WHERE: FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee
WHEN: 7:00 PM CT
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: Bally Sports Southeast/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
MEMPHIS: Dillon Brooks (Questionable, hand), Ziaire Williams (Questionable, wrist), Yves Pons (Out, ankle), Killian Tillie (Out, back)
CHARLOTTE: PJ Washington (Out, elbow)
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS:
MEMPHIS: Ja Morant, Desmond Bane, De’Anthony Melton, Jaren Jackson Jr., Steven Adams
CHARLOTTE: LaMelo Ball, Terry Rozier, Gordon Hayward, Miles Bridges, Mason Plumlee
The Grizzlies 3-game home stand continues with the LaMelo Ball and the Charlotte Hornets coming to town. It’s a fun matchup putting the last two seasons Rookie of the Years up against one another, with both electric guards taking a leap this season.
The Hornets and Grizzlies met up in Charlotte for a preseason game back in early October with the Grizzlies using a huge first half to rout the Hornets 128-98. The Hornets were a bit shorthanded that game, missing Mason Plumlee, Gordon Hayward and Kelly Oubre Jr. Things will certainly be different this time around, though Charlotte will be without big man PJ Washington, hurting their front court depth.
The Grizzlies will be looking to continue their home success and build upon Monday night’s come from behind victory against the Minnesota Timberwolves. Meanwhile, the Hornets fly into Memphis looking to snap a 5 game losing streak following their overtime loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday.
Here are some keys for the Grizzlies to help extend the Hornets losing streak to 6.
Defend the 3-point line
The Grizzlies defense has been bad to start the year, particularly when it comes to defending the 3-point line. The Grizzlies are a bottom 3 team in defending 3-point shot attempts, allowing opposing offenses to shoot 38.6% from deep so far this season. Meanwhile, the Hornets are one of the better shooting teams from deep early on this season as they are top 3 in the NBA averaging 37.6% on nearly 36 attempts per game. The Grizzlies defense will need to do a much better job of staying with their man and not over helping on defense to limit the wide open opportunities from beyond the arc that teams so often get against the Grizzlies. Limiting easy 3-point looks will go a long ways in helping the Grizzlies secure the win.
Battle of the Bench
The Hornets have an excellent starting group, and head coach James Borrego will play them heavy minutes, but the Grizzlies have a clear advantage off the bench. In their first game without PJ Washington, the Hornets played just 3 bench guys double-digit minutes in the overtime loss against the Lakers. Kelly Oubre Jr. is a solid offensive threat, but neither Cody Martin nor Nick Richards should strike fear in the Grizzlies. The Grizzlies bench has been inconsistent this season, with last years main scoring threats in Desmond Bane and De’Anthony Melton now starting, but Tyus Jones’ second unit should still be able to take advantage of the limited minutes the starters rest. Coming off an overtime game on Monday, the Hornets will either need to ride their bench more or risk tiring out their main 4 guys who played 40+ minutes on Monday.
Should Borrego play Ball, Rozier, Bridges, and Hayward heavy minutes, the Grizzlies up-tempo pace will likely make things difficult for them. If Borrego gives the bench more time, and plays guys he normally doesn’t in Ish Smith and James Bouknight, the Grizzlies will need to take advantage and win the bench minutes.
Rebounding will also be key in tonight’s game as the Grizzlies out rebounded the Hornets 68-36 in their preseason matchup, with Steven Adams hauling in 16 of his own. It is extremely unlikely that happens again, particularly with Mason Plumlee suiting up tonight, but the Grizzlies winning the rebound battle would likely mean they are getting some easy second chance opportunities while limiting the Hornets to just one shot per possession. Both teams are in the top 10 in second chance points per game, so the rebounding battle could go a long way in this one. Dillon Brooks’ potential return would also throw an interesting wrinkle into this game.
Ultimately I expect the Grizzlies depth and confidence inside FedExForum to help will them to a win against an extremely talented, but not deep, Hornets squad. LaMelo Ball vs. Ja Morant will be fun, as will the Michigan State matchup of Jaren Jackson Jr. and Miles Bridges. In the end, the Grizzlies depth should be able to help them pull away late from a reeling Hornets squad.
Memphis 118, Charlotte 109