After going 1-2 last week, things do not get any easier for the Grizzlies this week as they will have to fight through an absolutely brutal stretch of their schedule. They will face off with three of the East’s top 5 teams as well as the surging Rockets and an unstoppable James Harden.
Monday, January 14th @ Houston Rockets
This may sound like a broken record, but James Harden is still on a tear and doesn’t appear to be slowing down. In his campaign to repeat as MVP, he is averaging 34p/6r/8a and hitting nearly five of 12.6 3PA per game.
In two prior losses to the Rockets, the Grizzlies have been outscored 218 to 198 with neither game being particularly close.
Two-way wing player Danuel House (8p/3r) has started a string of games for the Rockets, helping to bridge the gap with their injuries. He is averaging 24.1 minutes for Houston and is shooting 37% from three. Since being traded, released, and joining the Rockets, Austin Rivers is averaging 12 points and 3 assists to round out the backcourt.
The versatile P.J. Tucker (8p/6r) is having a solid year while shooting 39.8% from three on almost 5 attempts per game.
Over the past few games, Gerald Green (8p/2r) and James Ennis (7p/2r) have been logging significant minutes and helping this Rockets team climb it’s way back to relevance in the West.
As a team, Houston leads the league in 3PA and 3PM. Surprisingly, they have one of the slowest offenses in the NBA at 96.3 possessions per game.
Center Clint Capela (17p/12r/1.9b) is having an All-Star year himself, even though he will likely be on the outside looking in when it comes time for the coaches to select who will be on the court in Charlotte in February. ***Reported Monday afternoon that Capela will be out 4-6 weeks with a thumb injury.***
Guard Eric Gordon (15p/2r/2a) is day to day with a knee injury and Chris Paul (15p/4r/8a) is still out and not expected back until the end of January.
Wednesday, January 16th vs Milwaukee Bucks
Two days after facing the reigning MVP, the Grizzlies will face off against the Bucks and their MVP candidate Giannis Antetokounmpo (26p/12r/6a) inside the FedEx Forum. He did sit out the Bucks’ game on Friday with a quad/hip injury and is listed as day-to-day so we will see what happens with that. Unlike Harden, Giannis does not shoot well from behind the arc and does all of his damage at the rim. He is one of the best in the league at getting to the hoop and literally 25% of his shots are dunks.
Kris Middleton (17p/5r/4a) has been a very good complimentary player alongside Giannis this season. He scores in a variety of ways, is second on the team in FTA and is tied for the most 3PA per game as well.
Center Brook Lopez (12p/3r) is quite literally stretching the floor for the Bucks. He tied with Middleton for first in 3PA per game with 6.7. He is shooting 37.6% from deep, which is causing opposing big men to chase him out there, away from the goal. This opens up driving lanes for Giannis to do his damage.
The backcourt duo of Malcom Brogdon (15p/4r/3a) and Eric Bledsoe (15p/4r/5a) have very similar production with the exception of Brogdon being much more efficient from three (42%).
Other guys to keep an eye on include Ersan Ilyasova (7p/5r), Tony Snell (6p/2r), and George Hill (5p/2r) – who is averaging 21 minutes per game since he was traded to Millwaukee in December as part of a 3 team trade between Cavs, Bucks, and Wizards.
As a bonus, I really like Thon Maker (5p/2r) who is a 7’1″ second year player who plays hard with tough defense.
As a team, the Milwaukee Bucks are top five in the league in 3PA, offensive rating, defensive rating, rebounds, 2P%…you get the picture. They are a really solid team who can beat you in a number of ways.
Friday, January 18th @ Boston Celtics
Currently Kyrie Irving and Aron Baynes are listed on the Celtics’ injury report but they both could be playing on Friday by the time Memphis comes to town.
The Celtics have won 6 of their last 10, which includes a 4 game win streak. They haven’t been rolling with any serious momentum since late November, where they strung together a streak of 8 wins that bled into mid December.
Kyrie Irving (22p/4r/6a) runs the show for the C’s and has been having yet another All-Star season. Second year man Jayson Tatum (16p/6r) leads the team in minutes played and is second in total scoring to only Kyrie.
The last time that the Grizzlies played Boston, Al Horford (11p/6r) had a field day executing the pick-and-pop on offense and destroyed Memphis from beyond the arc. Keep an eye on how Marc Gasol reacts to that offensive maneuver this go around.
Marcus Morris (15p/6r) is a big body that could pose an issue to Jaren Jackson and might bait him into some unnecessary fouls.
Other guys to keep an eye on are the pesky perimeter defender Marcus Smart (7p/4r) and a pair of guys seeking to regain their previously exceptional form in Gordon Hayward (11p/4r/3a) and Jaylen Brown (12p/4r).
Saturday, January 19th @ Toronto Raptors
Even though the Grizzlies were able to contain Kawhi Leonard (27/8/3) the last go-around, the Raptors still had plenty of fire power to take down the bears on their home floor.
This is a very well-rounded Toronto team that ranks top ten in both offensive and defensive efficiency. In the frontcourt, Serge Ibaka (15/7) and Pascal Siakam (15/6) are a force on both sides of the ball.
On the wings, Leonard, Danny Green (9/4 and 41% from three), and OG Anunoby (7/3) provide the largest challenge to the Grizzlies. Though the Raptors rank 23 in 3P% in the NBA, they hit 18 of 33 during their visit to the Forum in November – 8 guys participated by draining at least one shot from deep.
Poing guard Kyle Lowry (14/4/9) is having a down year scoring but is averaging a career high in assists. This is yet another testament to the fact that this might be the most well-rounded Raptors team that he has played on, and that’s saying a lot.
Key injuries for the Raptors include C.J. Miles (day-to-day/hip), Jonas Valanciunas (thumb), and Fred VanVleet (day-to-day/hip).
All stats are as of 1/14/19