WHEN: 7:00 PM CT
WHERE: FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: NBATV/Bally Sports Southeast/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
GAMBLING INFO: Grizzlies -10.5, O/U 223.5 (per DraftKings)
MEMPHIS: Brandon Clarke (Questionable, hip), Jaren Jackson Jr. (Questionable, thigh), Ja Morant (Out, knee), Killian Tillie (Out, knee)
GOLDEN STATE: James Wiseman (Out, knee), Stephen Curry (Out, foot), Andre Iguodala (Questionable, back), Klay Thompson (Doubtful, rest), Draymond Green (Doubtful, rest), Otto Porter Jr. (Doubtful, rest)
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS:
MEMPHIS: Tyus Jones, Desmond Bane, Dillon Brooks, Jaren Jackson Jr., Steven Adams
GOLDEN STATE: Jordan Poole, Gary Payton II, Andrew Wiggins, Jonathan Kuminga, Kevon Looney
Has there ever been a basketball game in the NBA this late in the season so seemingly important that also carried with it a certain certainty and so many questions?
The Memphis Grizzlies have essentially locked up the #2 seed in the Western Conference playoffs. With seven games to go, they are four games ahead of their opponent in tonight’s contest, the Golden State Warriors. Then, even if the Warriors win this game - which they may - Memphis would probably clinch the tiebreaker some time this week once they clinch the Southwest division (for the first time in franchise history). That’d basically mean, even with a hypothetical Memphis loss to Golden State, the Grizzlies would be four games ahead with six to go.
The #2 seed functionally belongs to the Grizzlies. Rejoice.
But with the Warriors playing last night in Washington against the Wizards (a loss for Golden State) and the tandem of Klay Thompson and Andrew Wiggins both logging over 34 minutes, it’s certainly possible that Warriors Head Coach Steve Kerr sits them as well as Draymond Green and essentially concedes the #2 even more to Memphis. Kerr has said that Otto Porter Jr., as well as Thompson and Green, will “most likely” sit out this game. The Grizzlies, of course, would have to still show up and compete. Golden State has a sneakily underrated young core, and there’s a chance that Memphis rests both Jaren Jackson Jr. and Brandon Clarke if the Warriors do follow through and have their veterans miss this game.
Keeping up? A lot of uncertainty abounds. But one thing will almost definitely occur tonight in Memphis. A basketball game.
Lets break it down.
Feed Desmond Bane, you cowards
It’s possible you’ve missed just how well Desmond Bane is playing over the Grizzlies most recent winning streak, this one of the four game variety. Allow GBB writer Bryson Wright to help you catch up.
Desmond Bane in his last 4 games:— Bryson (@BrysonWright3) March 27, 2022
He is the NBA’s Most Improved player pic.twitter.com/9CRFsqVu7g
He’s putting up All-Star numbers. When his team needs him to be the lead offensive threat with Ja Morant out, he’s been more than up to the task. Desmond Bane was a Most Improved Player candidate before this recent tear. Now? He should be the favorite. No player’s growth combines with importance to their team’s overall scope of success than Desmond Bane. He has upgraded his game in every conceivable way for the 2nd best team (in terms of record) in the NBA.
Send him the trophy, you cowards.
In all seriousness, Memphis will need to continue to ride the hot hand of Bane if they hope to hold off the Warriors. The youngsters on Golden State can score buckets in bunches if given the opportunity - Jordan Poole and Jonathan Kuminga, especially, but also Moses Moody, who should see significant run if the Warriors do rest players. While Memphis’ defense has been stout of late, Golden State will still be able to make runs. Squashing those with scoring firepower will be needed in response.
Enter Desmond Bane. Get him off of screens and through various actions in the free motion Grizzlies offense and make him getting his activity up early a priority - as the team normally does - and see how that helps cool the confidence of the younger Warriors.
Find the “real” microwave Melton
If you missed Bane going off of late, you certainly would be surprised to know that during this same run of time De’Anthony Melton has also gone nuclear offensively. Over the four game heater for the Grizzlies, Melton has shot 61.8% from beyond the arc (21-34!) and has overall played some of his best basketball. The defensive activity isn’t a surprise - he is one of the very best steal and block percentage players in the NBA - and he remains an elite rebounder for a combo guard, fitting how Memphis wants to be successful very well. But his range is a pleasant surprise...and also not likely to be sustained. Melton’s season percentage even after this run is only 36.7%, which is still better than his career average by about a point but isn’t good for suggesting this run of hot shooting is sustainable.
But what can be sustained is what is getting him in such comfort to be able to “let it fly” effectively enough to be closer to a 40% shooter from three than a 35% one.
Continuing to prioritize Melton’s looks should be a focus of Grizzlies Head Coach Taylor Jenkins and his staff. De’Anthony’s role as a microwave scorer off the bench is such a welcome development to this team’s ceiling as a title contender. Teams like the Suns are loaded with two-way contributors from top to bottom of their rotation. As Memphis transitions to postseason preparations, making sure something close to this offensive version of Melton sticks around is very important. Ensure this confidence sticks, and watch this team soar even higher.
The Grizzlies were roughly 8 point favorites per DraftKings before the news broke of the Warriors almost certainly resting Green/Thompson/Porter Jr. Now, the new line is -10, and it would probably be wise to bet the Grizzlies to cover. Memphis will still have the likes of Tyus Jones, Desmond Bane, Dillon Brooks, De’Anthony Melton, Steven Adams, and Kyle Anderson from their assumed postseason rotation in the mix for this contest. If one of, or both of, Jackson Jr. and Clarke play the odds get even better. For if Golden State sits Green/Thompson/Porter Jr., in addition to already being down Steph Curry, Memphis simply has more firepower in this game.
Combine that with the Grizzlies being better rested, and Memphis should be favored to essentially put away the #2 seed and be able to stagger rest and preparation the next couple of weeks as the playoffs approach.
Memphis 120, Golden State 104