WHERE: FedExForum, Memphis, Tennessee
WHEN: 8:00 P.M. CT
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: Bally Sports Southeast/NBATV/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
MEMPHIS: Jaren Jackson Jr. (Out, knee), Justise Winslow (Out, thigh), De’Anthony Melton (Out, leg), Jontay Porter (Questionable, knee soreness)
CHICAGO: Garrett Temple (Doubtful, hamstring)
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS:
Memphis: Ja Morant, Grayson Allen, Dillon Brooks, Kyle Anderson, Jonas Valanciunas
Chicago: Tomas Satoransky, Zach LaVine, Patrick Williams, Thad Young, Nikola Vucevic
The Memphis Grizzlies will look to bounce back after last night’s loss to avoid a 3-game losing streak. Defense has been the culprit, as they’ve given up 130 or more in the past 2 games. It’s an area that Coach Jenkins has deemed to be “unacceptable.” As the standings remain tight in this playoff race, defensive miscues could be a defining factor for the Grizzlies’ fate.
Meanwhile, on the other side, the Chicago Bulls are also fighting for their play-in chances too — looking to hold off the Toronto Raptors and Washington Wizards for that final spot. They made a splash at the deadline acquiring All-Star big man Nikola Vucevic, and while they’re in an adjustment period (3-6 since the trade), their nightly chances increase exponentially with another star next to Zach LaVine.
What will be the keys for the Grizzlies’ success tonight?
Avoid a Disaster in the Drop
Whenever the Grizzlies’ defense collapses, it’s either due to leaked coverage on the outside or a mid-range artist attacking the drop coverage. Last night, it was Caris LeVert and Malcolm Brogdon taking advantage of Jonas Valanciunas in drop coverage.
They cannot avoid similar outcomes tonight with Zach LaVine.
The first-time All-Star has become one of the most potent scorers in basketball. He’s a dangerous volume 3-point shooter, but he can also get hot in the mid-range when given room to operate. How should they look to manage him in drop coverages?
The easy one would be to avoid any sort of pick-and-roll defensive situation where Ja Morant is on the ball-handler and Valanciunas is on the screener. Morant has been a victim on screens this year, leaving Valanciunas in no-man’s land on the ball-handler. What we’ll likely see is a ton of possessions with Dillon Brooks as the primary defender.
Brooks has the physicality and aggression to fight over screens and use his body to make LaVine more uncomfortable. If we can get some of the strong defensive outings we’ve seen from Brooks, then it’ll help the Grizzlies’ chances of winning.
A strong 3-point shooting night
In the absence of De’Anthony Melton, the Memphis Grizzlies are missing a strong-volume 40% 3-point shooter. To make up for his absence, they’re going to need a hot shooting night.
Dillon Brooks could step into this role, as he’s shooting 42% from 3 over his past 13 games. The big thing for him would be increasing his attempt rate, as only 2 of his 17 shots came from beyond the arc. You’d also like to see Desmond Bane bounce back from last night’s game (3-10 shooting, 1-3 from 3) and find his rhythm from beyond the arc.
The real player to watch here is Grayson Allen. He’s struggled the past 2 games, only connecting 2 of his 9 three-point attempts. As the starting 2-guard, and the team’s most-frequent 3-point shooter, it’s imperative for him to find his stroke from downtown if the Grizzlies want to come away with a win. He has a tendency to fill it up and get hot from 3, as we saw recently against Philadelphia and Atlanta. To avoid a 3-game losing streak, they need Allen to find his groove from deep.
As the Grizzlies navigate this stretch without Melton, they need others to step up to provide that similar 3-point firepower (who would’ve thought that’d be a topic a year ago). Each of these 3 players will play a role in making that happen tonight.
The Memphis Grizzlies are good at responding to adversity, and the Chicago Bulls are still adjusting with a revamped rotation. However, the Bulls also have Zach LaVine, who could easily go off for 40-50 any night.
Oh well, let’s lean into some positivity here.
Prediction: Grizzlies - 128, Bulls - 124