WHEN: 7:00 P.M. CT
WHERE: FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN:Bally Sports Southeast/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
MEMPHIS: Danny Green (Out, knee), Santi Aldama (Questionable, LT ankle soreness), Kenneth Lofton Jr. (G-league, Two Way), Vince Williams Jr. (G-league, Two Way), Jake LaRavia (G-league, On Assignment), David Roddy (G-league, On Assignment)
Sacramento: N/A, per ESPN
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS:
MEMPHIS: Ja Morant, Desmond Bane, Dillon Brooks, Jaren Jackson Jr., Steven Adams
SACRAMENTO: De’Aaron Fox, Kevin Huerter, Harrison Barnes, Keegan Murray, Domantas Sabonis
Happy New Year, everybody!
It’s finally 2023, and everything is about to heat up. Trade rumors will start to materialize, battle for playoff positioning will intensify, and we’ll get a better idea of where each team stands for the remainder of the season. It’s just the beginning of a stretch run towards the playoffs.
The Memphis Grizzlies continue their run of Western Conference playoff contenders from the past 2 weeks with the upstart Sacramento Kings. Looking to return to the playoffs for the first time in nearly 2 decades, the Kings have became the Western Conference’s “feel good” story. They’re ranked 4th in the Western Conference at the moment, and those wishes are close to becoming a reality.
What’s the biggest key to a victory for Memphis?
Win the Pace game
The Sacramento Kings are 2nd in the league in scoring average (118.3). Though they only rank 7th in Offensive Rating, they use their pace to buzzsaw teams with their offense, as they’re 5th in the league in pace.
The Grizzlies play well with pace, as they rank 10th in the league in that department. It’s crucial for the Grizzlies to control the pace for a plethora of reasons.
For starters, both teams love to get out in transition — as the Grizzlies rank 3rd (17.6) in fastbreak scoring, and the Kings (16.0). For the Kings in particular, they aren’t afraid to fire from deep from anywhere, especially in transition — as they are 7th in both 3’s made and attempts, 13.2/37.1. Controlling the pace and getting back on defense could help the Grizzlies limit an offensive explosion.
More importantly, controlling the pace could help the Grizzlies take advantage of spotty defense. The Kings are 22nd in Defensive Rating (113.9). They don’t have a ton of great individual defenders, nor do they have a lot of size inside with Domantas Sabonis starting at center. If the Grizzlies can make the Kings play their game, it should help them identify holes within the defense and generate clean scoring chances.
- Win the battle of the boards. Steven Adams and Domantas Sabonis are two of the best rebounders in the league — the Grizzly leads the NBA in offensive rebounding (4.9 per game), and the King in total rebounds (12.3). Both players are incredibly physical inside and display great timing on the glass, but Adams must use the size advantage to dominate the glass. Whoever ends up as the superior rebounder tonight could dictate who wins this game.
- The Bane and Huerter shootout. Desmond Bane and Kevin Huerter are absolute firecrackers for 3, both possessing the ability to drain 3’s in a variety of ways and from any spot on the floor. Though Bane has been in a bit of a slump from deep since return, you can never count out his ability to torch teams from deep. This matchup could be an exhilarating deciding factor in tonight’s game.
Prediction: As of this writing, I don’t know the Grizzlies’ rest plans with 3 games in 4 nights. Are we going to see a full team? Totally unsure — the Bane point may not be valid in a couple hours. Anyways, Grizzlies win 120-115 will be my guess.
Stats found on NBA.com/stats
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