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Memphis Grizzlies vs. New Orleans Pelicans Game Preview

The Memphis Grizzlies are looking to regain their winning touch, as the New Orleans Pelicans are coming to town.

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Memphis Grizzlies v New Orleans Pelicans Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images

WHO: Memphis Grizzlies (10-8, 6-2 home) vs. New Orleans Pelicans (11-7, 5-4 away)

WHEN: 7:00 PM CT

WHERE: FedExForum — Memphis, TN

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

INJURY REPORT:

MEMPHIS: John Konchar (Questionable, calf soreness), Santi Aldama (Doubtful, non-COVID illness), Desmond Bane (Out, toe), Danny Green (Out, knee), Ziaire Williams (Out, Patellar Tendinitis)

NEW ORLEANS: Trey Murphy III (Questionable, right foot contusion), CJ McCollum (Out, health and safety protocols), E.J. Liddell (Out, knee), Kira Lewis Jr. (Out, G League assignment), Dereon Seabron (Out, two-way transfer

PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS:

MEMPHIS: Ja Morant, John Konchar, Dillon Brooks, Jaren Jackson Jr., Steven Adams

NEW ORLEANS: Jose Alvarado, Herb Jones, Brandon Ingram, Zion Williamson, Jonas Valančiūnas

Memphis Grizzlies v New Orleans Pelicans Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images

First and foremost, on behalf of all of Grizzly Bear Blues, I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving if you celebrate. We hope it was a great day of family time, good time, and giving thanks with your loved ones.

The Memphis Grizzlies are back in action tonight, looking to spark a little bit of momentum during this rough stretch. Memphis has lost 4 of their past 5 games, dating back to last Sunday, and there are a lot of reasons for this slump. They haven’t had any sort of lineup flow due to injuries for Ja Morant, Desmond Bane, and Jaren Jackson Jr. On the floor, the defense has been shaky, especially from downtown, and the offense has sputtered in different segments of the game.

It’s an 82-game season, and there’s plenty of time to find your footing and build momentum. Tonight, the Grizzlies will look to do so against their division foe, the New Orleans Pelicans. In the midst of the chaos in the Western Conference — 2 games between the 1-seed Phoenix Suns and the 10-seed Dallas Mavericks — the Pelicans have trended towards the top-4 in the West, due to their depth and their two-way excellence (top-5 in both offensive and defensive rating right now).

Can the Grizzlies get back to their winning ways?

Before I get to some keys, we have something to be thankful for in this game: our first look at Ja Morant versus Zion Williamson since early 2021. I’m knocking on wood as I’m typing that sentence, but it should be a thrill to watch these two back on the court together — especially since it’s their first game in the midst of Morant’s superstar surge.

Memphis Grizzlies v New Orleans Pelicans Photo by Layne Murdoch Jr./NBAE via Getty Images

Battle of Force

Ja Morant and Zion Williamson will garner most of the headlines in this game. They both ooze star power, and their skillsets are electrifying — two of the most “must-see TV players in the sport. Given their history dating back to their AAU days and their draft statuses, there’s plenty of reason to be pumped about these two young stars going toe-to-toe against each other once again.

A matchup I’m eagerly anticipating is the one between Williamson and Jaren Jackson Jr.

Both of these players exhibit such force on either side of the floor in their games. Zion Williamson’s force comes on the offense — unleashing his power on poor defenders with his relentless interior attack in a way we haven’t really seen since Shaquille O’Neal. Jaren Jackson Jr. seems to have leveled up defensively — utilizing his size and length to impose his will on defenders both when protecting the rim and switching out on the perimeter.

We are going to see the forces of Williamson’s offense and Jackson’s defense will power up and collide at each other like a scene out of Dragonball Z. As both of these power forwards wreck opponents in their specialities, who comes out on top?

In theory, when identifying defenders who could slow down Zion, Jaren Jackson should be on the short list of them — given his prowess as a big rim protector and perimeter defender. Jackson holds the size advantage over Williamson by about 5 inches, and he could use it to make life more difficult from Zion in the paint. In addition, Jackson has added more strength to absorb contact better inside. With this matchup, it’ll boil down to how the First-Team All-Defense big man can defend without fouling to contain the bowling-ball attack.

This game will be decided by whose force proves to be more impactful.

Memphis Grizzlies v New Orleans Pelicans Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

Big Bench Energy

Another pivotal element of this game will be the bench. The Pelicans’ bench prevailed in last week’s showdown, powered by Larry Nance Jr. and Jose Alvarado — who combined for 31 points.

McCollum’s absence should mean Alvarado gets the starting nod, but the Pelicans still have a lot of depth off the bench between Nance, Devonte Graham, Trey Murphy, and Dyson Daniels.

The Grizzlies’ bench will need to string together a strong outing, especially in light of the team’s recent injuries, to help the team regain some momentum. The big player to watch here is Brandon Clarke. In last week’s showdown, he scored 15 points, hauled in 13 rebounds, and blocked 3 shots. Since then, he’s only tallied 10 points and 10 rebounds total over the past 3 games. He’s just looked uncomfortable and frankly rushed on the offensive end of the floor — just totally unlike himself. They’ll need his energy to pop off of the bench to give them a boost in this game.

He and Tyus Jones should lead the charge for the Grizzlies in this matchup, and it’d be nice if rookies David Roddy and Jake LaRavia can find a groove and impact the game where needed, as this Pelicans’ bench is one capable of creating or building upon leads.


This game has the makings of an electrifying Friday night showdown for the holiday week. It’s not a complete DEFCON situation, but I’m sure there’s a level of urgency for the Memphis Grizzlies, as they’ve lost 4 of their past 5 games.

Final score prediction: Grizzlies - 120, Pelicans - 114

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