WHEN: 6:30 PM CT
WHERE: Amalie Arena, Tampa, Florida
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: Bally Sports Southeast/NBA League Pass/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
MEMPHIS: Grayson Allen (Out, abdomen), Sean McDermott (Out, foot)
TORONTO: Kyle Lowry (Out, rest), Fred VanVleet (Out, hip), Chris Boucher (Out, knee), OG Anunoby (Out, calf), Paul Watson (Out, knee), Yuta Watanabe (Doubtful, ankle)
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS:
MEMPHIS: Ja Morant, Desmond Bane, Dillon Brooks, Kyle Anderson, Jonas Valanciunas
TORONTO: Malachi Flynn, Gary Trent Jr., Stanley Johnson, Pascal Siakam, Khem Birch
The Memphis Grizzlies continue to back their way into the Playoffs. Right now, their magic number is 2 to clinch a spot in the play-in games. But the way they have been playing lately, it’s hard to be confident that they will be able to win their way into an actual playoff series.
The Grizz took an embarrassing loss to Detroit on Thursday night in a game where they have more talent, and were actually playing for something. There’s plenty of finger-pointing amongst the fan base as to whose fault it is that the team is struggling as of late. This team is a .500 team, and has hovered around that mark for the majority of the season, and to be honest, the team just looks tired. That’s understandable as they haven’t had two days off in a row since the All-Star break back in March. Also, Coach Taylor Jenkins seems to be trying to shorten the rotation, while adding an important piece in Jaren Jackson Jr. So far, that has not gone well at all.
Now, the Grizzlies head down south to play ‘We the North’ and try to get back on the winning track. If the Grizzlies lose this one, Grizz Twitter may explode. I’d like to say they are getting off easy with VanVleet and Kyle Lowry both out. On the other hand, it could be strategy on the Raptors’ part as the Grizzlies have not fared well against teams that have been shorthanded.
This game is a must win for the Grizzlies, not just to build the confidence of the fan base, but also to build the confidence of a team. Winning is the cure for everything.
Here are a few things they need to do to get the ‘W’ tonight.
Win the Battle in the Paint
It’s been the Grizzlies constant – winning the battle down low. They lead the league in average points in the paint with nearly 56 points per game. Whether it’s Jonas getting put backs on the offensive glass; Ja driving to the lane; or Tyus dropping in floaters, it seemed as if the Grizzlies would always be able to take advantage of matchups close to the bucket. That wasn’t the case Thursday night against Detroit. The Pistons outscored the Grizzlies 62 to 54.
I understand that many of the Grizzlies wings have been struggling from the perimeter, and maybe it’s them just trying to find their shot, but in 4 of the 6 games in May, the Grizz have shot higher than their season average from 3-point.
Earlier this week, in my preview of the Minnesota game, I said the Grizz need to find their shot to open up down low. The more I think about it, the Grizzlies need to just do what they do best, and that’s score in the paint.
The Raptors won’t make it easy though with Siakam down low. He scored 44 points the other night in Toronto’s overtime loss to Washington, the majority coming in the paint. He scored 32 points in the teams’ previous meeting this season, won by Toronto.
Don’t let the Raptors Gain Confidence
As mentioned in the open, this Raptors team is playing shorthanded, but as we have seen at times this season, that spells trouble for the Grizzlies.
We’ve seen them lose games to not only Detroit, but OKC, Orlando, and a Clippers team without both Paul George and Kawhi. That’s because they let the teams hang around too long, the teams gain confidence and then it’s too late for the Grizz.
That cannot happen against Toronto. Technically, Toronto is still alive in the Eastern Conference playoff picture, but with the lineup they are rolling out, and everything else that has to happen for them to get in, this team is as good as eliminated. That makes them that much more dangerous as they are playing with nothing to lose.
The Grizzlies need to get up early and keep the foot on the throat when they have the lead.
The regular season is winding down for the Grizzlies and it can’t come soon enough. This team is exhausted. But, I think they know what they have to do, and that’s win a few more and they are in the play-in. This is a game where I feel like they will take care of business and get the job done.
Sidenote: If Jaren Jackson does not start, I would like to see him get a little more run with the starters if they do plan on starting him sometime this season. If that’s not the plan, they Jenkins needs to treat the rotations as such.
Grizzlies are favored by 4.5 right now – they play better on the road and have stayed at or above .500 for nearly two months. I once again think that’s the case when the night’s over.
Final: Grizzlies 121 Toronto 108