WHEN: 7:00 PM CT
WHERE: FedEx Forum, Memphis, TN
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: Bally Sports Southeast/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
MEMPHIS: Ziaire Williams (Out, Patellar Tendinitis) Jaren Jackson Jr. (Out, Right Foot Surgery Recovery), Danny Green (Out, Left Knee Surgery Recovery)
CHARLOTTE: Lamelo Ball (Out, L Ankle Sprain) Gordon Hayward (Out, L Shoulder Contusion) Terry Rozier (Doubtful, R Ankle Sprain) Cody Martin (L Quad Soreness)
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS:
MEMPHIS: Ja Morant, Desmond Bane, Dillon Brooks, Santi Aldama, Steven Adams
CHARLOTTE: Dennis Smith Jr., Kelly Oubre Jr., Jalen McDaniels, P.J. Washington, Mason Plumlee
After going 2-2 on their West Coast road trip, the Grizzlies return home for the first three-game home stand of the season. Their opponent will be the Hornets, whose early season had been all about inconsistencies and injuries, as they have dropped two straight since beating the defending champions at home on Saturday.
Both teams have had some players out early in the year, but while the Grizzlies have gotten guys back, it has gotten even worse for Charlotte. Gordon Hayward has been added to their injury report that already included young All-Star LaMelo Ball. Despite this, the Hornets do still have some talented young players, such as P.J Washington, that can both score and defend at a high level.
What can the Grizzlies do to get a win tonight?
When Desmond Bane is playing at his best, the Grizzlies are nearly unbeatable. In his career, the Grizzlies are 33-9 when Bane scores 20 or more points. This season is averaging nearly 25 points per game along with 5 rebounds, 5 assists, and shooting over 46% from behind the arc.
It is clear that Bane added to his game over the off-season, and it’s good to see the positive results so early in the season. His play, combined with the MVP-level performances the Grizzlies have gotten from Ja Morant, has made them the best backcourt in the NBA so far this season. After scoring 29 or more in every game of the Grizzlies' road trip, watch for Bane to continue his strong play tonight.
Fixing Defensive woes
The biggest problem for the Grizzlies this season has been on the defensive end. After being one of the better defensive teams last season, the Grizzlies are currently ranked 28th in defensive rating and have given up an average of 119 points per game.
Part of this has been due to injuries to the Grizzlies' best defenders, Dillon Brooks missed the first few games, and Jaren Jackson Jr. and Ziaire Williams still haven’t played. But that still is not an excuse for the defense being so inconsistent.
Against Portland, the defense was similar to last year’s Grizzlies for the majority of the game as their rotations, help defense, and rim protection looked better through the first 3 quarters. However, we have yet to see them lock in on that end of the floor for a full 48 minutes. Tonight would be a great chance to showcase that ability.
Put them away early
The Hornets are extremely short-handed, and the Grizzlies definitely have the talent advantage overall. However, they must get off to a good start and not allow the young Hornets to gain confidence early in the game.
We have seen the Grizzlies take teams too lightly when down their main guys in the past, and it has often led to hard-fought games. Memphis has also struggled with putting teams away so far this season, such as when the Trailblazers came back from down 17 in the 4th quarter on Wednesday.
Coming back home to a packed FedEx Forum against a struggling Hornets team, the goal for the Grizzlies should be to stay in control from the opening tip. If the Grizzlies are playing at or near their best, they should win this game comfortably.
For my prediction, I think that returning home against a struggling, injured team should be a win for the Grizzlies, 125-110.