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Memphis Grizzlies vs. Brooklyn Nets Game Preview

The Ja-less Grizzlies welcome KD and Kyrie to town.

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NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Brooklyn Nets Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

WHO: Memphis Grizzlies (49-23, 24-10 home) vs. Brooklyn Nets (38-34, 22-15 away)

WHEN: 6:30 PM CT

WHERE: FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee

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

BETTING ODDS: Grizzlies +2.5 O/U 235 (Odds can be found on DraftKings)

INJURY REPORT:

MEMPHIS: Ja Morant (Out, knee soreness), Killian Tillie (Out, knee soreness)

BROOKLYN: Seth Curry (Day-To-Day, ankle), Andre Drummond (Day-to-Day, illness), Ben Simmons (Out, back soreness), Lamarcus Aldridge, (Out, Hip) Joe Harris (Out, ankle)

PROBABLE STARTING LINEUPS:

MEMPHIS: Tyus Jones, Desmond Bane, Dillon Brooks, Jaren Jackson Jr., Steven Adams

BROOKLYN: Kyrie Irving, Seth Curry, Bruce Brown, Kevin Durant, Andre Drummond

The Grizz return to FedExForum after a 3-1 road trip. Memphis handled the Thunder, Pacers, and Rockets, but fell to Atlanta despite 29 points from Ja Morant. Toward the end of their matchup in Atlanta, the entirety of the 901 area took a massive gasp as Ja limped to the tunnel.

It felt like years as the Grizz faithful waited for an injury update but thankfully, as of now, he is out with knee soreness. In Ja’s absence, Desmond Bane and Dillon Brooks stepped up and Memphis got 45 points off the bench.

Tonight, the Grizzlies host the Brooklyn Nets on ESPN. Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving are averaging a combined 57.3 points per game and both shoot above 49% from the field.

When these teams met on Jan. 3, the Grizzlies were on a roll, having won four straight. The Nets remained one of the top teams in the East despite not having Kyrie Irving for a single game. Memphis dominated the game and led by 25 at one point. The Nets clawed back but it wasn’t enough; the Grizzlies left Brooklyn with a 118-104 victory. Morant was the game’s leading scorer with 36 and he even tallied eight assists.

The Nets have tailed off (they lost 11 straight earlier this season) but are still a contender in the loaded Eastern Conference. Since the James Harden-Ben Simmons deal at the trade deadline, the Nets have seen better chemistry and their improved depth has helped Steve Nash maintain consistency despite not having Kyrie available for home games. Seth Curry and Andre Drummond have been big additions and the free-agent signing of Goran Dragic has given them even more options.

Memphis and Brooklyn are both contenders in their respective conferences and both franchises have expectations for the playoffs. However, the Grizzlies are ahead of schedule whereas the Nets have a sense of urgency because of Kyrie’s player option this summer.

With that being said, tonight’s game should be very competitive. Here are the keys to a Grizz dub.

Memphis Grizzlies v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Keep finding the open shot

The Grizzlies are tied for seventh in the NBA in assists per game, and their wins usually correlate with high assist counts. When Memphis has over 22 assists in a game they are 20-4.

In their loss to Atlanta on Friday, the Grizzlies had a season-low 18 assists. The lack of ball movement was apparent as players often settled for bad, contested jumpers and Ja had to carry the load offensively. Against Houston Sunday, the Grizz had 26 assists and shot 47.1% from three, leading to a route.

With Ja out, it will be up to Tyus Jones, Desmond Bane, and Dillon Brooks to initiate the offense. The Grizzlies wisely played Desmond Bane at PG in last year’s Summer League which gives Memphis another creator. Against a Nets team that holds opponents to 34.4% from three (eighth-best in the league), the Grizzlies will have to work to get their buckets. Ball movement and a collective effort should be Memphis’s recipe for success tonight.

Stay out of foul trouble

It has been one of the biggest stories from the last couple of games; Jaren Jackson Jr. cannot stay on the court. He is averaging four fouls a game over his last 13 contests and has had five fouls in seven games over that span. He has also averaged only 25 minutes a game with some games as low as 13 and 21. Jaren will face one of his toughest challenges of the season guarding Kevin Durant so it is imperative the Grizzlies’ best defender maximizes his minutes and is on the court as much as possible.

Throughout his career, Dillon Brooks has frequently found himself in foul trouble. In last year’s playoffs series against the Utah Jazz, Brooks averaged over three fouls a game and had games with four, five, and even six fouls. Teams with prolific scoring guards (i.e., Donovan Mitchell) have been able to keep DB on the bench with early fouls. With scorers like Kyrie and KD, Brooks is vital to minimizing the Nets offense, and keeping him out of foul trouble is key to a Grizzlies victory.

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Brooklyn Nets Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

The Prediction

The Grizzlies are slight underdogs against a Nets team that has the second-best odds to win the NBA Finals. The Nets will have both of their stars tonight and they are a strong road team.

Jaren will likely be matched up with KD throughout the game and don’t be shocked if Trip only plays 20 minutes because of foul trouble. With Ja out and the Grizzlies’ recent struggles in national TV games, I expect the Grizz to come out flat. I think they fight back and make it close but ultimately fall at home.

Bonus Betting Breakdown: Even with no Morant, the oddsmakers believe the game will be tight, and I agree. The Nets need this game more than the Grizz do and they will continue to show everyone they are still title contenders. I would take the under for tonight’s game. Kyrie and KD will want to put on a show on national TV but, without Ja, the Grizzlies may not have the offensive firepower to match them.

Final: Brooklyn 118, Memphis 114

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