
Memphis 119, Charlotte 117