Memphis Grizzlies vs. Oklahoma City Thunder Matchup Preview
NBA action at the bubble in Orlando, Florida, continues as the Memphis Grizzlies (32-37) will take on the Oklahoma City Thunder (42-25). Every game is a must-win for the Grizzlies from here on out, as they are fighting to maintain their spot as the 8th seed in the West. The Grizzlies have lost all four of their seeding games at the restart thus far, and teams like the Trail Blazers, Spurs, and Suns have been winning games and closing the gap. With Portland only a game behind Memphis now, the Grizzlies need to get back on track with a win against Oklahoma City. However, that will not be a very simple task. The Thunder currently sit in the 5th seed in the West and are 2-1 since entering the bubble. They are coming off of an impressive 105-86 win against the Los Angeles Lakers, who have already locked up the #1 seed in the West. The Thunder are a team that nobody expected to play this well going into this season, but they have shocked the basketball world. Head Coach Billy Donovan won co-Coach of the Year with Milwaukee’s Mike Budenholzer, and deservedly so for what he’s done with this team. The Thunder would like to better their seed heading into the playoffs, and the Grizzlies are fighting to make it. With both teams having something to play for, this game could be interesting.
Time: 4:00 PM ET
Arena: HP Field House, Orlando, FL
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Grizzlies Starting 5
The Grizzlies are in desperation mode at this point. After losing four games in a row, there is no room for error from here on out. Memphis needs to play the tough and gritty brand of basketball that its teams of the 2010s made famous. Unfortunately for Memphis fans, their road to making the playoffs got even more difficult a few days ago. Rising star forward Jaren Jackson Jr., who was averaging 17.4 points per game for the Grizzlies, tore his meniscus against the Pelicans on Monday. This is a huge blow for Memphis, who will now be forced to play smaller and without one of their best players. Jackson Jr. provided size, defense, and could spread the floor. His presence will be hard to match, and more players on the Grizzlies are going to have to step up to replace his production. Ja Morant is also going to have to come up clutch in the biggest moments for this team. Although he’s only a rookie, Morant has been criticized for not showing up late in games for the Grizzlies so far in the NBA restart. With Jackson Jr. now sidelined, Morant will need to step up and lead the Grizzlies if they want to make a push for the playoffs. Unfortunately for Morant, he will be matched up with Chris Paul in this game, who has always been a pest on defense.
Thunder Starting 5
Unlike the Grizzlies, who have had a rather unfortunate start to the NBA restart, the Thunder have gone 2-1, including an impressive win over LeBron James and the Lakers. The Thunder got great production out of their starting five, with each player recording at least 14 or more points. They were led by Chris Paul, who put up 21 points, six assists, and seven rebounds. Paul has been a true leader and facilitator for this team, and that is a big reason why they’ve had so much success this year. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has taken a leap forward this year, increasing his PPG total from 10.8 to 19.3 in just one year. Gilgeous-Alexander’s development has been another factor as to why the Thunder have surprised a lot of people. They have a talented backcourt that can play both ways, a great defensive center in Steven Adams, and some shooters to go along with them. When looking at their matchup against the Grizzlies, I think the Thunder certainly have the advantage. They have better role players and an overall better starting five. The two players that could cause problems for OKC are Ja Morant and Jonas Valanciunas. However, with Chris Paul and Steven Adams both being quality defenders, there is also a chance that the Thunder easily take care of business against them. Either way, both teams would like to come out of this game with a victory.
Grizzlies vs Thunder Fantasy Basketball Angle
For the daily fantasy angle for this matchup, I could’ve easily gone with Chris Paul. The guy routinely puts up great fantasy numbers thanks to his scoring, playmaking, and defense. However, I am going to go with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander for this matchup. Thanks to the injury to Jaren Jackson Jr., the Grizzlies are forced to move Kyle Anderson to power forward and Dillon Brooks to small forward, leaving De’Anthony Melton to start at the two. No disrespect towards Melton, but he is only 6’2 and isn’t the greatest defender. Gilgeous-Alexander has a clear size advantage over him, and I think that Melton will struggle to guard him. Gilgeous-Alexander is averaging 19.3 points per game and has scored double-digit points in each of the Thunder’s three bubble games. This matchup against the Grizzlies is the most favorable one for him so far, and I expect Gilgeous-Alexander to have a big game. If you have him on your fantasy team, I would suggest giving Shai Gilgeous-Alexander the start tonight.
Grizzlies vs Thunder Betting Odds
Grizzlies Odds: +148
Thunder Odds: -180
The oddsmakers have favored the Oklahoma City Thunder in this game. After looking at how the Grizzlies have performed and the injuries they are dealing with, I’d have to agree. Losing Jaren Jackson Jr. is a crushing blow for Memphis, but they already were not playing well even with him on the floor. On the other hand, the Thunder have looked solid so far in the NBA restart. Even with their backs against the wall, I think that the Grizzlies will lose a 5th straight game tonight. This should be music to other bubble teams ears, as the race for the 8th seed in the West is wide open.
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