WHERE: FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee
WHEN: 7:00 PM CT
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: Bally Sports Southeast/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
MEMPHIS: Kyle Anderson (Doubtful, back), Brandon Clarke (Out, knee), Sam Merill (Out, ankle), Ziaire Williams (Out, ankle), Ja Morant (Out, knee)
DALLAS: Willie Cauley-Stein (Out, personal), Sterling Brown (Out, foot)
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS:
MEMPHIS: Tyus Jones, Desmond Bane, Dillon Brooks, Jaren Jackson Jr., Steven Adams
DALLAS: Luka Doncic, Reggie Bullock, Dorian Finney-Smith, Kristaps Porzingis, Dwight Powell
The Memphis Grizzlies are on quite the heater. Their opponent this evening is not.
The Grizzlies have won five straight contests, all without Ja Morant in the fold. Every game it seems as if someone new steps up - Jaren Jackson Jr., Desmond Bane, Steven Adams, Tyus Jones, Dillon Brooks...the list goes on and on of players that have shown flashes during this streak. The most impressive game of this run was Monday night’s victory in Miami against the Heat. Holding a team like the Heat to 90 points while meeting the challenge that a physical, veteran squad like Miami presents is promising. Perhaps this is no fluke. Maybe without Morant the roster is growing...and when Ja returns, the team will be even more dangerous.
Dallas is in the opposite boat. They’re currently on a three-game losing streak, having lost in a close game to the Brooklyn Nets just last night in Dallas. Luka Doncic has called himself out about his conditioning. Multiple Mavericks have been in and out of the injury report for various reasons, Doncic included. The start of the Jason Kidd Era in Dallas has gotten off to a (somewhat predictably) rocky start.
Part of both of these team’s current runs of luck - both good and bad - are a recent game against one another just this past weekend. Memphis won 97-90, but both Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis sat out that contest. Tonight, both should be in the fold for Dallas.
Keys to another key divisional showdown.
Without Willie Cauley-Stein in the fold, Memphis has a decided size advantage in this contest - and it starts with Steven Adams. Sure, Porzingis is 7’3”, but in terms of strength and build no one on the Mavericks can hang with the favorite New Zealander of Grizzlies fans. Adams is also coming off his best game as a Memphis player, having dominated a similarly-sized (without Bam Adebayo) Miami team on the glass and around the basket.
The same could happen tonight, assuming Porzingis draws the assignment of sticking Jaren. Powell and the rest of the Mavericks front court will not be able to contend with the center of gravity/base that Adams has. And even Porzingis, with his injury issues of late/overall, is not quite suited for a battle on the block. It should be another good night for Steven,
Rotate and Communicate
The Mavericks attempted 46 threes last night against the Nets. They only made nine of them (19.6% from beyond the arc is WOOF) but clearly Dallas is committed to getting their attempts from range. While this is the second game of a back to back and the Mavs may have some tired legs (Doncic in particular logged 37 minutes), they likely will not deviate from the gameplan very much. Letting it fly should continue to be in the schemes of Jason Kidd and company - and 19.6% likely isn’t sustainable, in a good way for Dallas.
Memphis must continue their current trend of strong defensive communication and rotations. It starts with Dillon Brooks and his elite preparation - he will almost surely draw the Luka assignment - but from there, the team has to prioritize getting over screens and being in the proper position to help. The Mavericks on average shoot 33% from three. You can’t expect struggles - you must force them. Thankfully the Grizzlies have been good at that of late. Don’t get complacent.
Memphis is favored by 4.5 in this game, and that feels about right. The Grizzlies are the hotter team at the moment, and the Mavericks - despite being closer to full strength than they were the last time these two teams met - are flailing. Combine that with Dallas surely being tired after a hard-fought loss to Brooklyn last night, and the Grizzlies should win - and cover.
Memphis 109, Dallas 102