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Memphis Grizzlies vs. Sacramento Kings Game Preview

Still shorthanded, the Grizzlies welcome the red-hot Kings to town.

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NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Sacramento Kings Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

WHO: Memphis Grizzlies (10-7, 6-1 home) vs. Sacramento Kings (9-6, 3-3 away)

WHEN: 7:00 PM CT

WHERE: FedEx Forum – Memphis, Tennessee

HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: Bally Sports Southeast/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis

INJURY REPORT:

MEMPHIS: Ja Morant (Doubtful, Ankle), Desmond Bane (Out, Toe), Danny Green (Out, Knee), Ziaire Williams (Out, Knee)

SACRAMENTO: None

PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS:

MEMPHIS: Tyus Jones, John Konchar, Dillon Brooks, Jaren Jackson Jr., Steven Adams

SACRAMENTO: De’Aaron Fox, Kevin Huerter, Harrison Barnes, Keegan Murray, Domantas Sabonis

The Grizzlies gave a valiant effort Sunday against the Brooklyn Nets, but ultimately being without their three best players was too much to overcome. Memphis was neck and neck with the Nets through three quarters, but a three-point barrage from Yuta Watanabe helped Brooklyn pull away.

Tonight will mark Memphis’s second straight game without Desmond Bane and Ja Morant, and the Grizzlies will have their hands full. The Sacramento Kings have won six straight games, including a 32-point thrashing against the Nets. De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis have been exceptional, as Sacramento has rocketed up the Western Conference standings.

This is the second meeting between the Kings and Grizzlies this season. Memphis won 125-110 as Morant and Bane combined for 53 points, 11 rebounds, and 10 assists. Without their top two scorers, the Grizzlies will need Dillon Brooks, Jaren Jackson Jr., and others to step up if they want to get their 11th win this season. Brooks had a great two-way performance on Sunday, and Memphis got meaningful contributions from John Konchar, Steven Adams, and Tyus Jones. With Jaren Jackson Jr. returning to the lineup, Memphis’s paint protection will be much better, which will be pivotal in slowing Fox and Sabonis who are 11th and 18th in paint points per game, respectively.

As the Kings look to win their seventh straight game, the Grizzlies look to win their eighth straight against Sacramento. Even with Morant and Bane sidelined, tonight should be a fun matchup if the Grizzlies can put together another gritty team performance. What are the keys to Memphis getting back into the win column?

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Sacramento Kings Sergio Estrada-USA TODAY Sports

Three-point defense

It is no secret Memphis’s three-point defense has been bad. The Grizzlies give up the fourth-most three-pointers a game. The Kings have the second-best three-point differential percentage in the league. When these teams met last month, the Kings went 12-38 from deep (31.5%). Since then Sacramento has shot 38.1% from beyond the arc, led by Kevin Huerter who is shooting 49.5% on 7.4 three-point attempts per game.

On Sunday, Brooklyn shot 16-34 (47.1%) from deep. If Memphis has any intention of winning without its two top scorers, the three-point defense has to improve. A lot of Memphis’s defensive woes are a result of poor off-ball defense. This includes poor rotations and switches, bad communication, and mental lapses. Whether it be Jones, Konchar, Jake LaRavia, or David Roddy, the Grizzlies are being killed when players try to help on defense.

At this point, completely revamping the defensive game plan might be the only solution for Memphis. Whatever they do, the Grizzlies need to figure it out ASAP because, without their top two scorers, Memphis does not have the firepower to keep up with Sacramento’s three-point shooting.

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at Memphis Grizzlies Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

Jaren Jackson Jr. as the main option

Since Morant was drafted in 2019, we have seen only seen Jackson as the main option in a few games. One of the last times we saw Jackson without Morant was an April game against Utah last season, he tallied 28 points on 8-27 FG and 3-10 3PT, along with seven rebounds and three blocks.

Jackson has never been particularly efficient without Morant. He has averaged 20 points – on 45.8/35.3/84.7% shooting splits, as well as 4.9 rebounds and two blocks without his costar. In Memphis’s two playoff games without Morant last season, Jackson tallied 12 and 21 points on a combined 11-29 shooting and 5-13 from outside.

The problem is that Jackson carries such a defensive burden that it is asking a lot for him to be incredibly efficient as the main option. However, the fifth-year pro has shown an ability to take over games and last Friday against the Thunder, Jackson was awesome. On the nights when Jackson’s deep balls are falling and he is aggressive offensively, he is one of the most dominant two-way players. On other nights, he is one of the more frustrating offensive players I have ever watched. I am betting on the good Jackson to show up tonight.

With Bane and Morant out for a couple of weeks, Jackson will get plenty of time as an offensive focal point. Here is to hoping he can live up to his expectations as a franchise cornerstone.

The Prediction

Memphis is in a really tough spot right now. It is hard to survive in the NBA without your top two stars but the Grizz have the supporting cast to tread water until Bane and Morant return. The Grizzlies catch a break with their schedule as they only play four games between tonight and next Wednesday. If Memphis can go 2-2 in that stretch, the Grizzlies will be set up well when they get Ziaire Williams and their stars back.

However, I do not think tonight is the night Memphis overcomes the odds. Even at home, where they are 6-1, Memphis is too undermanned and facing a red-hot Sacramento team. If the Grizzlies are to win, it will be on the backs of improved team defense and an incredible performance from Jackson, but I do not think Memphis will be able to keep up with the Kings.

Final Score: Kings 122, Grizzlies 108

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