WHERE: American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas
WHEN: 7:30 PM CT
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: Fox Sports Southeast/NBA League Pass/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
MEMPHIS: Jaren Jackson Jr. (Out, knee), Dillon Brooks (Out, thigh), Killian Tillie (Out, foot)
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS:
MEMPHIS: Ja Morant, Grayson Allen, Kyle Anderson, Brandon Clarke, Jonas Valanciunas
DALLAS: Luka Doncic, Josh Richardson, Tim Hardaway Jr., Dorian Finney-Smith, Kristaps Porzingis
The Memphis Grizzlies aren’t tanking.
It is such a strange thing to write about a .500 team that has had the second most games lost due to injury in the NBA, as Pete Pranica of the Grizzlies television broadcast stated during the Phoenix Suns game. Yes, the Grizzlies clearly punted the Phoenix Suns game on Saturday night - their fourth contest in five evenings - as they rested Kyle Anderson, Grayson Allen, and Brandon Clarke. But the San Antonio Spurs (who Head Coach Taylor Jenkins started his NBA journey with) have done similar things, as have other teams (load management, anyone?), and they weren’t accused of “tanking”.
So why is Memphis having that hurled at them by some?
Because perspective is subjective. But context shouldn’t be.
The Grizzlies are among the youngest teams in the NBA. They have not had Jaren Jackson Jr. this entire season. Justise Winslow just made his Grizzlies debut on Saturday - more evidence of the aforementioned punting. All along, the Grizzlies front office has said that this season is about “data accumulation” and figuring out how to fit the current roster pieces around the team’s star point guard Ja Morant and Jackson Jr...which is hard to do without Jackson Jr. active. And yet, again they have overachieved. They aren’t tanking. They just aren’t willing to run players over what they deem acceptable (again, four games in five days) or rush players back beyond what their performance team deems appropriate just so they can be the six seed in a Western Conference they aren’t going to win.
Their eyes are down the road. Not in the moment. And when your best players are so young, that is where they should be.
Keys to tonight’s game against a team who is not as complete as Memphis, but has a transcendent talent the Grizzlies do not in Luka Doncic.
Attacking the wounded Unicorn
You may or may not have heard this, but Kristaps Porzingis suffered the same injury that Jaren Jackson Jr. did and has returned in a quicker time period than Jaren did. If you’ve heard it, it is usually in a negative light - an argument for the “tankers”. But chances are, those folks aren’t watching the Dallas Mavericks play. Because if they were, they’d see that while Porzingis has been fine offensively it is quite clear that the Dallas Unicorn is currently a defensive liability, unable to move effectively on multiple levels on that end of the floor.
The Mavericks have not been able to recuperate from his limitations, and while he isn’t an athletic marvel the fact that Jonas Valanciunas is playing at a pretty high level should have Dallas on high alert. Jonas can move better than folks expect, especially as a rim runner off the pick and roll. If the Grizzlies can get Porzingis having to move laterally on a consistent basis to either cover the Valanciunas roll or the Ja Morant floater with the starters it could mean a lot of opportunity for the Grizzlies.
Justise with all
Justise Winslow looked good against the Phoenix Suns at times in his Grizzlies debut, especially in the second half. Considering who he was playing with, that is pretty impressive. No offense to John Konchar and Sean McDermott, but they aren’t exactly high level NBA rotation players. Now, with the lightening of the injury report, Winslow will be coming off the bench with the likes of De’Anthony Melton, Desmond Bane, and Xavier Tillman. That should make a world of difference.
Justise will need a good amount of time to get back to what he was. But tonight’s game will be a better opportunity for him in his 20 or so minutes to display what he is capable of. A Tyus Jones/Desmond Bane/De’Anthony Melton/Justise Winslow/Xavier Tillman Sr. full second unit will not get the same eye rolls from the fan base that the reserves did on Saturday night as things got out of hand with the Suns.
The Grizzlies are roughly a 5 point underdog entering this game with the Mavericks, and to be honest that may have more to do with what happened against Phoenix than anything. That, as previously stated, lacks context. Memphis had an injury report that was so long that it had to be shown via screen shot instead of tweet text. Now? Memphis is only without two rotation players instead of five or six. And that will make a pretty big difference.
Look for the presence of Anderson, Melton, Winslow, Allen, and others defensively to slow down Dallas enough for Valanciunas and Morant to pace the offense and get the Grizzlies back over .500.
Memphis 115, Dallas 111