WHEN: 6:30 PM CT
WHERE: FTX Arena, Miami, Florida
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: Bally Sports Southeast/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
MEMPHIS: Ja Morant (Out, knee), Sam Merrill (Out, ankle), Ziaire Williams (Questionable, knee), Kyle Anderson (Out, back), Brandon Clarke (Doubtful, knee)
Miami: Bam Adebayo (Out, thumb), Jimmy Butler (Questionable, Tailbone), Markieff Morris (Out, Neck), Victor Oladipo (Out, knee)
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP:
MEMPHIS: Tyus Jones, Desmond Bane, Dillon Brooks, Jaren Jackson Jr., Steven Adams
MIAMI: Kyle Lowry, Duncan Robinson, Jimmy Butler, Tyler Herro, Dwayne Dedmon
Let’s rewind to October 30th. The Grizzlies had just defeated the Warriors, a team many were convinced was the best in the NBA. Memphis had played a very good second half of the game, and were ready to return home to face the Miami Heat. Unfortunately, the Grizzlies were not ready after all. Jimmy Butler scoring 27 points in the first half alone and the Heat made 21 threes overall in a 129-103 victory for Miami.
Fast forward to December 6th, and the setup and situation are quite similar. The Grizzlies are once again coming off a big victory over the Mavericks on Saturday night. And once again, Jimmy Butler is the main story. Butler is likely returning from an injury due to a recent fall during a previous contest. His return to the lineup allows the Heat to regain their top scorer and obviously their defensive and emotional leader.
Another commonality between then and now is that the Heat will be without Bam Adebayo. But Miami did not need him. The Heat simply could not he stopped shooting the three and then balancing that success out with Butler’s ability to get to the rim and the line during the first half of the game. For Memphis, a big key will be making life tougher for Butler, something Dillon Brooks, who did not play in the last contest, can certainly help out with. If Memphis can limit at least one of Butler and/or the threes, their chances to win should certainly improve.
The efforts of Jaren Jackson Jr. and Desmond Bane have certainly been the highlight of the Grizzlies recent fortunes. However, it has also been a consistent effort from the Grizzlies entire roster. It seems in each win, seven or more Grizzlies have 10+ points, or multiple assists, or a block and/or steal. Up and down the roster everyone is finding multiple and different ways to contribute. Steven Adams and Tyus Jones combined for over 25 points and nearly 20 rebounds versus the Mavericks. To win tonight, this same complete roster effort will be needed.
Bench Production/Defending the Three
Though the Heat made 21 threes last contest, they entered the game among the league’s worst at shooting the three. However, over the past 10 or so games, they have been among the top 10 in the league in shooting the three. While names such as Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson are big reasons why, Gabe Vincent and Max Strus have found their success as well. The Heat’s bench is arguably the best three-point shooting reserve unit in the NBA over the past few weeks. Memphis must defend the three point line over a full 48 minutes as a result.
This is going to be a major task for the Memphis Grizzlies to take on. The Heat are a better unit than any the Grizzlies have faced without Ja Morant, and they now will be getting back Jimmy Butler. For Memphis to create a better chance of winning, they must take advantage of creating good shots and making free throws as much as possible. If Memphis can do that, it can find a way to earn a victory.
FINAL SCORE: MEMPHIS 103 Miami 97