WHERE: Vivint Arena — Salt Lake City, UT
WHEN: 9:00 PM CT
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: Fox Sports Southeast/NBA League Pass/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
MEMPHIS: Jaren Jackson Jr. (Out, knee)
UTAH: Udoka Azubuike (Out, ankle)
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS:
MEMPHIS: Ja Morant, Grayson Allen, Dillon Brooks, Kyle Anderson, Jonas Valanciunas
UTAH: Mike Conley, Donovan Mitchell, Royce O’Neale, Bojan Bogdanovic, Rudy Gobert
The Memphis Grizzlies are playing their first game after the deadline where they did...nothing. Yep, the Grizzlies didn’t do anything, and that’s okay. They dangled Gorgui Dieng to the market, and no one bit — or the Grizzlies didn’t find anything they liked. So they decided to keep Dieng, and it’s not a bad thing to keep a hefty expiring contract who’s really solid insurance policy.
There’s worse things they could’ve done than nothing. Despite all the obstacles they’ve had thrown at them this season (COVID protocols, rigorous schedule, various injuries, and 0 minutes from their 1B player), they’re still above .500 and in the playoff race. If anything, the Grizzlies will get more data on what works with this system for another 31+ games.
Tonight, we’ll get an impression of a standing-pat Grizzlies team against the Utah Jazz in a 2-game road series. Oh, and the Jazz boast the best overall and home records in basketball. Joy!
Can the Grizzlies steal a game this weekend against the league’s best team?
SERIOUSLY defend the 3
The Grizzlies have done better at defending the 3-point line, but they trend towards below-average in most 3-point team stats. They can get caught in aggressive help defense or hard shifts that lead to open 3’s.
They got to be on their best behavior from 3.
The Utah Jazz are 1st in both 3’s made (17.0) and 3’s attempted (43.0) per game, while boasting the 2nd-best percentage (39.7%). In addition, 7 of their 9 consistent rotation players shoot above 35% from 3, and 5 of them (Conley, Mitchell, Bogdanovic, Joe Ingles, and Jordan Clarkson) make more than 2 a game.
If there’s any sort of leakage in the Grizzlies defense, it can be a long night from the perimeter.
Find some bench success
The Utah Jazz bench has some weapons. Jordan Clarkson and Joe Ingles both should be considered legitimate contenders for the Sixth Man of the Year award. Derrick Favors is a strong anchor for a 2nd unit, and Georges Niang can get hot from 3. Cumulatively, they hit more 3’s per game (6.5) than any bench unit in basketball.
While the Jazz bench is good, the Grizzlies bench has been elite this season. They rank 4th in points (40.3), 4th in 3-point percentage (38.9), 5th in rebounds (17.7), 2nd in assists (10.1), and 1st in steals (4.5).
For the Grizzlies to be successful in this game, it comes with winning the bench minutes. What does that mean for them? Running Clarkson and Ingles from the 3-point line is a good starting point. Exposing Clarkson defensively could help too. Ultimately, the Grizzlies need to get their pace going, seeing if Brandon Clarke can keep his magic going in his new bench role. In addition, they must get open shots for De’Anthony Melton and Desmond Bane from beyond the arc to compete with Utah’s firepower from deep.
If the bench can’t win these minutes, it’s going to be hard to see a Memphis win.
This is a painful game to predict. They’re a young team playing against the best home/overall team on the road, and their opponent hits a crap-ton of 3’s. What’s there to expect? We’ve seen the Grizzlies compete with the league’s elite until the very end.
And I’ll predict that tonight.
Final score prediction: Jazz - 120, Grizzlies - 113.