The Memphis Grizzlies (20-11) will face off against the Golden State Warriors (15-18) in San Francisco at 8:00 PM EST/ 7:00 pm CST on Christmas Day, one of five highly touted matchups on the most exciting day of the regular season in the NBA. Many storylines add excitement to one of the most competitive and exciting rivalries in the NBA over the past few years.
This will be the first time the Grizzlies have played a Christmas Day game in the history of the franchise, another point of proof that this version of the Grizzlies is the most exciting and must-see roster in franchise history. Of course, the fact that the Grizzlies and Warriors have eliminated each from playoff contention in each of the past two seasons adds hype to the game as well: Memphis eliminated Golden State for the final playoff spot in the West in 2021, while Golden State returned the favor by ending the Grizzlies season in the Western Conference semifinals in 2022. While the Warriors have had the upper hand due to winning more recently and on a bigger stage in route to their 2022 NBA Championship, its hard to argue that many teams, if any, have played the Warriors better than Memphis has since the Taylor Jenkins/Ja Morant era began.
While the recent history between these two franchises provides plenty of excitement and intrigue for this matchup, there are also significant factors in the present that could factor into the outcome of this game. Here are a few storylines to watch:
Recent Injury Luck, or Lack of Luck, Looms Large
Though the Grizzlies have established themselves at or near the top of the Western Conference for a few weeks, one of the biggest storylines for theirs season so far has been the ability to have all their best talents healthy at once. Jaren Jackson Jr. and Dillon Brooks were absent to start the year, but then once both of them return in the few few weeks of the season, Desmond Bane was out for more than a month. Fortunately, the Grizzlies finally had their full assortment of starters available on Friday night against the Phoenix Suns. The end result was a 25-point victory, even with Ja Morant and Bane both struggling. For Memphis, having the roster the healthiest it has been all season could not have come at a better time.
The same cannot be said for the Warriors. Steph Curry’s shoulder injury from earlier in December will keep him out of action until 2023. Furthermore, Golden State also announced that All-Star forward Andrew Wiggins will miss tonight’s showdown as well due to a groin injury. Injuries have been one factor as to why the Warriors have lost five of their last six games. Though the Western Conference playoff picture remains very tight heading into 2023, Golden State certainly has to hope health will be more on their side after the holiday season.
Perimeter and Post Defense Could Determine Who Wins
With Wiggins and Curry not available, DraftKings currently has the Grizzlies as a 5 1⁄2 point favorite on the road against the Warriors. However, despite health being on their side, there are a few concerns the Grizzlies must remain focused on minimizing against the Warriors. In general, the Grizzlies have struggled on the road compared to their play at home, though Friday’s victory in Phoenix hopefully means better times ahead when away from Memphis.
The main reason as to why the Grizzlies have struggled on the road is their three point defense. Entering Friday’s matchup against the Suns, the Grizzlies ranked last in OPP threes allowed per game and 28th in OPP 3P% among NBA teams in road games. Before Friday, Memphis’s opponents had made 55 more threes than the Grizzlies over their 15 road games combined. Entering Sunday, the Warriors rank first in threes per game overall in the NBA, making over 16 per game. With Curry and Wiggins out, Jordan Poole and Klay Thompson will likely have the green light to take threes at will if they have a good look. As a result, betting the over for Poole (25.5) and/or Klay Thompson (21.5) when it comes to points may be a savvy Christmas day player prop to wager on.
While the Grizzlies must improve their perimeter defense, the Warriors have struggled defending the paint in recent weeks. Meanwhile, the Grizzlies have done quite well offensively near the basket, with major wins over the Bucks and Suns in recent days due to thriving in the paint. The of Jaren Jackson Jr. and Brandon Clarke have especially been productive, as both players are having plenty of success on offense during the holiday season. As a result, betting the over for Clarke (9.5) and/or Jackson Jr. (15.5) in terms of points could also be a smart play.
Will the Game Be Close?
This seems to be a fair question based off recent twins for both teams. For both the Grizzlies and Warriors, six of their last seven games have been decided by 10 or more points. Though the Grizzlies have won eight out of 10 while the Warriors have lost five out of six, both teams may be due for a close game. And if the Warriors can find success from three early, that could make Golden State a sneaky bet at 5 1⁄2 point underdogs.
Furthermore, with the current over/under being set at 229 1⁄2 points, the under could also be a wise choice. The Grizzlies are averaging 117.2 points and the Warriors are averaging 114.4 points in December; however, the Grizzlies have featured one the best defenses in the NBA over the past month and have only allowed three opponents to score more than 110 points since Thanksgiving. It will be interesting to see if Memphis can limit the Warriors approach from three at all and keep the scoring on the low side in this matchup.
How to Watch
The Grizzlies and Warriors face off at 8PM EST/ 7 CST and can been seen on both ABC and ESPN.
The Memphis Grizzlies will tip off against Golden State Warriors at 7:00 pm CST. All nationally televised NBA games can be watched on Sling TV. And check out DraftKings Sportsbook, the official sportsbook partner of SB Nation.