WHEN: 7 PM CT
WHERE: FedExForum - Memphis, TN
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: Fox Sports Southeast/NBA League Pass/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
MEMPHIS: OUT Jaren Jackson Jr. (LT knee meniscus surgery recovery), Justise Winslow (Return from Injury Management)
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS:
MEMPHIS: Ja Morant, Grayson Allen, Dillon Brooks, Kyle Anderson, Jonas Valanciunas
GOLDEN STATE: Jordan Poole, Kelly Oubre Jr., Andrew Wiggins, Draymond Green, Kevon Looney
The Memphis Grizzlies came into last night’s game looking to gain some ground on the Golden State Warriors in the standings. It was the best chance for them to do so, as the Warriors were missing 3 key rotation players — including Stephen Curry.
However, they flopped.
The Warriors came out more aggressive early, and the Grizzlies never recovered. In addition, they were on the receiving-end of a scoring onslaught from Andrew Wiggins and Jordan Poole — who combined for 65 points. Oh, and Damion Lee scored 21 points. You’re not winning ball games when that happens.
The Warriors swarming defense was too much for the Grizzlies, and the Memphis defense was discombobulated - which led to easy buckets for Golden State.
But hey, today’s a new game! And luckily in this new series format, the Grizzlies have the opportunity to learn from their mistakes within a day or two. What are some trending items that’ll play a major key in tonight’s game?
The hottest trend in Memphis right now... downsized basketball.
Coach Taylor Jenkins’ latest rotation decision didn’t involve any of the shooting guards exiting the rotation; the latest test was going smaller. Over the past few games, he has rolled out a bench unit of Tyus Jones, De’Anthony Melton, Desmond Bane, Justise Winslow, and Brandon Clarke.
The returns on Clarke at the 5 have been promising the past few games.
In the win against Miami, he was instrumental defensively. He was flying all over the place in switches, and he did a magnificent job protecting the rim — 3 blocks. The luxury with him at the 5 on defense is that he can come all the way out on pick-and-roll instead of dropping.
In last night’s game against the Warriors, Golden State burned them on the pick-and-roll — an area Clarke said they had to get better at during postgame. However, he flashed his upside at the 5 offensively, as he had ample space to roll.
What Clarke has shown at the 5 is what I’ve been waiting to see this season. He’s good as a 4, but he’s often stuck in the corner on too many possessions. He’s at his best offensively when he gets going in the pick-and-roll. When given the spacing, and with the additional playmaker, he can thrive.
It is likely that Xavier Tillman plays tonight as Justise Winslow will probably rest, but it’ll be interesting to see how often they roll with a downsized lineup. The Warriors went small off the bench, with Juan Toscano-Anderson playing the majority of the backup 5 minutes.
Nonetheless, Coach Jenkins has been impressed with the early results, so he may lean into it more.
Not Quite the Downward Spiral: Perimeter Defense
The Grizzlies’ perimeter defense has been...ummm...let’s think of a better word...spotty, this week.
It was evident last night, as they gave up 15 three’s and allowed Andrew Wiggins and Jordan Poole to do whatever they wanted. It’s nothing new. We saw Oklahoma City (freaking Pokusevski) and Phoenix both go off from the perimeter earlier in the week.
It’s tough to pinpoint where the struggles lie. Is there too much help where they’re left scrambling for open 3’s? Is Jonas Valanciunas getting into drop coverage hurting the team? Or are teams targeting Ja Morant in the pick-and-roll?
It’s likely a bit of all of the above, but the Grizzlies need to get back to the level of defensive intensity that’s been present most of the season. As they navigate this vigorous schedule, it’s one of their biggest hopes in staying in the play-in race.