WHEN: 8:00 PM CT
WHERE: Ball Arena in Denver, Colorado
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: Bally Sports Southeast/NBA League Pass/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
MEMPHIS: Jonas Valanciunas (Out, concussion protocol) Brandon Clarke (Questionable, hip), Jaren Jackson Jr. (Doubtful, knee), De’Anthony Melton (Questionable, leg), Justise Winslow (Out, thigh), Dillon Brooks (Questionable, thigh)
DENVER: Jamal Murray (Out-ACL)
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP:
MEMPHIS: Ja Morant, Grayson Allen, Dillon Brooks, Kyle Anderson, Jaren Jackson Jr (??)
DENVER: Monte Morris, Will Barton, Michael Porter Jr, Aaron Gordon, Nikola Jokic
Things continue to look up for the Memphis Grizzlies.
After a convincing 2-0 start to their hellish 7-game road trip, they now find themselves just a half game back of the Dallas Mavericks for both the 7th seed as well as the Southwest Division lead. And to make the circumstances even better, help may very quickly be on the way.
At the time of this writing, the Grizzlies have upgraded Jaren Jackson Jr. to “doubtful” for tonight’s game on the road against the Denver Nuggets. Despite the designation, I think he will make his debut tonight since A) Justise Winslow made his debut on a night where he was also listed as “doubtful”, and the Grizzlies will really need him to play center in the absence of Jonas Valanciunas.
Jaren’s possible insertion into the lineup only makes a road matchup with the Denver Nuggets all the more interesting considering that they will unfortunately be sans Jamal Murray. Murray was totally nonexistent in the Nuggets’ thrilling 103-102 win over the Grizzlies back on March 12th, so the Grizzlies should know that this will be a very difficult game even without him
Here are a few things to watch for tonight.
A Battle of Bigs
The center matchup is going to be compelling regardless of who does or doesn't suit up for the Grizzlies tonight. Throwing Jaren Jackson Jr. back into the fire again against the likely league MVP in Nikola Jokic could offer a fascinating picture of what Jaren looks like as a full-time center against someone that will struggle to defend him on perimeter. If Jaren looks comfortable, he could cause just as many problems for Jokic as Jokic will likely cause him.
However, if Xavier Tillman gets the start, he will have to face the toughest assignment that he’s received all year. He’s done a fantastic job transitioning to the NBA game with his versatile defense and willingness to do the dirty work, but he’s never had to deal with any matchup like Jokic for extended periods of time. If he has to take on the assignment, it’ll be interesting to see how well he holds his own.
DB vs. MPJ
There comes a time when an unstoppable force must meet an immovable object. And time will come again tonight when Dillon Brooks and Michael Porter Jr. will battle for who will be king of irrational confidence.
Porter has been on absolute tear since the all-star break, averaging 21.5 PPG on 57% shooting and 44% shooting from three during that time. He’s been everything the Nuggets desire in their third star, and his path to stardom is looking more and more certain.
Dillon Brooks has also been highly impressive since the all-star break, averaging 17.2 PPG on 44% shooting and 37% shooting from three. Between Bradley Beal and Luka Doncic among others, he’s also demonstrated his defensive chops that could possibly earn him a spot on an All-Defense team. To be sure, he’s having his most impactful season yet in the NBA.
It won’t really matter who wins the matchup between Dillon Brooks and Michael Porter Jr. Because the truth is that we all win.
The Grizzlies have truly been playing great basketball and eclipsing just about every expectation they have. That being said, they’ve won some games recently they probably shouldn’t have, and they could have the added challenge of re-inserting one of the most significant pieces on the roster. I think they’ll beat Denver one of the two times they play them over this road trip, but I think the Grizzlies are due to come back down to earth in this game.
Nuggets 115, Grizzlies 108