WHEN: 5:00 PM CT
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: Bally Sports Southeast/92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
MEMPHIS: Ja Morant (Questionable, Thigh), Steven Adams (Questionable, Non-COVID Illness), Brandon Clarke (Out, Hip), Jake LaRavia (Out, G League Assignment), Vince Williams Jr. (Out, Two-Way Transfer), Kenneth Lofton Jr. (Out, Two-Way Transfer), Danny Green (Out, Knee)
UTAH: Collin Sexton (Out, Hamstring), Johnny Juzang (Out, Wrist)
PROJECTED STARTING LINEUPS:
MEMPHIS: Ja Morant, Desmond Bane, Dillon Brooks, Jaren Jackson Jr., Steven Adams
UTAH: Mike Conley, Jordan Clarkson, Lauri Markkanen, Kelly Olynk, Jarred Vanderbilt
The win streak is up to five for the Memphis Grizzlies as they prepare to face the Utah Jazz for the third time this season. The Jazz took the first two meetings when these teams played back-to-back games in October. The Grizzlies were without Ja Morant in the initial meeting and they lost 124-123 despite 32 points from Desmond Bane. In the next game, Memphis was without Bane and while Morant exploded for 37 points, the Grizzlies lost 121-105.
While this is obviously a much different Jazz team from years past, the GrzNxtGen have not fared well against Utah. Since 2019, the Grizzlies are 3-9 against the Jazz. However, Utah is 3-7 in their last 10 after starting the season hot. Memphis has been lights out at home this season, boasting a 15-3 record at the FedEx Forum.
Will Memphis grab its sixth straight victory or will Utah move to 3-0 against the Grizzlies this season? Here are the keys to the game.
Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert may be gone, but Utah is still competitive thanks to the emergence of Lauri Markkanen. The sixth-year player is having the best season of his career. In two games against the Grizzlies this season, Markkanen has averaged 27 points on 55.6/40/88.9 shooting splits, 10 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 3.5 stocks. The Finn will likely make his first career All-Star game and is a top contender for the Most Improved Player award.
Markkanen is on a hot streak. Not including Saturday’s game against the Bulls, Markkanen is averaging 33.8 points on 51.2/35.6/98.3 shooting splits and 10.5 rebounds in the Jazz’s last six contests. Thursday against the Rockets, Markkanen poured in 49 points, a new career high. Over the last six games, Markkanen has averaged nearly 10 free throw attempts, which could pose some critical issues for Memphis. Grizzlies fans are all too familiar with Jaren Jackson Jr. running into foul trouble. If Markkanen is able to take out JJJ early, he could take over the game.
Dillon Brooks and Jackson will likely take turns guarding Markkanen. Both defenders can cause problems for the Jazz star. Brooks can use his frame and pesky defense to limit his perimeter impact while Jackson will use his wingspan and blocking ability to control the paint. If the Grizzlies’ star defenders can slow down Markkanen, the Grizzlies may grab their sixth straight win.
Morant had not looked quite like the superstar Grizzlies fans have come to love for some time, but it is safe to say 12 is back. Over his last seven games, Morant has averaged 30.1 points on 51.6 FG%, 8.3 assists, 4.3 rebounds, and 1.1 steals. With all of the recent elite performances across the NBA, Morant’s nightly excellence has gone under the radar.
Morant is one of the league’s most gifted scorers, so it is only a matter of time until he explodes for a monster-scoring night and why not tonight? The Jazz are fourth-worst in defensive rating and dead last in opponent points in the paint. Additionally, Utah is third-worst in opponent second-chance points and opponent fastbreak points. Memphis has the third-best transition offense and scores the fourth most points in the paint and second-chance points. With Steven Adams controlling the boards, Memphis should get extra possessions for Morant to capitalize on. Morant is the catalyst for the Grizzlies’ electric transition offense and leads the team in points in the paint.
The Jazz present a favorable matchup for Morant, showcased by his 37-point performance in October. Utah lacks any strong perimeter defenders. Mike Conley, Malik Beasley and Jordan Clarkson will be unable to stay in front of Morant. Clarkson has a defensive rating of 119.3 this year, Conley is at 117.6 and Beasley holds a 116.7 rating. Morant has not scored over 40 points since the second game of the season, but he has tallied over 30 points in six of his last nine games. Tonight is the night he eclipses 40, and he may even reach 50 for the first time this season.
The Grizzlies cannot feel good about those back-to-back losses against the Jazz in October. This is a prideful bunch, and the Grizzlies are ready to enact some revenge tonight. I think the Grizzlies have looked the best they have all season in this recent win streak. From the top of the roster to the bottom, the Grizz look more engaged and focused than ever and their shots are finally falling. If Brooks and Jackson can avoid picking up early fouls, their defensive effort will pave the way for a memorable Morant game.
Memphis 126, Utah 108
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