WHEN: 7:00 PM CT
WHERE: FedExForum Memphis, Tennessee
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: Fox Sports Southeast/NBA League Pass/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
MEMPHIS: Jaren Jackson Jr. (Out, knee), Grayson Allen (Out, concussion)
WASHINGTON: Ish Smith (Out, quad), Thomas Bryant (Out, knee)
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS:
MEMPHIS: Ja Morant, Desmond Bane, Dillon Brooks, Brandon Clarke, Jonas Valanciunas
WASHINGTON: Russell Westbrook, Bradley Beal, Garrison Matthews, Rui Hackimura, Moritz Wagner
Remember how much fun the Bubble was?
Yes, the results, injuries, and struggles were not as enjoyable. But there also was the excitement of playing nine games in 16 days. It seemed like the playoffs had begun though it was simply Memphis trying to keep the right to have the chance at the playoffs. Well, if you enjoyed that stretch of time, the second half of this NBA season is gonna be crazy as a Grizzlies fan. Instead of nine games in 16 days, we are getting 40 in 68. There will not be a run of back-to-back days (hopefully) without Grizzlies basketball for the next ten weeks.
While the frequency of games may be fun for Grizzlies fans, it certainly is going to be a task for the Memphis coaching staff and roster. Tied for the most games in the NBA for the rest of the season, Memphis will have to rely on their depth and strengths to find success. Fortunately, the Grizzlies have improved on the strengths that they established last season of producing in the paint, passing, and scoring on the run. This year, they have established themselves as arguably the most opportunistic defense in the league (first in turnovers forced per game and first in points off turnovers in the NBA this season.) As their identity has become more clear, now is the time to feature this identity more consistently.
However, the Grizzlies also need to grow in areas that need improvement. They remain in the bottom third in the league in both shooting and defending the three. However, they have shown improvement in both areas on the perimeter in the last few games of the first half. For instance, a big reason for their win against the Washington Wizards back on March 2nd was due to limiting Bradley Beal and Davis Bertans to three total threes on the evening. The Grizzlies stayed disciplined and committed to their assignments, and it made a big difference in the game.
Its hard to expect another game where Beal and Bertans will only make three threes in a game. The two skilled shooters are typically good for seven to eight threes combined on most nights. Memphis must once again either contain Beal or prevent someone else from stepping up to have a great night to support him. If they can do both of these things like they did last game, Memphis certainly will improve its chances to win. However, Washington has improved its play on both ends of the court over the past month. They also will be looking for a bit of revenge with such a short turnaround from the last time these two teams played.
The Grizzlies are favored, and with their depth in place they should have a good chance to win if they play to their potential. Here are few ways that can help make sure they do just that!
ATTACK THE RIM- The Wizards are currently 30th in the NBA in blocks, 30th in free throw attempts allowed per game, and 24th in offensive rebounds allowed per game. The Grizzlies, though Jonas Valanciunas was a bit limited back on March 2nd, have a clear opportunity to feature their strength of producing in the paint. If they can accomplish that early, they can then look to find success from distance as the Wizards are 28th in the league in opponent’s 3PFG%. If the Grizzlies can hit these shots, it will be a big boost to their case to win.
Start Strong- During the first half of the season, in terms of first quarter NET rating, the Grizzlies were 13th in the NBA while the Wizards were 29th. If the Grizzlies can get off to a good start, it could result in the Wizards taking less than ideal shots. This could be a big development for Memphis as Washington is 28th in the league in 3PFG%. Those misses could play right into Memphis’s hands in allowing for them to get on the run and score.
Jaren Jackson Jr. not returning as of yet is certainly not ideal. However, an ideal start to the second half of the season would be a victory over Washington in Memphis tonight. The Grizzlies have already featured a winning formula once. If the Grizzlies can limit Beal and play consistent offense, that certainly helps. In the end, Memphis really has a great chance to get its postseason pursuit off to a great start.
Final Score- Grizzlies 120, Wizards 113