WHEN: 9:30 PM CST
WHERE: Golden 1 Center - Sacramento, California
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: Bally Sports Southeast/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
MEMPHIS: Danny Green (Out, knee)
SACRAMENTO: Chimezie Metu (Questionable, knee)
(PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS):
MEMPHIS: Ja Morant, Desmond Bane, Dillon Brooks, Jaren Jackson Jr., Steven Adams
SACRAMENTO: De’Aaron Fox, Keegan Murray, Domantas Sabonis, Harrison Barnes, Kevin Heurter
After winning 11 straight games, the Memphis Grizzlies now have experienced back-to-back losses to start one of their toughest road trips of the year. The first loss was due to a furious come back by the Lakers, while the second happened as a furious come back by the Grizzlies fell just a bit short. Though two losses show up in the record book, the Grizzlies looked good for much of the game against the Lakers, and scored 73 points in the second half of their game last night against the Suns.
However, the focus for Memphis must be getting off to better starts in games, especially against the league’s top scoring team in the Kings. The Kings are playing very good basketball, despite losing their last game against the 76ers. The lead the league with 120 points scored per game, and have scored 125 or more in five of their last seven games. Plus, Sacramento is likely looking to avenge their 118-108 loss to the Grizzlies on New Year’s Day.
In a matchup of one of the league’s best offenses against one of the league’s best defenses, whichever team gets off to the best start will be a good indication of who could win the game.
Fast Start in the First Quarter
In January, the Kings have the best first quarter offensive rating in the NBA while the Grizzlies have the second best defensive rating. However, what could be even more important is the Grizzlies offense getting off to a good start. Memphis is 25th in offensive rating and 27th in field goal percentage in first quarters this month. Simply put, the Grizzlies have routinely had slow starts to games, and while their second quarter dominance has allowed for them to reclaim several leads, that has not been the case the last two games.
The Grizzlies will need to focus on finding the best shot possible and scoring in the lane to find some early rhythm against the Kings. If Memphis can do that, then looks from deep could be available. Otherwise, Memphis will likely fall behind early, and will have a tough task of catching up with the explosive Kings.
Yes, a big source of success for Memphis in January has been there ability to defend the three. However, as their competition has got a bit better over the past few games, they have allowed Cleveland and Phoenix to find success early and often from distance. Now, Memphis faces arguably the two best three point shooting teams in the NBA over their next two games in the Kings and the Warriors.
The Grizzlies own three point shooting continues to be inconsistent, so its is critical for the Grizzlies limit good looks for the Kings. Sacramento is going to take threes; however, the Grizzlies have shown a better ability to limit open looks from three. This was a key to their win over the Kings on January 1st. If Memphis can keep the Kings from getting hot from distance, especially early in the game, it will provide a big boost to their chances to win.
The Grizzlies have a tough task ahead. They are facing a very good offensive team at a time when the Memphis offense is having some stretches of stagnant play. But Memphis will likely be motivated to carry over its success from the second half against the Suns and find a way to win against a team that is directly behind them in the standings. A huge factor in this game will be the play of Jaren Jackson Jr., obviously due to his defense but also due to success he could find in the paint. If the Grizzlies can score early, gets some stops from their bench unit, and grab the lead, they can earn a needed victory against the Kings.
Final Score: Memphis 127 Sacramento 120
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