WHEN: 5:00 PM CT
WHERE: FedExForum in Memphis, TN
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: Bally Sports Southeast/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
MEMPHIS: Brandon Clarke (Out, knee), Sam Merrill (Out, ankle), Ja Morant (Out, Knee), Ziaire Williams (Out, ankle), Santi Aldama (Out, calf)
PORTLAND: CJ McCollum (Out, right lung pneumothorax), Cody Zeller (Out, right patellar fracture)
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP:
MEMPHIS: Tyus Jones, Desmond Bane, Dillon Brooks, Jaren Jackson Jr., Steven Adams
PORTLAND: Damian Lillard, Norman Powell, Nassir Little, Larry Nance Jr., Jusuf Nurkic
For the second time in five days, these two teams will face off. A big second half comeback allowed the Grizzlies to claim Wednesday night’s game by the score of 113-103. That was the Blazers seventh straight loss. Since then, the Blazers did snap that losing skid by beating Charlotte Friday night. The Blazers will be looking to end another losing streak tonight — they have lost their last five on the road and are an abysmal 1-11 away from the Moda Center.
The Blazers will once again be without perennial Grizz killer CJ McCollum, while the Grizzlies will still not have Ja Morant, Brandon Clarke, and a couple other rotation guys. The Grizz hope to keep momentum on their side and walk out of FedExForum with a win.
Here are a few keys to get a win tonight in FedExForum.
Jump on them Early
The past two games, including a win over the Trailblazers on Wednesday, the Grizzlies struggled out of the gate. Luckily they were able to right the ship in both instances and walk away with a win.
Desmond Bane is in the top-25 when it comes to scoring in the first quarter at nearly six points a game. In the past two games, he has a combined three points in the first quarter. Bane has shown that he is no longer just a spot-up shooter, but can also put the ball on the deck and get to the bucket. I suggest they may should try and draw up a few plays for Bane early on, just to get him going and work on building a lead early on.
Continue to Apply the Pressure
There’s no doubt the Grizzlies defense has been drastically better since Ja Morant’s injury. In fact, ‘StatMuse’ put out a tweet yesterday that said over an 11 game span, the Grizzlies defensive rating of 97.4 is the sixth best EVER in the three-point era. So, it’s not just been good, but historically great.
Sidenote: That doesn’t mean I think the Grizzlies are better without Ja — in fact, I can’t wait for him to return to the lineup and join a team that’s coming together at the right time.
The Grizzlies have won 10 of their last 11, all without Ja Morant.— StatMuse (@statmuse) December 18, 2021
They have a defensive rating of 97.4 in that span, which would be the 6th best defense since the three-point era (1980). pic.twitter.com/jK8GJ71p2z
Now, back to the defense. During that 11-game stretch, the Grizzlies not only lead the league in defensive rating, but also hold a lead in steals per game (11.7; most) rebounds per game (50.2); and tied for most blocks per game (6.0). That shows the Grizzlies are making it uncomfortable for other teams and not letting them get easy buckets or second-chance points. Meanwhile, the Blazers are in the bottom third of the league in all of those categories over the same time span.
No Time for Dame Time
As mentioned earlier, the Grizzlies will benefit from not having to face CJ McCollum. McCollum is notorious for going off against the Grizz. He has eclipsed the 35-point mark four times in 24 games with Memphis. Meanwhile, Damian Lillard’s career-high versus the Grizz is 33 (twice). No need for him to set a new career-high tonight.
The Blazers were able to snap their seven-game losing streak on Friday thanks to a 43-point effort from Dame. He was 12 of 19 from the field, so he was feeling it. It was only the fifth time in 24 games this season he has shot better than 50% from the field, Portland is 4-1 in those games. Dillon Brooks will have his hands full with Dame, but we all know he is more than up for the task.
I’m done questioning this Grizzlies team and waiting for them to come back down to earth. They are the real deal, no matter if teams are without key guys or not. They come to play each and every night. Tonight should be no different. The Grizz have already shown they are a better team than Portland, and I don’t expect to see Jaren go 4-13 for 9 points again.
And, with the Blazers down CJ and not being able to win on the road this season, I feel the Grizzlies will be able to get a slow burn blowout victory in the first game of a back-to-back.
Final: Grizzlies 114, Blazers 97