It is here, Memphis. A weekend four years in the making. Grizzlies playoff basketball is back in FedExForum.
It has been far too long.
Ja Morant and his young, hungry Grizzlies are back home ready to take the fight to the Utah Jazz in Games 3 and 4. Memphis earned the split in Salt Lake City and now possess home court advantage in this series, an extremely valuable reality for a young team sure to feed off the energy of a sure to be raucous Beale Street crowd. Yet the Jazz, of course, were the better team in the regular season and now have Donovan Mitchell back in the fold.
It’s a series alright. Where will the weekend ahead take us?
For this roundtable, I am joined by GBB Associate Editor Parker Fleming, GBB Senior Writer Ben Hogan, and GBB Writer Lauren Harvey.
The Memphis Grizzlies will not be at the same capacity levels in FedExForum as the Utah Jazz are in their home arena, or even the Nashville Predators are down I-40 in Tennessee, in part due to Memphis/Shelby County COVID-19 restrictions. How much does that matter when it comes to the environment/home court advantage the Grizzlies hope to have this weekend?
GBB Site Manager Joe Mullinax (@JoeMullinax) - If the last 14+ months have taught us anything, it should be that we should be thankful for everything as “normal” returns and try to not dwell on things outside of our control. The Shelby County health protocols are designed to have the best interest of the people at heart, and they are privy to information that we are not in some situations. They certainly understand the COVID-19 data for Memphis and the surrounding area better than I do. 10,000-ish fans at FedExForum is a lot better than 0. Can it be frustrating when you look around and see different standards being implemented? Of course. But that’s the thing about our republic - different localities will make different choices. One size doesn’t fit all. Personally, I am thankful there will be an actual roar from Grizzlies fans at all and not one over loud speakers. Perspective is key.
GBB Associate Editor Parker Fleming (@PAKA_FLOCKA) - It’s extremely important. Other teams are starting to go full - or full-ish - capacity without any hiccups, and this young team deserves the same circumstances. There’s no reason the Grizzlies shouldn’t match the Nashville Predators capacity.
GBB Senior Writer Ben Hogan (@NotTheGolfer) - Not too much. The reason is because, even though it will only be at 55% capacity, it will still be the largest home crowd this team has played in front of. This young Grizzlies team has shown that they feed off the crowd, no matter how large it is, because they just enjoy playing in front of Grizz fans. And we also know how loud the Grindhouse can get during playoff time (even with a limited amount), and the crowd will be extra lubricated with a late tip at 8:30, just feet away from Beale Street.
GBB Writer Lauren Harvey (@DragicKingdom) - I am confident even at diminished capacity the Grindhouse will be a tough environment for the Jazz. Even so, the Grizzlies have been a better road team all season and while home court advantage is important, I suspect it means more to the Jazz than the Grizzlies. One thing I think everyone can agree on is if there is a game 6, the capacity should be increased. There is nothing like a packed Grindhouse for a playoff game and fans deserve that experience.
The reserves have struggled mightily in recent games, give or take a performance. Which bench player in particular would you like to see have a resurgence in these two home games at FedExForum?
MULLINAX - De’Anthony Melton makes a lot of sense to be the choice here since he has remained in the rotation mix and has continued to struggle. His game fits well next to Ja Morant’s and he has done well enough to earn his spot. But while he should remain and try to find his footing, it is Grayson Allen who should sit in favor of Brandon Clarke - my actual answer. Clarke has gone from a supposed untouchable next to Ja and Jaren Jackson Jr. to out of the rotation. Unless he is hurt (he isn’t on the injury report) he should be playing. No more four guard and Jaren Jackson Jr. lineups. Get Clarke run and let him do what he does best - rim run and be an athlete on both ends of the floor. Grayson has really had issues, and when his shot isn’t falling the fact the Jazz attack him defensively almost every time down the floor really shines through. It’s time to give Clarke a shot.
FLEMING - I could cheat and say Brandon Clarke, because there’s no reason Grayson Allen should be playing over him at this stage of the season - especially with how lost he’s been outside the 3-ball (which is still struggling). I’m going to roll with De’Anthony Melton. He’s the only guy who could match Utah’s bench with offensive firepower, while also serving as a secondary stopper on Mike Conley and Donovan Mitchell. It’s been a rough month for Melton, but his “do something” style of play could help the Grizzlies stay alive without the starters.
HOGAN - De’Anthony Melton. So far, he’s 25% from the field, including 1-7 from 3, but he’s averaging more than 15 minutes a game. If he is playing that much, he needs to be effective on both ends of the floor. As we saw in Game 2, if the Jazz want to get into a shootout, the Grizzlies need to be firing on all cylinders. The more guys that are hitting shots will also take a little bit of the weight off Ja. Melton is a streaky shooter, and right now, he’s in a bad stretch. If he can turn it around, the Jazz could be in trouble.
HARVEY - It would be fantastic to see De’Anthony Melton round back into form in this series. Just two months ago I thought Melton could be the third most important player on this roster going forward and he’s been missing in action. Shooting for Melton will come and go, he needs to get in rhythm with deflections and diving for 50/50 balls. I hope Mr. Do Something makes his imprint on this series and I anticipate he will.
The Grizzlies now have home court entering Games 3 and 4. Will Memphis still have it when they head back to Utah for their game Wednesday? If so, why? If not, why not?
Mullinax - They will not still have home court advantage when they head back to Utah for Game Five. The Jazz will almost certainly take one of these two games at home. Is it more likely that the Grizzlies win both these games in FedExForum than the Jazz will? Yes. For every Jazz fan pointing out that they shot 25% from three in Game One, Grizzlies fans should note that Utah made 19 threes in Game Two and STILL got the game to a one possession contest. It’s a close series. But the Jazz are the better team, and it’s probable they earn the split. Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert, Mike Conley, an elite reserve unit (perhaps the biggest difference given the Grizzlies bench issues)...they’re too good to not get one of these two, barring injury.
Fleming - Let’s get fun with it. The Grizzlies will win both games 3 and 4. While early foul trouble with Dillon Brooks and Jonas Valanciunas hurt them, the pick-and-roll defense and Utah’s 3-point attack (19-39 from 3) were the backbreakers for them. I expect adjustments on that front. In addition, we’ve seen the past 2 games that they don’t have the personnel to stop Ja Morant or Dillon Brooks, especially with the former getting tasked with an older Mike Conley. Memphis is going to have Utah facing elimination back in Salt Lake City.
Hogan - No. The Grizzlies were a .500 team at home in the regular season, and I think that holds true for this upcoming two-game set. I said on this week’s ‘3 and D’ podcast that I thought things would be tied up at 2 after Monday’s game. I’m sticking with that prediction, but I’m not as confident as I was after watching Game 2. The Jazz looked like they were pressing, and threw everything they had at the Grizz to win. I don’t know if they can do that for 4 games in this series. But, I think they will be able to do enough to get one win in Memphis.
Harvey - The Grizzlies will split this upcoming homestand. Even without home court, the Grizz will make this a competitive series. Ja Morant will continue his superstar ascension and the bench will get back on track. No matter the outcome the future is bright for the Memphis Grizzlies.
Thanks to Lauren, Ben, and Parker for joining me for this preview version of the GBB Roundtable! Enjoy the games.