WHEN: 7:00PM CT
WHERE: FedEx Forum — Memphis, TN
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: Bally Sports Southeast/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
MEMPHIS: Desmond Bane (Out, toe), Danny Green (Out, knee), Kenneth Lofton Jr. (Out, Two-Way Transfer), Vince Williams Jr. (Out, Two-Way Transfer), Ziaire Williams (Out, Patellar Tendinitis)
OKLAHOMA CITY: Chet Homgren (Out, Foot), Tre Mann (Out, Back), Darius Bazley (Out, Ankle)
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS:
MEMPHIS: Ja Morant, John Konchar, Dillon Brooks, Jaren Jackson Jr., Steven Adams
OKLAHOMA CITY: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Josh Giddey, Aaron Wiggins, Luguentz Dort, Aleksej Pokusevski
After two straight losses on the road, the Memphis Grizzlies return to face a Thunder team that has impressed early in the year. Memphis sits at 9-6 on the year and needs a bounce-back win at home to get back on track.
Oklahoma City enters tonight's matchup with the Grizzlies after winning 3 of their last 4 games thanks to a lot of heroics from Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. The only loss in that stretch was the Celtics, who have been one of the best teams in the NBA this season, by 4 points on the road.
For the Grizzlies, it definitely won’t be an easy matchup. Here are some keys to tonight’s game.
Slowing down Shai
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has been on an insane tear, in his last three games he has scored 37,37, and 42 respectively. He has been one of the biggest topics in the NBA this week and his play has gotten him some early-season All-Star buzz as well. Nights like tonight are where Dillon Brooks becomes extremely important.
Gilgeous-Alexander is a bigger guard who likes to score in the pain, something that Brooks’ size and strength can help him with. Brooks has also been known to play extremely tight off the ball, which will be important when guarding a player that can get to his sports very easily. It will be another tough assignment this season for Brooks, but he has proven time and time again he is up for the challenge on that end of the floor.
Getting Jaren Jackson Jr. going offensively
Jaren Jackson Jr. looked healthy and made an immediate impact on the game on that end. In his first game back, Jaren finished with 5 blocks, which equals the Grizzlies team average while he was out.
However, he struggled on the offensive end, shooting just 3-14 from the floor and 0-7 from the three-point line. It was his first game back so it’s not too concerning, but the Grizzlies should make an effort for Jackson to be a clear staple of the offense.
To start they should look for him more on the inside, especially when he has sealed off his defender in the post. There were lots of opportunities for this against the Pelicans, but he didn’t get the ball in a lot of mismatched situations. This could lead to more easy buckets inside for Jackson, which could help sustain the offense with Desmond Bane out.
How can they make up for the loss of Bane?
Desmond Bane was playing at an All-Star level before getting injured this week, and it’s impossible to fully replace his impact. However, there are a few players that need to step up to even get close to Bane’s production.
These players include John Konchar, who is starting in Bane’s place, and rookies David Roddy and Jake LaRavia. Although LaRavia did not play on Tuesday, I think his shooting could be crucial while Bane is out. The same goes for Konchar as a spot-up shooter in the starting 5. The injury to Bane will also open up more minutes for Roddy, who has been up and down this season, to show some consistency offensively.
The Grizzlies have struggled to stay healthy all season, and Bane’s injury is just another example. All things considered though, I think they have navigated the injuries as well as they could. The depth of this team is not what it once was, but there are still quality players being pushed into bigger roles.
Prediction: Grizzlies win a thriller 115-113.
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