WHERE: State Farm Arena in Atlanta, Georgia
WHEN: 7:00 PM CT
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: Bally Sports Southeast/NBA League Pass/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
MEMPHIS: Jaren Jackson Jr. (Out, knee), Justise Winslow (Out, thigh), De’Anthony Melton (Out, leg), Brandon Clarke (Questionable, calf)
ATLANTA: De’Andre Hunter (Out, knee), Cam Reddish (Out, Achilles), John Collins (Out, Ankle), Kris Dunn (Doubtful, Ankle)
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS:
MEMPHIS: Ja Morant, Grayson Allen, Dillon Brooks, Kyle Anderson, Jonas Valanciunas
ATLANTA: Trae Young, Kevin Huerter, Bogdan Bogdonovic, Solomon Hill, Clint Capela
Things are heating up down south, as both the Grizzlies and Hawks are sizzling heading into tonight’s matchup.
The Hawks now sit alone atop the Southeast Division, while the Grizzlies are claiming the 8 spot in the West as their own right now.
The firing of Lloyd Pierce seems to have brought new life to the Hawks. He was replaced by Nate McMillan, and they have gone 13-4 since Pierce’s firing on March 1st, including winning their first 8 under McMillan. He was named the Eastern Conference Coach of the Month for his impressive March. It’s also important to note, the Hawks have not lost at home since February 13th – that’s 7 in a row.
Meanwhile, the Grizz have won 7 of their last 10 games. All three losses are to Utah, who have the best record in the league. They’ve been able to do it while dealing with minor injuries to a lot of guys (Melton, Grayson, Clarke, Winslow) and of course still without Jaren Jackson Jr. Their star player, Ja Morant, has been able to contribute in many ways during their hot streak, whether its scoring or setting up his teammates to take over that role.
The Grizzlies are looking to snap the Hawks home win streak, while pushing their own win streak to four games.
Here’s what they need to do:
Control the Pace
Believe it or not, these two teams are on the opposite ends when it comes to pace (Atlanta: 23rd & Memphis: 6th). For the Hawks, it has a lot to do with McMillan taking over. The Hawks are buying in on both ends, playing better defense and running more offensive sets. In fact, in the 34 games with Pierce as coach, they held their opponents under 100 only six times; in the 17 games with McMillan running the ship, they’ve done it four times, including twice under 90.
If the Grizzlies can force the issue and get out and running early, Atlanta may get uncomfortable and start forcing things, which could result in turnovers. The Grizzlies are second best in the league when it comes to forcing turnovers at 15.7 per game, and first in steals at 9.6 a game. I expect Ja to lead the way, and push the pace — he finished with 28 points and 7 assists in their previous meeting this season.
But, if the Hawks dictate the pace, the Grizzlies will pay. The Hawks are top 10 in offensive efficiency, 4th in free throw attempts (24.8), and tops in the league in free throws made (20.2).
Win the Perimeter
I don’t know who had a better third quarter Tuesday night – the Hawks or Dillon Brooks. Atlanta went 11-of-11 from three point range, while Dillon Brooks poured in 23 points, knocking down 4-of-5 3’s in the third for the Grizz. Both of those performances allowed the respective teams to pull away in their games.
In 12 of the Grizzlies last 14 wins, they have hit double-digit three-pointers. Over the same time span, the Grizzlies only hit double-digits three-pointers in 2 of their 11 losses. While the Hawks have made more than 10 three-pointers in all but one game since Nate McMillan took over as coach. They’ve shot better than 40% in 7 of those 17 games.
Both teams have guys that can knock it down from deep, so the Grizz will have to make sure Bogdonovic or Gallinari don’t get into a rhythm and defend the arc as best as possible.
As long as Ja is OK and plays tonight, I think this game stays tight throughout. The opening line of this game reflects that, as the Hawks are favored by 2. That’s pretty complimentary to the Grizzlies, as Atlanta has won 7 straight at home, and is one of the league’s hottest teams. In the end, I think the Grizzlies are able to cool off the hot shooting from the Hawks and win a close one.
Grizzlies 117 - Hawks 111.