WHERE: FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee
WHEN: 7:00 PM CT
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: Fox Sports Southeast/NBA League Pass/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
UTAH: Donovan Mitchell (Out, personal reasons), Juwan Morgan (Out, calf), Udoka Azubuike (Out, ankle)
MEMPHIS: Grayson Allen (Questionable, hip), Jaren Jackson Jr. (Out, knee), Justise Winslow (Out, thigh)
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS:
UTAH: Mike Conley, [Joe Ingles or Jordan Clarkson], Bojan Bogdanovic, Royce O’Neale, Rudy Gobert
MEMPHIS: Ja Morant, Grayson Allen, Dillon Brooks, Kyle Anderson, Jonas Valanciunas
The Grizzlies return home after a mostly successful 2-2 road trip out West. The Grizzlies picked up victories over the Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets, but lost back-to-back game against the Utah Jazz in Salt Lake City. The Grizzlies will now welcome the Jazz to FedExForum for their 3rd matchup in less than a week.
The Grizzlies were in positive spirits when leaving Utah, despite the the losses, saying they knew what they needed to fix and left with positive takeaways knowing they could hang with a team as good as the Jazz. So what exactly does the team need to do to come away with a win tonight against the team with the best record in the NBA? Let’s take a look.
Throw the first punch
The Grizzlies have been outscored by 7.8 points in the first quarter of their last 5 games, giving up 31 points in the opening quarter while scoring just 23.2 themselves. In Utah, the Grizzlies found themselves down by 15 points in the first game and 20 points in the second game. The Grizzlies have proven they are a resilient team, fighting back from early deficits against the Celtics, Thunder and Rockets over the past week but Utah presents a unique challenge.
The Grizzlies were able to overcome the 15-point 1st quarter deficit on Friday and ultimately fell by 3 to the Jazz in what became a really hard-fought game. Unfortunately for the Grizzlies, the energy and comeback effort fell flat Saturday night in Utah. The Jazz are simply too good of a team to continuously give big leads to. The Grizzlies will need to be locked in from the opening tip in order to put themselves in the best position to beat one of the NBA’s elite.
Guard the Perimiter
One of the main reasons the Grizzlies were able to come back in the Friday night matchup against the Jazz was due to their ability to somewhat slow down the Jazz 3-point attack. In that matchup, the Grizzlies held the Jazz to 12-33 shooting from beyond the arc, while shooting 12-30 from distance themselves. In the second matchup, however, the Grizzlies allowed the Jazz to shoot 19-45 from distance while the Grizzlies shot just 9-33. Getting outscored by 30 from distance isn’t going to bode well against any team, let alone the Jazz. The Grizzlies don’t have to win, or tie, the 3-point battle to defeat the Utah, they just need to keep things close and limit the easy looks to give them a fighting chance.
The Jazz are a tough matchup for any time, but especially the Grizzlies. The Grizzlies like to get most of their offense done in the paint, which is difficult to do against 2x Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert. Gobert makes things difficult for Jonas Valanciunas and the Grizzlies guards who attack the rim, though Ja made things difficult for Rudy in Game 1. The Grizzlies also use JV to pick up some offensive rebounds and score some easy second-chance points, another thing that is thwarted by Rudy Gobert and the Jazz, who lead the league in rebounds per game. Throw in an explosive offense, and the Jazz are a tough team to go up against.
Even without Donovan Mitchell, the Jazz will be a tough matchup for the Grizzlies. Still, his absence will certainly be missed by Utah as he torched the Grizzlies in the first two matchups, scoring 35 points in both games. It won’t be easy for the Grizzlies, but they’ll be better prepared and equipped the third time around against the Jazz and will hang on for a close win.
Final score prediction: Memphis 125, Utah 118
Updated [11:29AM]: Jazz starting 5 reflects likely outcome with Mitchell’s absence.