WHO: Memphis Grizzlies (30-15, 16-9 home) vs. Chicago Bulls (27-14, 12-8 away)
WHEN: 2:30 p.m. CST
WHERE: FedExForum in Memphis, Tennessee
HOW TO WATCH/LISTEN: TNT / Bally Sports Southeast / 92.9 FM ESPN Memphis
MEMPHIS: Dillon Brooks (Out, Ankle), Yves Pons (Out, Ankle/Health & Safety Protocols), Killian Tillie (Out, Health & Safety Protocols)
CHICAGO: Lonzo Ball (Out, knee), Alex Caruso (Out, reconditioning), Tyler Cook (Out, ankle), Javonte Green (Out, adductor), Derrick Jones (Out, knee), Zach LaVine (Out, knee), Patrick Williams (outside, wrist)
PROJECTED STARTING ROSTERS:
MEMPHIS: Ja Morant, Desmond Bane, Ziaire Williams, Brandon Clarke, Jaren Jackson Jr.
CHICAGO: Coby White, Ayo Dosunmu, DeMar DeRozan, Alfonzo McKinney, Nikola Vucevic
Each year, the game is secondary to “The Dream”.
As it should be.
The NBA National Schedule on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day again features the Memphis Grizzlies in a prime home slot at FedExForum. The importance of Dr. King to Memphis, where he spent the last days of his extremely important life, cannot be underestimated. The Nation Civil Rights Museum, on the site of the former Lorraine Motel where Dr. King was murdered, does a remarkable job of educating current generations about the work that had been done by Dr. King and his contemporaries, and the upkeep of the room where King stayed and stood when he was shot is a powerful reminder of how far we still have to go as a society to be truly of the people, by the people and for the people.
On this day of remembrance and service, the work continues.
The Memphis Grizzlies organization also does a wonderful job of honoring Dr. King’s legacy throughout the day. From the Earl Lloyd Sports Legacy Symposium where NBA greats Muggsy Bogues, Elvin Hayes and Allan Houston will, as Grizzlies PR describes it, “share stories of their community work and experiences throughout their sports careers, in the spirit of Dr. King”, to a halftime performance dedicated to King’s legacy, to other events throughout the weekend aimed at showcasing youth and service, it’s truly a first class representation of the city of Memphis and the Grizzlies franchise.
Of course, the fans’ main focus is the basketball game on the FedExForum floor. And while the Grizzlies had their winning streak snapped against the Dallas Mavericks Friday night, after two days out of play, Memphis is well positioned to start a new streak today against a significantly weakened Chicago Bulls side.
That doesn’t mean it will be easy, though. The Bulls nearly brought down the Celtics in Boston on Saturday night with that list sold out. They have more than enough to rival the Grizzlies, who will once again lack the defensive presence of Dillon Brooks against an elite wing.
Let’s move on to the keys to the game.
Container DeMar DeRozan
With Lonzo Ball and Zach LaVine both absent, half of Chicago’s version of “Core Four” will be missing for this contest. But arguably the Bulls’ best player so far this season will be on the court for Chicago, and he’s a player Grizzlies fans know a little about. DeMar DeRozan, formerly of San Antonio Spurs, is having perhaps the best season of his NBA career. Not only does he lead the Bulls in points per game (25.7), he leads this “Core Four” of LaVine/Ball/Nikola Vucevic and himself in wins per 48 minutes (0.167), PER (22, 8) and use (30.8). %). He also somewhat surprisingly leads Chicago in assist percentage (23.2% among players who have logged at least 100 minutes for the Bulls) while not turning the ball over very often (8.5% assist percentage). rotation – all stats of reference-basket.com).
So DeRozan not only continues to be a walking bucket, as he has been his entire career. To Chicago, he stirs the drink, creating offense to others. He grew that way during his time with the Spurs (his top three assist percentage seasons were at San Antonio) but that production continues with the Bulls. He switches the offense for Chicago head coach Billy Donovan, and while understandably that production is easier with Ball and LaVine on the floor, DeRozan remains a major threat.
Whether it’s Ziaire Williams, Kyle Anderson, or a combination of them and other defenders, DeRozan’s location must be found at all times. The team needs to move their feet and not reach (DeRozan fired nine free throws in Boston Saturday night, making all nine) and force the ball past their possession. In key moments, the ball will be in his hands, and the Grizzlies can’t allow him to get a clean pace looking at the bucket. If he does? It will be a long afternoon for Memphis.
Don’t underestimate the backcourt
It would be easy to negate the Bulls’ backcourt given that both starters are out for Chicago. But that would be a mistake – Coby White and Ayo Dosunmu are both capable basketball players who bring different problems to opposing teams. White has been in the NBA for a while as the 7th pick in 2019 NBA Draft (he was a target for the Grizzlies had their draft pick been in that area before the Ja Morant miracle) and while he wasn’t a star, he was a useful NBA player. He is currently shooting 38.5 percent from beyond the arc and he had 5 threes against the Celtics on Saturday night out of 10 attempts. It has a range, and if left open, it can charge Memphis.
On the other side, Ay Dosunmu was a revelation as a potential steal of the 2021 NBA draft. The 38th pick in the last draft is shooting 44.4% (on just 63 attempts, so small a sample) on three while achieving 58.7% of his nonsensical shots from inside the arc. He appeared in 37 games for Chicago and averaged over 20 minutes per game, so this production is no fluke – he can hurt you from dribbling as a creator for himself as well as the others. In the Celtics’ loss on Saturday, Dosunmu scored 21 points on 10 shots while providing 10 assists.
Should Morant and Bane be successful against these two? Yes. Will Ja and Desmond return to the bench after a timeout to stop a Bulls run led by White and Dosunmu if the Grizzlies don’t pay attention to them defensively? Absoutely.
The Grizzlies are six-point favorites in this game by DraftKings, and truth be told, that seems a little weak given the context of the confrontation. Yes, the Bulls were able to hold their own with the Celtics in their exhausted state. But the Grizzlies have had two days off, so they should rest and try to get the taste of a bad 2nd half against the Mavericks out of their collective mouths. Nikola Vucevic will likely see his impact negated by the size and athleticism of the Grizzlies’ front court and be able to get more defensive attention (no offense to Alfonso McKinney), and while White and Dosunmu may compete well, they’re not to. the pitch for a full 48 minutes against Ja Morant and Desmond Bane as they have played this season.
A full Bulls team could be a real problem for the Grizzlies, home or away. This Chicago team won’t be able to keep pace with Memphis as they go from one streak to hoping to start another.
Memphis 117, Chicago 109