WHEN: 7:30 PM CT
WHERE: American Airlines Center — Dallas, TX
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: Bally Sports Southeast/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
MEMPHIS: Ja Morant (Out, knee), Sam Merrill (Out, ankle), Ziaire Williams (Out, knee), Kyle Anderson (Out, back), Brandon Clarke (questionable, knee)
DALLAS: Frank Ntilikina (Probable, right calf strain), Kristaps Porzingis (Doubtful, Left Knee Contusion), Willie Cauley-Stein (Out, personal reasons) — from injury report from last night’s Pelicans game
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP:
MEMPHIS: Tyus Jones, Desmond Bane, Dillon Brooks, Jaren Jackson Jr., Steven Adams
DALLAS: Luka Doncic, Reggie Bullock, Dorian Finney-Smith, Maxi Kleber, Dwight Powell
The Memphis Grizzlies are coming off quite the performance, as they blitzed the Oklahoma City Thunder by a NBA-record 73 points. In the process, they smashed a bunch of franchise records in that game.
NBA Record: Margin of victory— Memphis Grizzlies (@memgrizz) December 3, 2021
Franchise Record: Margin of victory
Franchise Record: Most points
Franchise Record: Most bench points
Franchise Record: Assists
Franchise Record: FG%
Franchise Record: Largest lead
Franchise Record: +/- rating (@santialdama) pic.twitter.com/o35jyyTsqc
History was made, but as the NBA goes, there’s another game awaiting. That’s acknowledged within the team, as rookie Santi Aldama pointed out in postgame that there's a game on Saturday that they got to get ready for.
This game in particular has pretty neat early-season implications on it too.
The Memphis Grizzlies hold a half-game lead over the Dallas Mavericks for 4th place in the Western Conference and for the lead in the Southwest division. Getting these wins is crucial for playoff positioning and tiebreakers.
Dallas has their ups and downs. Some nights they look like a dark-horse Western Conference contender, and they play like a play-in team in others. Nonetheless, they have a top-10 player in Luka Doncic to lean on, which will always make them somewhat dangerous.
Though we’re robbed of a Ja Morant and Luka Doncic battle, it should still be a competitive game between these two divisional foes.
Jaren Jackson Jr. and Kristaps Porzingis are widely considered “unicorns” with their seemingly unlimited range, impeccable shot-blocking, and nice fluidity in offensive creation and defensive switch situations for their size. They’re both also the biggest factors in their team’s short and long-term success, from health and performance standpoints for either players. They have been ravaged with injury issues in their early careers, but both guys have the fascinating upside to be difference-makers that get Memphis and Dallas closer to hoisting a Larry O’Brien trophy.
Both players have also played really good basketball — close to the dreamt-of versions of their skillsets. Since the start of November, Jaren Jackson is averaging 17.2 points on 47.1/42.2/83.3 shooting splits, 5.8 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks. In that same span, Kristaps Porzingis is averaging 21.4 points on 49.5/31.8/90.6 shooting splits, 8.5 rebounds, 2.3 assists, and 1.6 blocks. Their performance here to start the season surely has to be encouraging for both squads and fanbases.
Unfortunately, we’ll likely miss out on a battle between two of the most unique big men in the Association tonight. However, there will be a unicorn sighting in some fashion. And for Memphis, theirs will likely play the biggest decider in the game’s outcome.
Contain the Other Guys
The Mavericks have quite an inconsistent cast of role players. Aside from Luka Doncic, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Jalen Brunson are really the only guys they could count on for offensive production on a nightly basis. That’s not an entire slight at the crew around them; it’s just not in their responsibilities or strengths.
However, they have to limit any random explosions. Who are some names to watch for? Does Dorian Finney-Smith catch fire from 3? Is Maxi Kleber wreaking havoc on both sides of the ball? Does Reggie Bullock come alive and break out?
Sometimes, the good players — like Luka, Hardaway Jr., and Brunson — will get theirs. If you slow them down though, your odds of winning increase exponentially. When that’s the case, you just hope to prevent an outburst from an unsung hero.
With a slew of rotation players out for Memphis — Ja, Anderson, Williams, and potentially Clarke — the next men up will need to bring their A-game defensively to help lead the team to victory.
I almost don’t want to predict this game because of the volatility. On any given night, these teams could beat the contenders of the league; and on another, drop a game where they look like a lottery team.
It’s hard to gauge. Surely, Dallas will look to come out with an edge after getting thrashed at home by the Pelicans. Then, Memphis will look to continue their good stretch of play thus far.
I don’t know, let’s go for some reverse psychology.
Final prediction: Dallas 108, Grizzlies 103