WHEN: 7:00 PM CT
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: Bally Sports Southeast/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
MEMPHIS: Brandon Clarke (Out, Hip), Jake LaRavia (Out, G League Assignment), Kenneth Lofton Jr. (Out, Two-Way Transfer), Danny Green (Out, Knee)
SAN ANTONIO: Devin Vassell (Out, Knee), Keldon Johnson (Questionable, Hamstring)
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS:
MEMPHIS: Ja Morant, Desmond Bane, Dillon Brooks, Jaren Jackson Jr., Steven Adams
SAN ANTONIO: Tre Jones, Romeo Langford, Keita Bates-Diop, Jeremy Sochan, Jakob Poeltl
For the second time this season, the Memphis Grizzlies have won seven straight games. Tonight, however, the Grizzlies will look to do what they could not in December and grow their win streak to eight. Memphis will face a familiar opponent, the San Antonio Spurs. Coming off a close matchup on Monday night where the Grizzlies had to fend off a Spurs fourth-quarter comeback, Memphis could win their ninth-straight game against their division rival. The Grizzlies own the longest win streak in the series since the Spurs won 21 straight games between 1997 and 2002.
Ja Morant has missed the last two games, but Memphis had key performances from Tyus Jones and others to keep their streak alive. While the Grizzlies have been lights out recently, they are still tied with the Denver Nuggets for the first seed in the West. They have put some room between them and the third-seed New Orleans Pelicans, which could prove pivotal in a potential playoff series.
Tonight could be a trap game for the Grizzlies. Facing the same opponent in back-to-back games can result in more variability, making the Spurs a friskier opponent. San Antonio has played the Grizzlies incredibly close as of late. They stormed back Monday, nearly pulling off the upset. In November, they took the game to OT in ridiculous fashion, eliciting an all-time moment from Brevin Knight and Pete Pranica. Last year, they lost the four matchups by an average of 8.75 points. Can the Grizzlies add another win to two growing streaks? Or will San Antonio pull off the upset at the Grindhouse? Here are the keys to tonight’s game.
Light it up
It is not a secret that the Grizzlies are not a great three-point shooting team. Memphis shoots 34.4% from beyond the arc – the 21st percentage in all of the NBA. However, in Memphis’s two games against the Spurs this season, they have shot 43.1% from deep. On Monday, they were 11/26 (42.3%) on shots from three-point range. In November’s meeting, they made 14 of their 32 attempts (43.8%), including five from Desmond Bane.
After struggling to return to form after injuring his toe in November, Bane let everyone know he is back on Sunday. In his last three games, he has averaged 19.3 points on 44 FG% and 50 3P% shooting, along with 6.3 rebounds and 5.7 assists. Watching Bane refind his shot, and his confidence, was so satisfying — and if he is able to return to the All-Star level he played at before getting injured, the Grizzlies’ ceiling is completely elevated.
Jones, Jaren Jackson Jr. and Santi Aldama have also made their share of deep balls in this recent stretch. Even Ziaire Williams has emerged, after having a quiet sophomore season thus far. Williams is shooting nearly 47.1% from deep in his last six games. It feels as if the only Grizzly to not find his stroke from deep is Morant. After starting the season over 40% from the long line, Morant has lost his touch and is down to 31% on three-pointers. If he is able to connect on a few threes, the Grizzlies’ offense will completely open up and they will find their eighth straight win.
~ Ridiculous laughter ~
Those are some of my reactions to the defensive plays Jackson makes on a regular basis. I have never had more fun watching a player on defense. Most of the time I am not watching the ball on defensive possessions. I just watch JJJ as he hunts for another block. He is everywhere at all times protecting the rim and effecting opponents’ shots. Even on plays where he does not swat shots into the third row, he is dominating the interior and scaring opponents from driving into the paint.
The “Block Panther,” in my mind, has been the best defensive player of the year this season, hands down. Despite missing 16 games, Jackson is tied for third in total blocks. He is by far and away the leader in blocks per game this season; he has averaged 3.3 blocks this year. Nicolas Claxton is second with 2.6 per game. He has a defensive rating of 102.4 this year. Joel Embiid is second with a rating of 106.4. The casual NBA fans are yet to fully grasp it, but JJJ is having a historically good year on the defensive end.
Over the Grizzlies’ seven-game win streak, Jackson has averaged 18.4 points, 7.1 rebounds and 3.9 blocks. He is shooting 55.6% from the field and 42.3% from three. Jackson is as responsible as anyone for Memphis’s win streak. He has been dominant and shown the unicorn potential Grizzlies fans always knew he had. JJJ has been more assertive on the offensive end, finally using his size to body opponents and finish inside. The #Feed13 agenda is strong and only getting stronger. I expect Jackson to have another monster game tonight as he becomes the clear favorite for defensive player of the year.
I think the Grizzlies will make it eight straight. I am a bit hesitant after that miserable fourth quarter on Monday, but I would be shocked if Memphis’s win streak ends tonight. I do not want to be too confident, but it really feels like everyone is hitting their stride. Bane, Jones, Aldama, Konchar, and Williams have all been dramatically better as of late. Jackson, Adams and Morant have all been dominant on the win streak and with 12 returning tonight, the Grizzlies should cruise to a win.
Memphis 124, San Antonio 110
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