WHEN: 9:00 PM CT
WHERE: Golden 1 Center, Sacramento, California
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: Bally Sports Southeast/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
MEMPHIS: John Konchar (Questionable, Left Shoulder Soreness), Ziaire Williams (Out, Right Knee Soreness), Jaren Jackson Jr. (Out, Right Foot Surgery Recovery), Danny Green (Out, Left Knee Surgery Recovery)
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS:
MEMPHIS: Ja Morant, Desmond Bane, Dillon Brooks, Santi Aldama, Steven Adams
SACRAMENTO: De’Aaron Fox, Kevin Huerter, Harrison Barnes, Keegan Murray, Domantas Sabonis
The Grizzlies received a well-deserved two-day rest after pulling out an incredible victory on Monday. Memphis moved to 2-0 at home this year after the 134-124 win against Brooklyn. Despite 74 points from Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, Memphis pulled away in the fourth thanks to Ja Morant and Desmond Bane’s offensive showcase.
Bane recorded a new career high tallying 38 points to go along with seven assists. After a sluggish start to the year, Bane finally found his groove – he shot 14/21 and 8/11 from deep. He scored 32 of his 38 points in the second half, including 13 in the fourth quarter. It was a relief to see Bane’s jump shot find the bottom of the net, but his ability to get around defenders and finish contested layups was even more impressive.
Bane’s explosion was not the only reason Memphis was victorious on Monday. Morant dazzled once again, scoring 38 of his own on top of seven assists and eight rebounds. Morant scored 24 in the first half and electrified the crowd with alley-oops and fast break jams. What stood out the most was his improved three-point jumper. Morant shot 4/6 on three-pointers including a dagger from way beyond the arc.
NBA leading scorer on 55/60/86% shooting. pic.twitter.com/a0b2u1XQJC— StatMuse (@statmuse) October 25, 2022
In a game where Memphis battled two future Hall of Famers, Morant was the best player on the court. This season he is averaging 35.3 points, 7 assists, 4.3 rebounds and 1.8 stocks. While his current production is not sustainable, it is undeniable. Morant is even better this year after making the All-NBA Second Team last season.
Memphis will head to the West Coast for the first time this season as they prepare for a four-game road trip. First up: Sacramento. The Kings might be 0-3, but do not be deceived, this squad is talented. Their losses have come against the Trailblazers, Clippers and Warriors and have been by an average margin of 4.7 points. De’Aaron Fox has been on a tear – he is averaging 31.7 points, 7.0 assists and 5.7 rebounds on 59.4 FG% and 45% from 3PT.
As the Grizzlies prepare for the first leg of this four-game road stint, they will need their stars to remain hot. However, you cannot rely on 76 points from Morant and Bane to win. For the Grizzlies to walk away victorious tonight, Dillon Brooks will need to return to form and Memphis’s interior defense has to improve.
Dillon Brooks Shakes Off The Rust
Now in his sixth season, Brooks is at a pivotal point in his career. He enters unrestricted free agency next summer and, assuming he is still in Memphis, he will have to decide what career path he wants to take. While much maligned, Brooks has been crucial to Memphis’s recent success. His attitude and defensive presence have been invaluable assets to the Grizzlies and he helped shape their identity. However, his decision-making and inconsistent jumper often have Grizzlies fans ready to trade him.
Brooks made his regular-season debut on Monday against Brooklyn, after being sidelined with thigh soreness. He shot 2/13 (15.4%) and 0/5 from three. Brooks was matched with Durant who finished with 37 on 14/20 shooting. He also tallied four points, one assist, zero rebounds, zero steals, zero blocks, two turnovers and three personal fouls. It is this type of performance that has left a bad taste in Grizzlies fans’ mouths over the years.
At his best, Brooks can be an elite three-and-d wing who can guard nearly every position and make ridiculously contested jumpers. At his worst, Brooks can shoot you out of a playoff game. With DB, it has always been about the balance of confidence and awareness. He has the necessary skill but his urge to jack up shots can crush the Grizzlies.
Brooks averaged 18.4 points per game last year and 17.2 the season before that. Too much pressure is on Bane and Morant to score but Brooks could be the guy to step up. If Brooks can find the balance between confidence and awareness and become a more efficient scorer – especially from deep – he will be the reason Memphis is victorious tonight.
Protect the Inside
With Jaren Jackson Jr. out, Memphis’s interior defense has struggled. Against Julius Randle and the Knicks, the Grizzlies were outscored 68-48 in the paint. Memphis was also outscored in the paint in each game of their Texas road trip. Without JJJ manning the middle, Randle scored 24 and Christian Wood scored 25. Even Nic Claxton scored 16.
Domantas Sabonis is arguably the best big man the Grizzlies have faced this year. If Memphis is unable to protect the interior, Sabonis will feast. Steven Adams is averaging two blocks per game and Santi Aldama is averaging 1.8. However, Brandon Clarke and the Grizzlies’ array of forwards have struggled to protect the interior.
Sabonis is only averaging 14.3 points and 9.3 rebounds for the year but the former All-Star is bound to get going soon. Adams and Aldama have been able to hold their own together but when Memphis goes small, the Grizzlies are vulnerable. For Memphis to move to 4-1, they will need better rim protection.
The Grizzlies are coming off their best game of the year but they face a tough test as they travel across the country. Memphis is the better team but Sacramento is feisty and destined to get a win eventually.
Fox and Morant are two of the fastest players in the NBA and can push their teams into transition like no one else. The game will be high-scoring and full of fast-break highlights. Sabonis will eat inside, notching his first 20-point game of the year. However, Bane caught fire in the second half against Brooklyn and with two days rest, I expect him to use that momentum to have a big game tonight. Morant will erupt again, notching his fourth 30+ point outing of the year, and Memphis will roll on to Utah.
Memphis 131, Sacramento 126
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