New Orleans Pelicans vs. Memphis Grizzlies Matchup Preview
As the NBA season has begun, the race for the 8th and final playoff seed in the Western Conference has shaken up. The Memphis Grizzlies (32-35) still currently hold a two-game lead over the San Antonio Spurs, who beat Memphis in their last outing. The Spurs have jumped both Portland and New Orleans in the race for the 8th seed, and only need to be within four games to force a play-in tournament for the final spot. The New Orleans Pelicans (28-38) entered the bubble looking like a team that had an excellent shot at making the playoffs. However, the team has lost their first two games of the NBA restart thus far and need to get back on track if they hope to sneak into the playoffs. With that being said, tonight’s game between the Grizzlies and the Pelicans will be a crucial one in the race for the 8th seed. It is a matchup between two young teams and two Rookie of the Year candidates in Ja Morant and Zion Williamson. While both of these squads aren’t on top of the Western Conference quite yet, I believe they both have a chance to be serious contenders one day. This game should no-doubt be an exciting matchup to watch.
Time: 6:30 PM ET
Arena: HP Field House, Orlando, FL
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Pelicans Starting 5
The Pelicans opened up the NBA restart against the Utah Jazz, a team that has already solidified themselves as a playoff team. The game came down to the wire, but unfortunately, New Orleans would lose by a mere two points. Head Coach Alvin Gentry was criticized for playing Zion Williamson on a minutes restriction despite the team needing him down the stretch. The Pelicans then faced the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday, losing by 23 points in a game they were losing the entire time. If New Orleans hopes to make a late push for the playoffs, they will need to put the past few games behind them and focus on the task at hand. When looking at both starting lineups of these teams, I think that New Orleans matches up reasonably well with them. Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. are the most significant threats on offense for the Grizzlies. Having Lonzo Ball and Zion Williamson, both capable defenders, should help them match up against Memphis’ offense. The Pelicans themselves have some favorable matchups on offense as well. Brandon Ingram, who has been a star for New Orleans this season, will be guarded by Kyle Anderson. While Anderson is a respectable defender, I think that Ingram should have a great outing tonight against him. However, the Pelicans have only played Williamson an average of 14.5 minutes per game during the restart. If New Orleans wants to push for the 8th seed, I believe that they will need to start playing Williamson more significant minutes. Although the man was returning from protocol after leaving the bubble for a family matter, it is time for Coach Alvin Gentry to make the right move and starting playing their young star.
Grizzlies Starting 5
The Grizzlies haven’t had the beginning to the league restart in Orlando that they would’ve liked, similarly to the Pelicans. Memphis lost their first game of the NBA restart by five against the Trail Blazers in OT and then dropped their second game to the Spurs by only two points. Now only holding a two-game lead over San Antonio for the 8th seed, Memphis needs to get back on track with a win over New Orleans tonight. Neither team can afford to go 0-3 to begin the restart in Orlando, especially considering how close the race for the 8th seed is becoming. The Grizzlies will need continued production from their two best players in Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. Both players played very well in Memphis’ first two games, and they will need to continue to perform to have a chance against the Pelicans. Even though New Orleans hasn’t been able to put it together thus far in the restart, their starting lineup is better on paper than the Grizzlies. Memphis will have their work cut out against them when having to guard Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson. New Orleans also has many shooters, including J.J. Redick, Jrue Holiday, and Josh Hart. The one area that Memphis will have an advantage is the center position. Jonas Valaciunas will have a big game against Derrick Favors, who he has a size advantage against. If Memphis can control the boards and get production out of their bench and role players, I think they can win this game.
Pelicans vs Grizzlies Fantasy Basketball Angle
The player that I am picking to highlight for tonight’s game is Jaren Jackson Jr. The last Pelicans game I previewed, I selected Zion Williamson, not knowing that New Orleans was restricting his minutes. Jackson Jr, on the other hand, has been playing solid minutes and putting up big numbers. He scored 21 points in the Grizzlies loss to the Spurs and 33 against the Trail Blazers. Although Williamson is a solid defender, Jackson Jr. has a significant height advantage in this matchup. For that reason, I believe that New Orleans might have some issues guarding him. He is a 6’11 power forward who can post up, handle the ball, and be a threat beyond the 3-point line. Jackson Jr. is everything you could want in a modern big man, and he will be a matchup nightmare for New Orleans tonight. If you have Jaren Jackson Jr. on your fantasy team, I would suggest starting him tonight against the Pelicans.
Pelicans vs Grizzlies Betting Odds
Pelicans Odds: -190
Grizzlies Odds: +170
The oddsmakers have New Orleans as the favorites in tonight’s matchup. However, I think that Memphis will win this game. As much as both teams have struggled early on in the restart, Memphis’ losses have not been as bad as New Orleans’. I think that the Pelicans are severely hurting their chances of winning by playing Zion Williamson on a minutes restriction. If they continue to keep their star player off the court in the most significant moments of games, I see no reason why the Grizzlies wouldn’t win this game. As for betting the over/under, I would recommend going with the over in this matchup. Both teams boast a few solid defenders, but when looking at these matchups, I think this game will be a high-scoring affair.
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