WHEN: 7:00 PM CT
WHERE: FedExForum at Memphis, Tennessee
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: Bally Sports Southeast/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
MEMPHIS: Ja Morant (Out, knee/Health and Safety Protocols), Sam Merrill (Out, ankle), Brandon Clarke (out, knee), Ziaire Williams (Out, ankle), Steven Adams (Doubtful, ankle), Jaren Jackson Jr. (Questionable, knee)
PHILADELPHIA: Grant Riller (Out, shoulder), Ben Simmons (Out, back)
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP:
MEMPHIS: Tyus Jones, Desmond Bane, Dillon Brooks, Kyle Anderson, Xavier Tillman Sr.
PHILADELPHIA: Tyrese Maxey, Seth Curry, Matisse Thybulle, Tobias Harris, Joel Embiid
Saturday night was truly a wonderful experience for the entire Grizzlies organization and the city of Memphis. Zach Randolph’s #50 is officially retired - as it should be - and the franchise has shown that they’re currently winning in more ways than one. But they must turn the page and refocus their energy quickly. One of the better teams in the NBA is in their arena tonight.
Don’t let their current record fool you. The Philadelphia 76ers are quite good, even without Ben Simmons in the fold. Don’t believe it? Check their most recent victory over the Golden State Warriors as proof - a dominating defensive performance against the greatest shooter of all-time (Steph Curry was 3-14 from three!) that was paced offensively by MVP-level play from Joel Embiid. You remember Embiid - the All-NBA Center that can beat up on the very best the Association has to offer...much less a front court likely without three key rotation players.
If Memphis allows for a hangover from the high of Saturday night, the 76ers will rip them to shreds. It will take a great Grizzlies effort to get the W in this one.
Here are some keys to the game.
Commit to the offensive collective
The Sixers have two of the NBA’s very best defenders at their positions in Joel Embiid and Matisse Thybulle. Both can create all sorts of issues for opposing offenses - again, ask Stephen Curry. Thybulle often drew that assignment on Saturday night, making Curry uncomfortable at every turn and forcing him off his spots consistently. When you’re able to hold an offense with the capacity of Golden State to 92 points, you’re doing something right.
But the rest of the roster is not as strong defensively as Thybulle and Embiid. Outside of Andre Drummond (the team’s leader in defensive rating) and Danny Green off the bench, the rest of the rotation for Philly can be had. Which is why no one player can enter this game as the focal point offensively. Regardless of who Thybulle defends (Brooks or Bane make the most sense, but which one is the question) the ball has to move from hand to hand, with the extra pass creating the mismatch or space Head Coach Taylor Jenkins and the Grizzlies are looking for. A lack of movement will end any chance they have to keep up with the high-scoring tandem of Embiid and Tobias Harris.
They can’t do this individually. A team effort is needed to win here.
That energy is needed on the glass as well
Steven Adams has been a lightning rod for many Grizzlies fans this season, but one of his unquestioned strengths this season has been his rebounding. He is having his best season since 2018-2019 with regard to offensive glass eating in particular, and per 100 possessions Adams is having a career year as a rebounder (he hasn’t played this few minutes per game since his rookie season). If he is indeed out in this game (I struggle seeing him sit with the ankle injury - of course it is possible and may be best for him health-wise, but his listing as doubtful and not outright “out” raises eyebrows) the team will not have anyone capable of filling that void alone.
It will once again have to come as a unit. And fortunately for the Grizzlies, the Sixers are one of the worst rebounding teams in the NBA (29th at 42.3 a game). This is an area where even without Adams, Memphis can limit Philly possessions and gain ones for themselves if they prioritize attacking the paint and getting bodies to the rim on both ends.
So much of this game comes down to who exactly plays for Memphis. If Jaren Jackson Jr. especially plays, the Grizzlies could very well win - Philadelphia does not have a player capable of stopping Jaren consistently if he gets going off the bounce on the perimeter at his size. Embiid can hang some, but with his offensive workload he may not take on that assignment...and Tobias Harris cannot stick Jaren.
However, if Jackson Jr. sits, the Grizzlies certainly should not win this game. Philly just stifled the mighty Warriors. A weakened Memphis squad, coming off an emotional win, almost surely would be out of luck.
History suggests the Grizzlies will err on the side of caution with Jaren and Adams. And that probably dooms their prospects in this one...but if both play, Memphis will have a much better chance to prove this prediction wrong.
Philadelphia 105, Memphis 96