What: Phoenix Suns (62-14, 1st in West) at Memphis Grizzlies (54-23, 2nd in West)
When: 5:00 PM AZ Time
Where: FedExForum, Memphis, TN
Watch: Bally Sports Arizona / NBA TV
Listen: 98.7 FM
DraftKings betting line: The Suns are big favorites over the Grizzlies in this game
Suns are finally getting some more good news on the injury front, as Cameron Johnson and JaVale McGee are both listed as probable in this game. The added bench help should come in handy as the Suns face the second-best team in the league in their own building.
Making it easy for Phoenix, Memphis will be missing quite a few key rotational pieces. Two players are listed as out — Ja Morant, Killian Tillie — and four more are listed as doubtful — Steven Adams, Desmond Bane, Jaren Jackson Jr., and Tyus Jones — all with varying “sorenesses”.
The Phoenix starters should ideally take advantage of the absences and step on Memphis’s throat early, so that they can earn their form of rest. This would also be a great opportunity for Johnson and McGee — but Johnson especially, after missing more than a dozen games — to get back into game rhythm ahead of the playoffs.
For further Grizzlies preview, both for this game as well as a potential Western Conference Finals series, now that Memphis has clinched #2 in the West, we’ll welcome on Ben Hogan from the Grizzlies SBNation site, Grizzly Bear Blues, as he was kind enough to answer some questions, albeit before the Grizzlies injury report was released.
I also joined Ben as part of their site’s preview of the game, and you can find my answers to his questions here.
What is Memphis’s gameplan to stop Phoenix’s backcourt?
The Suns have one of the best back courts in the league, and I expect the Grizzlies to be physical with them in hopes of getting them frustrated. We all know that’s easier said than done. The Grizzlies old friend Chris Paul always gives them trouble, no matter if it’s the Grit and Grind Grizz or the Grz Nxt Gen. Tyus Jones will probably be the man to draw the assignment to stop CP3. But, I expect DeAnthony Melton to get plenty of time spelling either Desmond Bane or Tyus and he will be tasked with keeping Paul in check.
The matchup of the night though will be Dillon Brooks on Devin Booker. The thing is that both men thrive on these types of matchups. As long as Brooks stays out of foul trouble, he will go wherever Booker goes and do what he can to frustrate the MVP candidate.
How does Memphis plan to stop the pick-and-roll?
Memphis’s pick-and-roll defense has made big strides as compared to where it was last year. They just got destroyed with Jonas manning the middle and always dropping down. With the Suns nearly unstoppable pick-and-roll, the Grizz will have to be at their best. The one thing they cannot let happen is allow Steven Adams to be caught in too many one-on-one situations with Paul, Booker, or Cam Payne. The Grizz have been pretty good on their help defense, so they have to be ready to help in this one.
What kind of depth defenders do the Grizzlies have as it relates to Phoenix options like Cam Johnson and Mikal Bridges?
My guess is the Grizzlies will do what they can to try and funnel Cam Johnson and Mikal Bridges to the middle. The Grizzlies have done a fantastic job of protecting the rim in the second half of the season. Earlier this season, Cam Johnson pretty much had his way with Jaren Jackson, and I don’t expect that to happen again.
Bridges vs Jackson Jr. in the DPOY race?
This is one of the many awards that the Suns and Grizzlies will be competing for, besides the obvious NBA Title — Ja and Booker for 1st NBA & Williams and Jenkins for COY. Bridges and Jackson are way different in what they do. JJJ leads the NBA in blocks and his role is to protect the rim. He has collected blocks in a handful of ways this season, whether it’s straight up, closing out on a 3, in help defense, or even catching someone from behind after initially getting beat. Bridges though is a guy that any team would love to have; he shuts down the other team’s best player. He is the best defender on one of if not the league’s best defense. It’s also impressive that while bringing it on defense every possession, he’s played the most minutes in the NBA this season. Both men have a case, it will be interesting to see which way the votes go and what type of defense the voters value more.
Which Phoenix weakness is Memphis best-equipped to attack?
The Grizzlies biggest advantage (Ja) will not be playing this time. The area the Grizzlies are best equipped to attack is the offensive glass. The Grizzlies are the best in the league, averaging 14.2 a game, while the Suns are in the bottom third in offensive boards allowed. If the Grizzlies want to get the win against this Suns team, they are going to have to get second chance points.
Prediction: Given the disparity in player availability, this game has no reason to be all that competitive. Suns win 128-104, behind 20-plus in Cam J’s return.
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