WHEN: 6:00 PM CT
WHERE: CapitalOne Arena — Washington, DC
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: Bally Sports Southeast/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
Grizzlies: Dillon Brooks (Out, left wrist)
Wizards: Thomas Bryant (Out, knee), Davis Bertans (Out, ankle), Anthony Gill (Out, calf), Cassius Winston (Out, hamstring), Rui Hachimura (Out, Not With Team — non-injury related)
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS:
MEMPHIS: Ja Morant, Desmond Bane, De’Anthony Melton, Jaren Jackson Jr., Steven Adams
WASHINGTON: Spencer Dinwiddie, Bradley Beal, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Kyle Kuzma, Daniel Gafford
So far in the early season, the Memphis Grizzlies are out to a 5-3 start with wins over the Denver Nuggets (twice), Golden State Warriors, and Los Angeles Clippers — 3 Western Conference foes that are vying for top-6 positioning in the playoff race. The only losses have been to the Los Angeles Lakers, Portland Trail Blazers, and Miami Heat — again 3 solid playoff teams, and one that is looking like the best team in the Association.
Not a bad start for the young Memphis Grizzlies.
Now they got another test tonight with the Washington Wizards. Quietly having one of the best offseasons last summer, the Wizards have managed to retool a bit and build really strong depth alongside All-Star (and everyone’s favorite trade target) Bradley Beal. Losing an All-Star of Russell Westbrook’s caliber is supposed to sting, but they got back really solid rotation pieces in Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and Montrezl Harrell. They also brought in Spencer Dinwiddie to run the show with Beal. And now things are looking up for the Wizards, as they’re off to a 5-3 start as well.
With another good test ahead of the Grizzlies, what are going to be some factors for success?
Battle of the Benches
The Washington Wizards have more depth, and it’s particularly showing on the bench. Montrezl Harrell has spearheaded the bench’s power, as he’s resurfaced as one of the premier reserve big men in the association — averaging 18 points and 9.9 rebounds on 68.7% true shooting percentage.
After a period of struggles, the Memphis Grizzlies bench has picked things up. Tyus Jones and Xavier Tillman led the charge on Monday, while Kyle Anderson and Ziaire Williams powered the bench in Wednesday’s win. They seem to be finding their groove together. Even if they all aren’t on at the same time, they will need to keep up the production we’ve seen from the past couple games.
They’ve done so with good production from 3, exquisite ball movement, and fantastic pace on both sides of the ball.
That’s not just offensively though; they’ll need to be in check defensively to make sure there aren’t any random breakouts tonight. Raul Neto and Corey Kispert can get going from 3, so keeping them in check and out of rhythm. Deni Advija has been relegated to spot-up duties, but he has the ability to keep things humming with his on-ball craft.
While Harrell may get his work in regardless, the Grizzlies’ bench will need to continue their solid level of play if they want a win in DC.
Crashing the Glass
The Memphis Grizzlies and Washington Wizards are both in the top-10 in rebounding in the early season, with the latter having the slight edge (an exact 1 rebound difference). So, the Grizzlies are going to have their hands full in with big men like Harrell and Daniel Gafford. Even Kyle Kuzma has been extremely good attacking the glass for rebounds.
Yes, rebounding is a team deal, but Steven Adams will be the primary guy in charge of keeping these guys in check. In addition, the Grizzlies are going to need Jaren Jackson Jr. to remain engaged on the glass, as he corralled 8 rebounds (all defensive) in Wednesday night’s win. He demonstrated excellent timing when crashing from whenever — either from the perimeter or on box-outs. His performance on the glass will be important to prevent second-chance opportunities.
The Wizards are coming into this game with a two-game losing streak, while looking to avenge their first loss in front of their home crowd.
The Grizzlies are looking to extend their winning streak to 3, and they’re playing good basketball right now.
Both teams are good and have lots of depth behind their two stars.
So I don’t know, but it should be a fun game.
Prediction: Grizzlies 112, Wizards 106