WHEN: 7:00 PM CT
WHERE: FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: Bally Sports Southeast/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
BETTING INFORMATION (per DraftKings) - Grizzlies (-2), O/U 226.5
MEMPHIS: Ja Morant (Out, knee), Killian Tillie (Out, knee), Brandon Clarke (Out, hip)
MILWAUKEE: Khris Middleton (Probable, wrist), Giannis Antetokounmpo (Questionable, knee), DeAndre’ Bembry (Out, Knee), Jrue Holiday (Out, Ankle)
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS:
MEMPHIS: Tyus Jones, Desmond Bane, Dillon Brooks, Jaren Jackson Jr., Steven Adams
MILWAUKEE: George Hill, Grayson Allen, Khris Middleton, Bobby Portis, Brook Lopez
There are a little more than two weeks left in the season and there is still plenty left to be determined.
One thing we know for sure is the Memphis Grizzlies will be in the playoffs — they clinched a spot with a blowout win over Indiana Thursday night. We also learned Thursday night that Ja Morant will be out at least two more weeks and we may not see him until the playoffs begin.
Both the Grizzlies and Bucks are sitting in the 2 spot in their respective conferences. The Grizz hold a 2.5 game lead over the Warriors, while the Bucks are a little more uncomfortable as they are tied with Philly and a half game up on Boston. Both teams are also having to jockey for position without key pieces. Memphis is without Ja, and also still resting Dillon Brooks at times as he returns from injury. The Bucks have missed one or more of the Giannis, Middleton, and Holiday trio over recent games.
When these two teams played each other in January, the Bucks handled the Grizz fairly easily in a 12 point win. But the Grizz were without Dillon Brooks, Desmond Bane, and Tyus Jones. All three are expected to be in the starting lineup tonight.
Their play will be key to getting the win, as will these next three points below:
Knock Down the 3
It’s no secret that you have to knock down shots if you expect to win. A lot has been made of the Grizzlies 16-2 record without Ja this season. As local radio host Eli Savoie pointed out, a lot of it has to do with how they are shooting the three. Without Ja, they are shooting and making 2 more threes per game on average. Their percentage would also be the best in the league.
The Bucks come into the game in the top-5 in the NBA in 3-point makes, attempts, and percentage. So, it’s no secret that Milwaukee will rely on the 3 with Middleton, former Grizz Grayson Allen, and Pat Connaughton - who all average more than two made 3’s a game, and all shot 38% or better from deep.
The Grizzlies are well equipped to match fire with fire — in the last four games without Ja Morant, DeAnthony Melton has made 19 3’s, Desmond Bane has made 18 — combined that’s more than 9 3’s per game between the two.
Crash the Boards
Tonight’s game is a matchup of the two best rebounding teams in the league. If Giannis is out, that will be a huge advantage on the glass for the Grizzlies — he is sixth in the league at 11.6 per game.
Even if the ‘Greek Freak’ is out, it’s still going to be tough in the paint with Bobby Portis, Brook Lopez, and crew. That means Jaren Jackson Jr. is going to have to stay out of foul trouble, especially with Brandon Clarke expected to miss another game.
Win the First Quarter
Not only are these two teams the best rebounding teams, they also sit 1-2 in first quarter scoring. The Grizzlies average slightly more than 30, while Milwaukee averages about a half a point less.
The Grizzlies have scored at least 30 points in the first quarter in 23 of its last 25 games. In the two games they didn’t, (Atlanta and Boston) they lost. The Bucks are also a team that can get hot and score in bunches, so if the Grizz are slow out of the gate, it could make for a long night at FedExForum.
The Memphis Grizzlies come into the game red hot, both with and without Ja Morant. They are trying to pick up their seventh straight home win and inch closer to clinching that two spot. The defending champs aren’t just going to roll over, even if they are without Giannis and Jrue Holiday. They have guys that are very capable picking up extra minutes.
Tonight is also the return of Grayson Allen, who has been playing arguably his best basketball of the season right now. The Grizzlies should have their hands full, but it’s hard to go against them.
Final: Grizzlies 124, Bucks 119
I imagine without Giannis, the Grizzlies would be favored by a point or two, which I would take.
For the over/under, I’m willing to take the over on anything 229.5 or below.