WHEN: 9:00 PM CT
WHERE: Chase Center, San Francisco California
Grizzlies: Dillon Brooks (Out, left wrist)
Warriors: Klay Thompson (Out, Achilles), James Wiseman (Out, Knee), Jonathan Kuminga (Out, Knee)
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: Bally Sports Southeast/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP:
MEMPHIS: Ja Morant, De’Anthony Melton, Desmond Bane, Jaren Jackson Jr., Steven Adams
Golden State: Steph Curry, Jordan Poole, Andrew Wiggins, Draymond Green, Kevon Looney
May 21st, 2021.
160 days ago.
That night, in the Chase Center, the Memphis Grizzlies and Golden State Warriors squared off to determine who would be the final Western Conference playoff team for the 2020-2021 season. The Grizzlies controlled much of the game, but the Warriors fought back to tie the score, even having a chance to win on a last second shot. Ja Morant matched Stephen Curry shot for shot and moment for moment. But while it was Morant that sealed the victory for the Grizzlies, big shots from players such as Xavier Tillman and former Grizzly Grayson Allen were huge in allowing the Grizzlies to advance.
The same storylines that emerged from the game that night are still very relevant over five months later. Both Curry and Morant have been two of the best players in the NBA to start the season, as while Curry won this season’s first Western Conference Player of the Week award, Morant was just as deserving. Whichever star has the bigger night, both for himself and in elevating his teammates, will certainly gain an advantage.
However, perhaps the deciding factor in tonight’s game will actually be which team’s depth is more productive. It was the Grizzlies depth that proved more beneficial in May, and right now, the supporting cast in the Grizzlies starting lineup for Morant arguably made Memphis’s starting five the best in the NBA — before last night’s blunder against the Blazers. For the Warriors, while injuries have impacted the start to their season, they remain undefeated with the defensive effectiveness of their depth being a big reason why.
This game may likely come down to who has the better game between Morant and Curry. However, on multiple levels, and especially with the Grizzlies on the second half of a back-to-back, whichever team has the more effective production from its supporting cast will likely improve their chances to win by quite a bit.
Stand-Outs in Support
A big key for both the Grizzlies and Warriors is which two or three players will have significant nights beyond Morant and Curry. The Grizzlies have to like their chances of a big night coming from Desmond Bane (if available), De’Anthony Melton, or Jaren Jackson Jr. in terms of the starting lineups. However, both Jordan Poole and Andrew Wiggins have stepped into the number two scoring option role for the Warriors multiple times this season. Furthermore, both Poole and Wiggins had tremendous success against the Grizzlies at times last year.
The Warriors also certainly have the upper hand when it comes to bench production so far this season, especially through the play of Damien Lee. Individually, multiple Grizzlies need to step up to be among the five or six best players in this game in support of Morant to have a good chance to win. Collectively, the Grizzlies’ bench must not be significantly outproduced when mainly second units are on the court. In other words, it will take an entire effort just like it did last May.
The Warriors are currently first in the NBA in fewest steals committed per game, second in fewest opponent’s blocks per game, and second in fewest opponent’s free throws made per game. In other words, Golden State has been one of the most disciplined teams in the league to start the season. It is highly unlikely they will beat themselves, which puts even more pressure on the Grizzlies to be disciplined themselves (unlike their 21 turnovers last night.)
Memphis must take care of the basketball on offense and stay committed to their defensive assignments. They will have to contest threes, and effectively move with the ball to prevent high percentage looks in general. Golden State is also second in the league in assists per game, so they can move the ball around well. It will be a very tough task for Memphis tonight, but if they stay in place and play effectively one-on-one they can get stops and make life tough from deep for the Warriors.
Tonight should be quite fun with Morant and Curry facing off once again. However, I feel for the Grizzlies to win, two of Bane, Melton, and Jackson Jr. will need to combine for 40 to 50 points as a duo. This would be a great night for the duo of Melton and Jackson Jr. to show why their potential is a significant addition to this Grizzlies team moving forward (especially after the duo’s forgettable performance last night). A big night from three and some success causing turnovers could help get the job done against Curry and the Warriors.
FINAL PREDICTIONS: 125-119 Grizzlies