WHEN: 6:00 PM CT
WHERE: Spectrum Center
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: Bally Sports Southeast/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
MEMPHIS: Santi Aldama (Questionable, ankle), Ziaire Williams (Questionable, knee), Kennedy Chandler (Out, G League Assignment), Brandon Clarke (Out, hip), Danny Green (Out, knee), Jake LaRavia (Out, G League Assignment), Kenneth Lofton Jr. (Out, Two-Way Transfer), Vince Williams Jr. (Out, Two-Way Transfer)
CHARLOTTE: Cody Martin (Questionable, knee), Gordon Hayward (Doubtful, hamstring), Kelly Oubre Jr. (Out, hand)
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS:
MEMPHIS: Ja Morant, Desmond Bane, Dillon Brooks, Jaren Jackson Jr., Steven Adams
CHARLOTTE: LaMelo Ball, Terry Rozier, Jalen McDaniels, P.J. Washington, Mason Plumlee
The Memphis Grizzlies enter tonight’s matchup against the Charlotte Hornets on a 3-game win streak with some strong responses after a rough stretch 1-4 stretch around Christmas. The Hornets, meanwhile, enter the matchup having struggled all season long. The Hornets, 3-7 in their last 10, have been bad for a majority of the season but with the caveat of not having LaMelo Ball for all but 14 games this season.
While the Hornets haven’t been great, they’re talented enough offensively to score themselves into games if the Grizzlies don’t come prepared. What will it take for the Grizzlies to take care of business on the road where they’ve struggled so far this season? Here are some keys to the game.
A big game from the Block Panther and Aquamane
The Hornets matchup is a fun one for Jaren Jackson Jr. who currently leads the league in blocks per game with 3.2 blocks so far this season. The Hornets, meanwhile, give blocked an NBA most this season as they get blocked more than 6 times per game. The Hornets play at a fast pace and get up a ton of shots but with smaller guys attacking the rim. With Mason Plumlee clogging the paint, Steven Adams’ matchup will allow him to stay close to the basket to deter the Hornets guards drives. Jaren Jackson Jr. will be able to hover off of P.J. Washington or Jalen McDaniels to help protect the paint when necessary. Packing the paint and deterring shots at the rim will force the Hornets to shoot more from beyond the arc, where they are a league-worst shooting 32.9% from distance. While they certainly have the capability to get hot from beyond the arc, the Grizzlies have the capabilities to make the necessary adjustments if Charlotte shoots above their average this season. Against a team like the Hornets it is important to take away the easy opportunities and force them into tough shots where they aren’t as comfortable.
Avoid a shootout
Sticking to the defensive principles will be key for the Grizzlies. The Hornets have 9 games this season where they’ve scored 120 points or more and are 6-3 in those games. Put simply, the Hornets only real shot at winning games is if they simply outgun their opponents. The Grizzlies will need to lock in on the defensive end early and not let the Hornets get into a flow offensively. Terry Rozier has been a Grizz killer in recent years averaging over 20 points per game against Memphis over the last few seasons. LaMelo Ball is the key to the Hornets offense and forcing him into a scorer compared to a playmaker could be big for Memphis. Locking down Rozier and not letting him get going early would also be critical for Memphis in slowing down the Hornets inconsistent offensive attack. With Gordon Hayward doubtful and Kelly Oubre Jr. out, the Hornets will rely heavily on Ball and Rozier with the hopes that a role player such as P.J. Washington or Jalen McDaniels steps up as well. A player to keep an eye on is Mark Williams coming off the bench. He’s been playing well as of late and could have some good opportunities against the Grizzlies bench with Brandon Clarke out and Santi Aldama questionable.
The Hornets are struggling and will be without two of their key offensive weapons tonight. The Grizzlies should take care of business on the road. That said, there have been multiple times this season against inferior opponents where the Grizzlies have not risen to the occasion. The loss in OKC is just the most recent example, but the Grizzlies have also not shown up in Washington and in Minnesota in games earlier in the season. The Grizzlies will need to be locked in and not overlook an undermanned and struggling Hornets squad.
That said, I think the Grizzlies show up enough and pull away in the second half and avoid the road woes that have semi-plagued them this season. The Hornets won’t have any answer to defend Ja Morant, Desmond Bane, Dillon Brooks and Jaren Jackson Jr. They may slow down one of those guys scoring, but not all four. With it being a bit of a home coming for Ja Morant, expect him to have a monster performances either scoring or passing (or both!).
Memphis 121, Charlotte 98
Make sure you listen to our newest podcast ‘Grizzly Bear Bets’ for betting guidance for every single Grizzlies game this season.