WHEN: 2:30 PM CT
WHERE: Toyota Center— Houston, TX
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: Bally Sports Southeast/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
CURRENT ODDS (per DraftKings) - Grizzlies -10.5, O/U 235
Memphis: Ja Morant (Out-LT Knee Soreness), Killian Tillie (Out-LT Knee Soreness)
Houston: Eric Gordon (Questionable-Illness), Usman Garuba (Out-Ankle), Trevlin Queen (Questionable)
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS:
MEMPHIS: Tyus Jones, Desmond Bane, Dillon Brooks, Jaren Jackson Jr., Steven Adams
Houston: Kevin Porter Jr., Jalen Green, Garrison Matthews, Jae’Sean Tate, Christian Wood
The Memphis Grizzlies will end their road trip on Sunday with a rematch against the Houston Rockets. In the last meeting, the Rockets secured a victory powered by 29 points from Kevin Porter Jr., 28 from Christian Wood, and 24 from Jalen Green. Jaren Jackson Jr. played just 13 minutes because of foul trouble, which had a massive effect on the Grizzlies’ defense. Without their anchor in the game, the Grizzlies gave up 123 points to one of the worst teams in the league.
Playing Without Ja Morant
Let me preface this by saying the Grizzlies are not better without Ja Morant, anyone who tells you differently does not watch the games. However, they have been able to find success without him this season. The Grizzlies have gone 13-2 when missing their superstar point guard and have found ways to make up for the lack of his ability. Sometimes with Morant on the floor, other players become stagnant and let him go into isolation a little bit too often. Without Morant, the Grizzlies must play with more ball movement and produce a more free-flowing offense. In their game against the Pacers without Morant, the Grizzlies had 38 assists on 54 made baskets. The 38 assists were the second most for the Grizzlies this season, trailing only the 72 point walloping of the Oklahoma City Thunder. Tyus Jones is not as dynamic as Ja Morant, but he leads the NBA in AST/TO ratio at 6.5 and runs the offense to perfection. In his last start against the Pacers, Jones finished with just eight points but had 11 assists and 0 turnovers leading the Grizzlies to a blowout win. The Grizzlies will need to play with this same philosophy on Sunday in order to get a win on the road.
The Memphis Grizzlies have made bouncing back part of their identity this season. They are 15-7 after a loss, the third-best record in the league, and have only lost back-to-back games once this calendar year. The Grizzlies lost in Atlanta on Friday and never seemed to get in a rhythm on either end of the court. Even though the Grizzlies made a few runs, it was never enough to get them back into the game. After their previous loss against the Rockets, the Grizzlies went on a four-game winning streak starting with a huge blowout win vs the Pelicans, expect them to come out with a similar level of focus on both ends of the floor.
Getting Jaren Jackson Jr. Going
In the last matchup, Jackson Jr. was in foul trouble and could not make a significant impact on the game. His absence proved why he is the most important player on the team going forward. The Rockets got easy layups and dunks at the rim consistently without the presence of Jackson at the rim and shot 52% from the field.
If the Grizzlies want to win on Sunday, Jackson will have to stay out of foul trouble and do all of the things he is good at defensively. He leads the league in blocks and has been contesting shots at the rim at an All-Defensive Team rate. Offensively, Jaren will have to carry more of the scoring load, when he scores 20 or more points the Grizzlies are 21-5. His scoring will be even more important with Ja Morant being out.
As I said earlier, the Memphis Grizzlies have had success even without Ja Morant this season, especially against teams near the bottom of the standings. Similar to their game against the Pacers, the Grizzlies should get out to a good lead and cruise for the rest of the game. Grizzlies win 121-103 behind good performances from Tyus Jones and Jaren Jackson Jr.