WHEN: 6:30 P.M. CT
WHERE: American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: Bally Sports Southeast/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
MEMPHIS: Steven Adams (Questionable, ankle), Brandon Clarke (Questionable, back), Kyle Anderson (Out, Health and Safety Protocols), Desmond Bane (Out, Health and Safety Protocols), Dillon Brooks (Out, ankle), Tyus Jones (Out, Health and Safety Protocols)
Dallas: Sterling Brown (Out, foot)
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS:
MEMPHIS: Ja Morant, John Konchar, Ziaire Williams, Jaren Jackson Jr., Steven Adams
Dallas: Luka Doncic, Jalen Brunson, Dorrian Finney-Smith, Maxi Kleber, Kristaps Porzingis
Rarely are there important games in January, but in this case, I will make an exception. This is a very important one for the Grizzlies to get.
With nearly three months still left in the NBA season, the Memphis Grizzlies will wrap up their season series with their division rival Dallas Mavericks in a Sunday evening tilt.
The way things stand right now, the Grizzlies are third in the West, with a one game lead over the Utah Jazz and a five game lead over Dallas in the division. Dallas currently has a 2-1 advantage in the season series against the Grizz. So, a Grizz win would not only give them a split in the season series, but also provide a six-game cushion in the division.
Unfortunately for Memphis, they will once again be missing key pieces in Dillon Brooks, Kyle Anderson, Desmond Bane, and Tyus Jones. Both Steven Adams and Brandon Clarke popped up on the injury report as questionable. I feel that at least one, if not both of Adams and Clarke do suit up for the game.
On the other side, Dallas will only be without Sterling Brown. Luka will not be 100% after suffering a neck injury in the Mavs loss to Phoenix on Thursday. It will be interesting to see if that will hamper Luka, as he has dominated the Grizz in the last two games.
These two teams met just 9 days ago when the Mavs snapped the Grizzlies 11-game winning streak with a 112-85 throttling. It was obvious the Grizz were tired, but the Mavericks did a fantastic job of limiting the Grizzlies in the second half.
Let’s take a look at a few keys that will hopefully prevent a repeat of that game from happening.
I know this is something that it easier said than done. In the lone Grizzlies win against Dallas this season, Luka did not play. In the other two games, he is averaging 26.5 points, 10.5 rebounds, and 8.5 assists. While those are impressive numbers, Luka does have 15 turnovers in those two games.
If the Mavs are to beat the Grizzlies, they are going to have to do it through Luka. As you can tell with those numbers, he will have the ball most of the time during Mavericks possessions. In fact, Luka is third in the league in touches per game (91.8), second in time of possession (9.2), and average seconds per touch (5.98). Also according to NBA.com stats, Doncic shoots nearly 60 percent of his shots after having the ball for more than six seconds in his possession and nearly half of his shots come after he’s taken at least 7 dribbles.
With the Grizzlies missing key defenders in Dillon Brooks and Kyle Anderson, they have to cut off Luka’s path to the basket. In the second half of last week’s game, he was a maestro with the ball and conducted the game to his liking. He did go 0-6 from 3, so if the Grizzlies can allow his to settle for some long range shots, they could go a long way to getting a win. While Luka is still a fantastic passer, forcing him to make decisions earlier in the shot clock that he’s used to could make him turn the ball over even more than he has already.
Dominate the Paint
I feel like I write this every time I do a game preview, but this is the Grizzlies bread and butter. The team leads the league in points in the paint per game at 56.0. In the three games against Dallas, the Grizz have been held below their season average.
In last Friday’s loss, the Grizz were outscored in the paint 72-50. It’s also the only game in the last nine where Jaren Jackson Jr. did not have multiple blocks. Jaren and Clarke started and Adams came off the bench. While JJJ has thrived playing the five, I think it’s important to have Adams start in games like this. He is a big presence and able to clog things up in the middle and make it a little more uncomfortable for Dallas.
On the offensive end, Jaren will need to play down low more than he did in the last meeting, while Ja will continue to do what he can to get to the bucket.
Get Some Help
As a wrestling fan, I always enjoy writing about the third man to lead this team along side Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. I’ve done it in a review piece with Dillon Brooks and preview piece with Desmond Bane, who have both shown they have what it takes to be that guy. Well, neither of them will be playing Sunday, so much like ‘96 Bash at the Beach, the third man is a mystery.
On Friday in Denver, Ja and Jaren got help for third and even fourth guy in DeAnthony Melton and Ziaire Williams. Willone of them be able to step up again, or will it be Brandon Clarke or John Konchar? The Grizzlies embody the next man up mentality, so I know the effort will be there, but Ja and Jaren will not be able to get it done by themselves.
When it comes to big games, time and time again the Memphis Grizzlies have answered the bell. I don’t think this game will be any different. It will be tough, but it’s hard to count out any team that has Ja Morant starting. The Grizzlies know they have two days of rest following Sunday’s game, so I expect them to go all out.
Final: Grizzlies 108 Dallas 101