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Memphis Grizzlies vs. New Orleans Pelicans Game Preview

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After a 2nd half collapse in round 1, Memphis looks to bounce back against the Pelicans in round 2

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Memphis Grizzlies v New Orleans Pelicans Photo by Layne Murdoch Jr./NBAE via Getty Images

WHO: Memphis Grizzlies (11-11, 4-7 Home) vs. New Orleans Pelicans (11-15, 4-10 Away)

WHEN: 7:00 PM CST

WHERE: FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee

HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: TNT/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis

INJURY REPORT:

MEMPHIS: Desmond Bane (personal, out), Jaren Jackson Jr. (left knee, out), De’Anthony Melton (left shoulder, out), Killian Tillie (left foot, out), Justise Winslow (left hip, out)

NEW ORLEANS: NONE

PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS:

MEMPHIS: Ja Morant, Grayson Allen, Dillon Brooks, Kyle Anderson, Jonas Valanciunas

NEW ORLEANS: Lonzo Ball, Eric Bledsoe, Brandon Ingram, Zion Williamson, Steven Adams


After a West coast road trip that saw the Grizzlies go 1-1, the team enters a scheduling nightmare. This isn’t due to the level of competition that they’ll face as the team will only face one team above .500 over the next 4-5 games. The worrisome wrinkle on the horizon is that the Grizzlies will play four games in five nights starting with a national television contest versus the New Orleans Pelicans.

The month of February has seen the Memphis Grizzlies play some of their most inconsistent basketball, as they have started games strong before blowing double-digit leads in the second half of four of their five losses this month. The one exception was their February 6th matchup against these same New Orleans Pelicans, which was a tightly contested ball game until the Pelicans pulled away in the 4th quarter. The Memphis Grizzlies are 0-4 in their last 4 matchups vs. New Orleans with the average margin of defeat in the double digits.

In the games since their February 6th defeat, flashes of what was an elite defense in the early parts of the season has reared its head. Sunday night’s victory over the Sacramento Kings saw the Grizzlies at their best, as they won the turnover and rebounding battles — as well as continuing to find open looks for teammates dishing out 31 assists. Against a team like New Orleans that struggles defensively it will be imperative to not give them extra possessions via turnovers and offensive rebounds like they 10 days ago.

The Memphis Grizzlies have struggled against the Pelicans but here is what the Grizzlies can do to finally get a win against the Zion led Pelicans.


Lonzo Ball is the X-Factor

Memphis Grizzlies v New Orleans Pelicans Photo by Layne Murdoch Jr./NBAE via Getty Images

As great as Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram were against the Memphis Grizzlies in their last matchup, it was Lonzo Ball who gave the the Grizzlies the most problems on both ends as far as preventable impact. Ingram and Williamson are going to get their stats night in and night out — as that is part of the package of playing the Pelicans. What must not be underestimated is Lonzo Ball playing the best basketball of his career with Stan Van Gundy’s Pelicans.

On the offensive end, the Memphis Grizzlies lost track of Ball as he found himself taking advantage of both the Grizzlies man and zone coverages to get open looks for himself and others leading to a productive 16 point, 7 assist night. While he was no Jrue Holiday, defensively, he played a major role in Ja Morant’s 5-14 night from the field forcing Morant in to bad shots and staying attached to his hip when driving to the paint to contest his shot or force him to kick to teammates.

If the Grizzlies are going to win this game, they’re going to have to be able to manage the open looks Ball gets offensively, while finding ways to get him off of Morant — whether it be off ball screens, dribble handoffs, or pick and rolls to present him with mismatches for him to take advantage of and continue his hot streak from the last 3 games.

Starters Stay Afloat

Memphis Grizzlies v New Orleans Pelicans Photo by Layne Murdoch Jr./NBAE via Getty Images

The Memphis Grizzlies bench has been a vital part to the team’s success this season. The versatile unit that Grayson Allen affectionally stated was filled with “a bunch of hoopers” has used their defensive versatility to keep opposing offenses on their toes — while being able to stretch the floor and not have a dramatic fall off - if not improve- in the scoring department for a majority of the season. This trend continued February 6th, as the Grizzlies bench dominated the Pelicans reserves. I expect this continue on national TV as the talent falls off dramatically when they have to turn to their bench.

The problem is the starters didn’t hold up their end of the deal. I’m not a big +/- watcher but it is never a good thing when all of your starters are in the negative when the bench players are a positive. The Grizzlies have yet to have a consistent starting lineup due to COVID and a barrage of injuries but the latest starting lineups of Ja - Allen (or Bane) - Brooks - Anderson -Valanciunas have been their most productive lineups of the season per nba.com. While this lineup could present some matchup problems defensively, and lead to Taylor Jenkins deploying the 1-3-1 and 2-3 zones he used last outing in stretches, the injection of offense while maintaining the bench production could lead to a Grizzlies win.

Memphis Grizzlies v New Orleans Pelicans Photo by Layne Murdoch Jr./NBAE via Getty Images

The Prediction

Ja Morant vs. Zion Williamson will be the primary storyline for the national TV audience as the former AAU teammates go head to head once again. The real storyline is whether the Grizzlies can play 48 minutes for the 2nd game in a row. The Pelicans did not outplay them, as they did in past matchups as much — as the Grizzlies didn’t play a full 48 minutes on the road once they got a 4th quarter lead.

This will not be the traditional “deep three shoot them out the gym” game TNT and national audiences are becoming accustomed to with games become more perimeter-oriented. Instead, this will be two paint-dominant teams getting after it with the difference being who shoots better from deep. The Pelicans did last time, and their reward was a W. The Grizzlies roster is better depth-wise and has better shooters, so I expect this time around that they will take advantage of the 28th ranked NBA defense to get another win on national TV.

FINAL SCORE: Grizzlies 123 - New Orleans 113

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