WHEN: 6:00 PM CT
WHERE: Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C.
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: Fox Sports Southeast/NBA League Pass/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
MEMPHIS: Kyle Anderson (Questionable, illness), 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
If you think there is a mistake on your betting app when it comes to this game, it is actually you that is wrong. Because while the Memphis Grizzlies do indeed have a better record than the Washington Wizards, and Memphis is indeed coming off of the biggest win in franchise history on a night when none of their top players played their best games, most current spreads have this game as essentially a toss up - with the Wizards being a slight favorite.
And that is a smart line. Because outside of one blowout loss to the Los Angeles Clippers, there are few squads in the NBA right now playing better basketball than the Washington Wizards. Led by king of hypothetical Grizzlies trades Bradley Beal, Washington has dramatically improved their defensive play while maintaining a high level of offensive production. Russell Westbrook has gotten better from where he was to start the season for the Wizards, Davis Bertans has finally started to live up to the contract he signed this offseason, and Scott Brooks has been able to save himself from the hot seat (for now) with strong wins and a solid showing in a one-point loss to the Boston Celtics.
So you shouldn’t overlook this Washington squad. Memphis will have their hands full in the Nation’s Capital tonight.
Bradley Beal has taken his game to an even higher level this season. He dropped 46 points on the heads of the Celtics last time out in a losing effort, and he did so on 29 shots - so he scored well with both quality looks and quantity of chances. He’s averaging over 33 points per game and is easily playing the best basketball of his career - it isn’t particularly close. He is clearly the catalyst for the Wizards, and their entire offense runs through him and his ability to create for both himself and others (25.1% assist percentage is 2nd highest of his career).
The Grizzlies must make others beat them. So ensuring he is uncomfortable all night must be a priority. Whether they are rushing him off of every pick and roll or throwing numerous different defenders like Dillon Brooks and Justise Winslow at him and varying the techniques and length he has to deal with, Memphis has to get him out of his rhythm and force him to make plays beyond his favorite spots on the perimeter and in the paint. This isn’t a game for letting the opposing player “get theirs”. He will drop 50 points or more. They have to try to slow him down.
Jonas Valanciunas should have feasted against the Houston Rockets. Houston is without a true big that can bang with Jonas on the block, and Valanciunas was primed for a 20 points, 15 rebound kind of night. That is, until foul trouble and the frustration that comes with it appeared. Because of those factors Jonas probably played his least consequential game of the season for Memphis. A wasted opportunity for the Lithuanian bruiser to beat up on an undersized team.
Thankfully, opportunity presents itself again tonight. While Washington is better off at the center position than Houston - Robin Lopez by himself does that - the Wizards rely on the likes of Moritz Wagner, Rui Hachimura, and Davis Bertans to fill out front court minutes. There is talent there...but not a ton of physical strength. Wagner has helped the recent Wizards defensive renaissance, but even he doesn’t have the frame to stop Valanciunas from getting almost anything he wants in the paint and on the glass.
Jonas won’t make the same mistakes twice in a row. Look for Valanciunas to make sure he stays on the floor and make his imprint on this game.
A toss-up means poor odds either way in terms of who should be the pick. Memphis has the depth, even with Allen/Jackson/maybe Anderson out, to keep them in the game, but Beal is the best player in this game and can take it over at any moment. The Grizzlies have enough to take advantage of the weaknesses of the Wizards defensive, however, and it figures to be a night where Valanciunas and Brandon Clarke help pace win for the bears of Beale Street.
Memphis 113, Washington 108