Who is the: Memphis Grizzlies (10-7, 6-1 at home) vs. Sacramento Kings (9-6, 3-3 away)
When: 7:00 p.m. axial time
Where: FedEx Forum – Memphis, Tennessee
How to watch/listen: Bally Sports Southeast / 92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
Memphis: Ja Morant (questionable, ankle), Desmond Bunny (out, toe), Danny Green (out, knee), Zaire Williams (out, knee)
Expected starting lines:
Memphis: Teus Jones, John Konchar, Dillon Brooks, Garren Jackson Jr., Stephen Adams
Sacramento: D’Aaron Fox, Kevin Huerter, Harrison Barnes, Keegan Murray, Domantas Sabonis
The Grizzlies put up a valiant effort on Sunday against the Brooklyn Nets, but in the end, not beating their top three players was just too difficult. Memphis was neck and neck with the nets through three quarters, but a three-point barrage from Yuta Watanabe helped Brooklyn pull away.
Tonight will mark Memphis’ second straight game without Desmond Bane and Ja Morant, and the Grizzlies will have their hands full. The Sacramento Kings won six straight games, including a 32-point win over the Nets. De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis were exceptional, as Sacramento moved up the Western Conference roster.
Team Beam in November:
– First place in the offensive classification
– First place in points for each game
– Second place in the net rating
– Second place in assists per game
Third best record
match team? pic.twitter.com/8FwmwGW9kw
– StatMuse (statmuse) November 21, 2022
This is the second meeting between the Kings and the Grizzlies this season. Memphis won 125-110 as Morant and Bane combined for 53 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists. Without their top two scorers, the Grizzlies will need Dillon Brooks and Jaren Jackson Jr. to replace them. And others to step up if they want to achieve their eleventh win this season. Brooks had a great two-way performance on Sunday, and Memphis got meaningful contributions from John Konchar, Stephen Adams and Teus Jones. With Jaren Jackson Jr. back in the lineup, Memphis’ paint protection will be much better, which will be pivotal in slowing Fox and Sabonis who are 11th and 18th in paint points per game, respectively.
As the Kings look to win their seventh game in a row, the Grizzlies are looking to win their eighth in a row against Sacramento. Even with Morant and Bane sidelined, tonight should be an interesting game if the Grizzlies can put together another gritty team performance. What are the keys to Memphis getting back on the winning streak?
Three points of defense
It’s no secret that Memphis’ three-point defense has been bad. The Grizzlies give up the fourth-most three-pointers in the game. The Kings have the second-best three-point differential percentage in the league. When those teams met last month, the Kings went 12-38 from deep (31.5%). Since then, Sacramento has shot 38.1% from outside the arc led by Kevin Huerter who shoots 49.5% on 7.4 three-point attempts per game.
On Sunday, Brooklyn shot 16-34 (47.1%) from depth. If Memphis has any intention of winning without its two leading scorers, the three-point defense has to improve. Much of Memphis’ defensive problems are the result of poor off-the-ball defense. This includes poor spins and switches, poor communication, and mental lapses. Whether it’s Jones, Conchar, Jake LaRavia, or David Roode, Grizzlies get killed when players try to help out on defense.
At this point, completely revamping the defensive game plan may be the only solution for Memphis. Whatever they do, the Grizzlies need to figure it out ASAP because without their two top scorers, Memphis doesn’t have the firepower to keep up with Sacramento’s three-point shooting.
Jaren Jackson Jr. as the main choice
Since Morant was drafted in 2019, we’ve only seen Jackson as a main option in a handful of games. One of the last times we saw Jackson without Morant was in April’s game against Utah last season, where he scored 28 points on 8-27 FG and 3-10 3PT, along with seven rebounds and three blocks.
Jackson was never particularly effective without Morant. He averaged 20 points – on 45.8/35.3/84.7% shooting splits, as well as 4.9 rebounds and two blocks without his guard. In the two Memphis playoff games without Morant last season, Jackson tallied 12 and 21 points on 11-29 combined shooting and 5-13 on outside.
The problem is that Jackson carries such a load defensively that it’s often called upon for him to be incredibly effective as a prime option. However, the fifth-year pro has shown the ability to take over games, and last Friday against the Thunder, Jackson was outstanding. On nights when Jackson drops deep balls and is aggressive offensively, he is one of the more dominant two-way players. Other nights, he was one of the most frustrated offensive players I have ever seen. I’m betting on a good Jackson to show up tonight.
With Bane and Morant out for a few weeks, Jackson will get plenty of time as an offensive focal point. Here’s hoping he can live up to his expectations as a cornerstone of the franchise.
Memphis is in a really tough place right now. It’s hard to survive in the NBA without your top two stars, but the Grizz have the support team to tread through the water until Bane and Morant return. The Grizzlies are taking a break with their schedule as they only play four games between tonight and next Wednesday. If Memphis can go 2-2 in this stretch, the Grizzlies will be well set up when they get Ziaire Williams and their stars back.
However, I don’t think tonight is the night Memphis beats the odds. Even at home, where they are 6-1, Memphis is sorely lacking and up against a hot Sacramento team. If the Grizzlies are going to win, it will be thanks to the team’s improved defense and amazing performance from Jackson, but I don’t think Memphis will be able to keep up with the Kings.
Final score: Kings 122, Grizzlies 108
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