WHEN: 7:00 PM CT
WHERE: FedExForum, Memphis, TN
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: Bally Sports Southeast/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
San Antonio Spurs: Lonnie Walker IV (Questionable,Knee) Devontae Cacok (Out, Health and Safety Protocols) Dejounte Murray (Out, Health and Safety Protocols), Zach Collins (Out, Ankle)
MEMPHIS: Santi Aldama (Questionable, Ankle) Dillon Brooks (Out, Health and Safety Protocols), De’Anthony Melton (Out, Health and Safety Protocols), Xavier Tillman (Out,Health and Safety Protocols) Jarrett Culver (Out, Health and Safety Protocols), Sam Merrill (Out, ankle), Ziaire Williams (Out, Ankle), John Konchar (Out, Health and Safety Protocols)
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS:
MEMPHIS: Ja Morant, Desmond Bane, Kyle Anderson, Jaren Jackson Jr., Steven Adams
San Antonio: Derrick White, Keldon Johnson, Jakob Poeltl, Doug McDermott, Keita Bates-Diop
What a week for Ja Morant!
Outlasting Devin Booker and Chris Paul in the desert with a game winner on Monday.
Outplaying LeBron James with a statement performance once again on Wednesday.
To say Morant is ending 2021 on a good note is quite an understatement. In a calendar year where Morant has emerged as a true superstar, it is pretty cool that his final game of 2021 will come against the team that he scored 40 points against for the first time in his career just over a year ago (12.23.2020) in the San Antonio Spurs.
In terms of the scope of the entire season and on paper, the Spurs likely do not seem as imposing of a foe as other recent opponents of the Grizzlies. However, the true story of the Spurs is likely more accurate by focusing on the old adage “what have you done for me lately”?
The Efficiency Landscape. What Jumps Out? pic.twitter.com/MCe3JsoqYp— Kirk Goldsberry (@kirkgoldsberry) December 30, 2021
Yes, the Grizzlies have been the better team in terms of the season as a whole and in December, but the Spurs have also played like one of the better teams in the NBA this month, especially on offense. Through Thanksgiving, the Spurs were in the bottom third of the league in both OFF RTG and DEF RTG. Now, they have the fifth best NET RTG in the NBA this month, and are playing some of the best team basketball in the league. While talent around the league may be a bit down, the coaching job of the legendary Gregg Popovich once again is making a significant impact on his team.
Beyond the excellent play of each team as of late, both the Grizzlies and the Spurs have an interesting advantage coming into tonight’s game. In terms of “best talents on the court”, the Grizzlies likely have the advantage with how well both Ja Morant and Desmond Bane have been playing as of late, with Jaren Jackson Jr. also due for a big game in the near future. For the Spurs, Dejounte Murray, who is certainly worthy of All-Star consideration himself, will not be available due to currently being in health and safety protocols. Yet, it is the Grizzlies who are most impacted by those same protocols. Xavier Tillman is the latest Memphis player to now be unavailable, so the Spurs will be the team with depth as a key advantage on their side as Murray is the only current rotation player out due to the protocols.
In the end, what matters is that the Grizzlies are going to need to play efficient and effective basketball to earn their fourth win in a row and end the month of December with a 12-4 record. Here a few keys to victory for Memphis:
In December, the Spurs are first in assists per game (over 30 per game!), fourth in turnovers committed per game, and eighth in both eFG% and TS$ in the NBA. This shows they are among the most efficient offensive teams in the league this month, and they are highly unlikely to beat themselves.
For the Grizzlies, this means that their usual ability to capitalize off turning defense into offense may not be as much of factor in this game as it usually can be. Therefore, the Grizzlies must focus on playing effective half court offense. This includes limiting turnovers, effectively moving the ball, and most importantly, finding high percentage looks as much as possible.
Find Success From Three
Over the past few seasons, the Spurs have been among the least productive three point shooting teams in the league. Yet, a big reason for their successful offensive output this month has been their ability to convert good looks from three, as they are fifth in 3P% in the NBA this month. Memphis is actually 11th in the league in 3P% in December, but they have arguably been the worst team over the past few weeks.
Simply put, Desmond Bane and Ja Morant have carried the Grizzlies three point shooting. Yes, they are without some of their best shooting options currently. However, getting good looks for Jaren Jackson Jr., Tyus Jones, and even Killian Tillie should be a priority for Memphis. While they should not force shots from three, the Grizzlies should emphasize working off their paint production once again to find looks from three throughout the game.
While the Spurs will be without Murray, that should not over shadow how well Derrick White, Keldon Johnson, Jakob Poeltl, and others have played this month. In fact, every Spurs player that has played in 10 or more games this month has a positive +/- rating. This simply means that the Spurs are consistently playing a brand of basketball that yields positive value no matter who is on the court. In the end, this may be a night where the Grizzlies once against have to rely heavily on their best talents. However, the key is that every Grizzlies player that plays needs to make a positive impact.
Final Score: Grizzlies 113 Spurs 105