The Portland Trail Blazers are opening In-Season Tournament play tonight as the Memphis Grizzlies come to town.
To learn more about the Blazers’ opponent, we spoke with Bluff City Media columnist and Locked On Grizzlies host Joe Mullinax. You can follow him on Twitter here.
1. The Grizzlies have yet to win a game yet this season. Obviously Ja Morant and Steven Adams are out, but what other reasons are contributing to the slow start?
What are supposed to be Grizzlies strengths are currently weaknesses. The depth that has been a stalwart of their last two regular seasons is gone - without Morant/Adams, plus Santi Aldama, Luke Kennard, Derrick Rose, and Brandon Clarke all for multiple games, Memphis has depended far too much on lesser players. Beyond that, their transition offense is poor, their halfcourt scoring beyond Desmond Bane and Marcus Smart is worse, and opposing teams are converting three point shots at a historic clip against them.
It’s bad right now.
2. If the Grizzlies win tonight, what would be the reason why?
If they win, it’ll be because the items mentioned in #1 are improved upon. The injuries and suspensions still exist, but the Grizzlies have to get out and run to score the ball while also not over helping so much defensively. Thankfully Portland is without Anfrenee Simons and Scoot Henderson, so aside from Shaedon Sharpe quick-moving guards will be few and far between for dribble penetration.
3. What’s one thing people should know about the Grizzlies that they couldn’t find in a box score?
Know that Memphis has one of the more versatile defensive front courts in the NBA. It’s the threes that are currently dooming the Grizzlies, but between Jaren Jackson Jr., Xavier Tillman Sr, and the newly signed Bismack Biyombo Memphis has an elite combination of rim protection and switchability. The faster they can get those three mixing and mingling with other aspects of the rotation, the faster you’ll see a perimeter defense turnaround.
4. What’s a matchup that you are looking forward to seeing?
Malcolm Brogdon vs. Marcus Smart should be fun, both for the Celtics history vibes as well as the importance both guys play for their respective teams. Whoever wins this individual matchup that’s more important than it should be due to injuries and suspensions, their squad will likely win the game.
5. What’s your prediction for tonight’s game?
The Grizzlies are desperate, and Portland is not desperate. While the absence of Scoot Henderson in a (not-so-sneaky?) way helps the Trail Blazers out, and Shaedon Sharpe has been a menace to start the season giving off strong Vince Carter vibes, Memphis has more players capable of playing at a high level for a longer stretch of time. It’ll be closer than Grizzlies fans think it should be, but Memphis pulls away late. 107-103 Grizzlies.