WHEN: 6:00 PM CT
WHERE: Amway Center
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: Bally Sports Southeast/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
MEMPHIS: Jake LaRavia (Out, G League Assignment), Kenneth Lofton Jr. (Out, Two-Way Transfer), Danny Green (Out, knee)
ORLANDO: Jalen Suggs (Out, knee), Bol Bol (Out, health and safety protocol), Chuma Okeke (Questionable, left knee surgery)
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS:
MEMPHIS: Ja Morant, Desmond Bane, Dillon Brooks, Jaren Jackson Jr., Steven Adams
ORLANDO: Markelle Fultz, Cole Anthony, Terrence Ross, Paolo Banchero, Wendell Carter Jr.
The Memphis Grizzlies travel to Orlando tonight for their second straight road game after defeating the Charlotte Hornets 131-107 last night. The Orlando Magic are coming off a home win against the Oklahoma City Thunder, in which Paolo Banchero tallied 25 points, 7 assists and 8 rebounds. While these squads faced off twice in the preseason, Memphis and Orlando have not met yet in the regular season.
Last season, the Grizzlies won both matchups against the Magic, but obviously, this Orlando squad looks a little different. With the number one overall pick, Paolo Banchero, leading the squad, the Magic have a new identity and confidence. Orlando, only three games away from a play-in spot, is loaded with young talent, and while they could try to add another top pick to their young core, the Magic might prefer to get their studs some good reps and pick up some wins.
It could be easy for Memphis to overlook Orlando tonight but the Magic are a tough team that holds wins over the Warriors, Mavericks, Suns, and Clippers, and took down the Celtics twice in Boston. In order to avoid a trap loss, how can the Grizzlies come away with their tenth road victory?
Ja Morant has looked more and more like himself as of late. In his last 6 games, Morant is averaging (29.8 points on 50 FG%, 8.7 assists and 4.2 rebounds.) His three-point shooting woes have continued as he is only shooting 22.5% from beyond the arc over this stretch. However, he is shooting 82.6% from the line, up from 64.9% in the five games prior.
Last year against the Magic, Morant averaged 29 points, 7 assists and 4.5 rebounds, on 60.5/44.4/72.7 shooting splits. While Orlando has a lot of length and size, the Magic guards are subpar defensively, which should allow Morant to cook. Markelle Fultz has a defensive rating of 112.9 and Cole Anthony has a defensive rating of 114.1. If the Grizzlies are able to get Franz Wagner into a switch, Morant will thrive as Wagner has a defensive rating of 117.2, the 16th-lowest defensive rating in the NBA.
Whether it is via driving to the hoop or creating shots for his teammates, Morant has shown the ability to take over games offensively. With so many superstars having career performances in the last few weeks, I believe Morant is up next and it could come tonight.
A season ago, the Memphis Grizzlies led the league in transition points with 24.8 points per game. This season, they score 24.9 transition points per game, the third most in the association. A large part of Memphis’s transition success is a result of its ninth-best pace and its ability to create turnovers. The Grizzlies are currently second in defensive net rating, only 0.2 points behind the Cleveland Cavaliers. Against a young Magic team who is fifth in turnovers, the Grizzlies will be able to generate many takeaways and spark fast breaks.
While Memphis has plenty of good defenders like Desmond Bane and Steven Adams, the Grizzlies’ true defensive stars are Dillon Brooks and Jaren Jackson Jr., both of whom are contenders for Defensive Player of the Year. Brooks and Jackson both show incredible defensive versatility, guarding guards and bigs alike. It will be fascinating to see who is tasked with Banchero. The Magic forward is a rising star and the Grizzlies will have their hands full but fortunately, Memphis has two lockdown defenders. If Memphis is able to force turnovers and minimize the Magic frontcourt’s impact, the Grizzlies could run away with this one.
Most SPG + BPG this season:— StatMuse (@statmuse) January 4, 2023
4.2 — Jaren Jackson Jr
3.4 — Anthony Davis
3.3 — Nicolas Claxton
3.2 — Brook Lopez pic.twitter.com/kFo1KwWYcZ
My only hesitation is Memphis’s road failures this season. The Grizzlies are 9-10 away from the FedEx Forum this season, and tonight is the second game of a back-to-back. However, Memphis has taken care of business when on the road against teams well below .500. The Grizzlies are on a four-game win streak and they seem locked in after dropping four of five.
In the Grizzlies’ wins against Toronto, New Orleans and Sacramento, the team played in sync and everyone contributed. While Morant had big scoring outputs, Memphis’s wins were in large part a result of guys like John Konchar and Tyus Jones shaking off their shooting slumps. Steven Adams has been on a rebounding heater and Jackson and Brooks have been exceptional defensively. I think the Grizz extend their win streak to five as they prepare for a three-game homestand.
Memphis 115, Orlando 104
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