WHERE: Amway Center, Orlando, Florida
WHEN: 4:00 PM Central
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: ESPN/Bally Sports Southeast/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
MEMPHIS: Ja Morant (Questionable, foot soreness), Dillon Brooks (Out, ankle)
NEW YORK: Markelle Fultz (Out, knee), R.J. Hampton (Out, knee), Jonathan Isaac (Out, knee), E’twaun Moore (Out, knee), Michael Carter-Williams (Ankle, out)
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS:
MEMPHIS: Ja Morant, Desmond Bane, Ziaire Williams, Jaren Jackson Jr., Steven Adams
NEW YORK: Cole Anthony, Jalen Suggs, Franz Wagner, Wendell Carter Jr., Mo Bamba
Let’s just go ahead and get the reference point out of the way:
A little over nine months ago, Cole Anthony nailed a game-winning three over a great defensive effort from Kyle Anderson to earn a 112-111 victory over the Grizzlies for the Magic. Since then, though for different reasons, the futures of both the Magic and the Grizzlies have certainly improved. While Memphis has turned into a fringe contender this season, the Magic are now seeing the formation of a very talented young core.
With the calendar now in February, a few truths exist for the Grizzlies. They will be on the road quite a bit before and after the All-Star Break, but the level of competition they will be facing gets a bit easier. This same narrative existed as the 2020-2021 season was wrapping up when the Grizzlies last visited Orlando nine months ago. However, with experience and consistent improvement on the Grizzlies side, another surprise let down should be a bit less likely to happen.
Of course, the ability to make sure a let down does not happen is a lot easier if Ja Morant is at his best. Besides Dillon Brooks, Morant is the lone inclusion on the Grizzlies injury report. The ”foot soreness” designation most certainly holds some truth; however, the goal for the Grizzlies could also simply be to insure Morant gets a bit more rest moving forward. Even if Morant plays, which there remains a good chance he does, he may be a bit more limited than normal.
Fortunately, the Grizzlies are coming off a performance against the Knicks where they were able to overcome Morant struggling. With Morant and Desmond Bane combining to go only 13-45 against the Knicks, De’Anthony Melton, Ziaire Williams and Jaren Jackson Jr. stepped up in support. The Grizzlies went 16-39 from three, a vast improvement from how they have been shooting over the past two months.
For the Magic, this season has certainly been another long struggle on the surface. Injuries to young, promising players still has played a part in the struggles. However, there has also been some promising development from players like Anthony, Franz Wagner, and Jalen Suggs. The Magic have produced an above average defense for much of 2022. The Grizzlies will need to remain efficient to get the win.
Here are a few other important factors that can help the Grizzlies get the victory:
The Magic and Grizzlies are both in the bottom five of the NBA in three point production in 2022. However, the Magic not only rank 27th in 3P%, but also 27th in opponent’s 3P%. On Wednesday, a big reason the Grizzlies were successful from beyond the arc was due to good ball movement, with 30 assists on the night. When the Grizzlies get more than 25 assists, their ability to win significantly improves. Today would be an awesome time to put together consecutive games of effective ball movement and shooting from distance.
Stick with the Shooters
Though Cole Anthony rightfully should be a focus of the Grizzlies to slow down this afternoon, both Franz Wagner and Gary Harris Jr. should also garner the Grizzlies attention. Over their past five games, both players are shooting over 50% from three, as Wagner has continued to improve month after month for Orlando. The Grizzlies must place a big emphasis on the Magic not finding a rhythm early from distance.
This is easily a game the Grizzlies should win. It is also an opportunity for Memphis to put together back to back games where they are able to earn wins even if Morant may not be able to be at his usual best. Regardless of Morant’s overall ability to contribute, if the Grizzlies simply play to their potential on both ends of the court, Memphis should earn a second straight victory to start off February.
Final Score: Grizzlies 117, Orlando 104