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Memphis Grizzlies vs New Orleans Pelicans Game Preview

Steven Adams and Jonas Valanciunas will face off for the first time against their former teams in the Big Easy.

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NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Oklahoma City Thunder Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

WHO: Memphis Grizzlies (6-6, 4-3 away) vs. New Orleans Pelicans (1-12, 0-6 at home)

WHERE: Smoothie King Center in New Orleans, LA

WHEN: 7:00 PM CT

HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: Bally Sports Southeast/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis

INJURY REPORT:

MEMPHIS: Dlllon Brooks (Day-to-Day, Wrist) Killian Tillie (Out, back)

Phoenix: Brandon Ingram (Questionable, Hip), Zion Williamson (Out, Foot)

PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS:

MEMPHIS: Ja Morant, Desmond Bane, De’Anthony Melton, Jaren Jackson Jr., Steven Adams

NEW ORLEANS: Devonte’ Graham, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Josh Hart, Garrett Temple, Jonas Valanciunas

The date was July 26th, 2021. On that day, three days before the 2021 NBA draft, the Memphis Grizzlies and New Orleans Pelicans made a significant move for the present and future of both franchises. While Eric Bledsoe and draft picks (such as Ziaire Williams and Trey Murphy III) were also involved, the biggest part of the trade, literally and figuratively, that has impacted both teams this season was the exchange of Jonas Valanciunas for Steven Adams.

Fast forward to tonight, and both players will be facing their former teams, and each other, for the first time since the trade. For Steven Adams and the Grizzlies, while there have been some successes, there have also been clear struggles. For Jonas Valanciunas and the Pelicans, while there have certainly been individual successes for JV, it has been a season to forget thus far for the Pelicans with only one win to date.

Significant injuries have played a part in the struggles for both teams. Dillon Brooks has only played in one game for the Grizzlies, while Zion Williamson has missed the whole season and Brandon Ingram has not played since October 29th for the Pelicans. Despite the absences, the other concern for both teams is that Memphis and New Orleans arguably are the two worst defenses in the league.

While the Grizzlies have the significantly better record, the Pelicans have a significantly better last 24 hours. Both teams will be playing on the second half of a back to back. The Grizzlies were blown out at home while the Pelicans had one of their best shooting nights and overall performances of the season in a 120-112 loss to the Nets. Plus, with the Pelicans being at home, momentum could be on their side.

One big development for both team is the availability of Ingram for the Pelicans and Brooks for the Grizzlies. Both playing or one or the other sitting will be a significant development for both teams. At the end of the day, the Grizzlies have to like their chances simply because they have Ja Morant. However, there are a few other key areas where the Grizzlies must find success to win.

The Advantage from Three

For the season, the Grizzlies are the better team when it comes to shooting the three. However, over the last four games for each team, The Pelicans have made 42 threes compared to 33 for the Grizzlies. This includes a 13-32 performance last night, one of the better shooting nights of the season for New Orleans. Furthermore, the Pelicans are also better at defending the three.

Devonte Graham and Nickeil Alexander-Walker combine for over 16 three-point attempts per game. Though they have mostly struggled this season, they made six combined threes last night. Garrett Temple made four himself, and if Brandon Ingram plays, he adds another threat. For the Grizzlies, they badly need to get at least two of Desmond Bane, De’Anthony Melton, Jaren Jackson Jr., or Dillon Brooks going early from three to find success. It will also take a collective team defensive effort to ensure the Pelicans do not become the latest team to unexpectedly find a lot of success from three against Memphis.

Which Return Makes a Bigger Impact

It seems fairly certain that Dillon Brooks will be playing tonight for Memphis. Brandon Ingram could return for the Pelicans. If Dillon Brooks can return and play offense like he did Wednesday, that is a needed source of consistency that could really help Memphis’s efforts to go along with his stellar defense. Ingram would provide a nice balance from the outside with Valanciunas on the inside. If both players are available, the one who plays better certainly adds to their team’s chances to win.

Of course, the other fun matchup will be Adams and Valanciunas. Without a doubt, Valanciunas is likely to have more counting statistics. However, despite his defensive struggles, Valanciunas is the exact type of matchup the Grizzlies need Adams for. If Adams can at least somewhat keep Valanciunas from having a big night, it certainly helps the Grizzlies chances to win. But overall, the other big key is getting stops. The Grizzlies have had stretches of doing that when they needed too. Creating turnovers and challenging threes will be critical to get the win.

Final Prediction: Grizzlies 117 Pelicans 111

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