Grizz Lead

Grizzlies Look to Maintain Momentum Against Hawks

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Tonight, the Memphis Grizzlies travel to Atlanta to battle the Hawks. The two teams are similarly built, but have had totally opposite seasons. The Hawks were expected to be a competitive young team, but bottomed out early after losing John Collins to suspension.

Meanwhile, the Grizzlies went on a tear and worked their way to the eighth seed. Now, though, the Hawks come in having won four of their last six, including two straight. The Grizzlies just ended a five-game losing streak, and are looking to get back to winning as they push to hold their playoff spot.

AN EXCITING MATCH-UP

This game will be the first time Trae Young and Ja Morant face off. Both have established themselves as elite, exciting playmakers. Young was an All-Star for the first time this year, and Morant is the front runner for the Rookie of the Year.

Young has proven all season that he is a force to be reckoned with. He is currently fourth in the league in scoring and second in assists. His shooting prowess makes him a threat from anywhere on the court. Young has carried the Hawks for most of the season, and has scored fewer than 20 points in only nine of his 56 games. John Collins’ return has relieved some of the pressure on Young, and the two have developed a nice chemistry.

Morant has established himself as the point guard of the future in Memphis. He’s the conductor of the team’s new-look offense, and has things humming. His athleticism helps him get the rim with ease, where he often finishes around or over opponents. Morant leads all rookies in assists per game, averaging seven each contest. He also leads the Grizzlies in scoring, pouring in an average of 17.7 points per game. The team is without Jaren Jackson Jr and Brandon Clarke right now, and Morant has responded by elevating his game.

KEYS TO A GRIZZLIES WIN

  1. Get Dillon Brooks going. The Grizzlies resigned Brooks to a 3-year, $35 million extension back in Feb., but the youngster has been in a funk ever since. In nine games since signing, he’s averaging 14 points per game on 33/25/65 shooting splits. Brooks has proven his value to the team this season as a scoring option that fits well alongside Morant and Jackson. The Grizzlies are 18-3 in games that he scores 20+ points. Without Clarke and Jackson, Brooks’ volume greatly increases, but his efficiency drops. The Grizzlies need to get him good looks so he can regain a rhythm. It will serve them well in this game and down the stretch if he can.
  2. Defend the Hawks’ Pick and Roll. The Hawks are one of the league’s best pick and roll teams. According to NBA.com, they use a pick and roll on roughly 35 possessions per game. The combination of Young’s shooting and Collins’ athleticism puts a lot of strain on opposing defenses. Roughly two-thirds of the Hawks’ PnR sets keep the ball in Young’s hands. The Grizzlies should play it aggressively and force other Hawks players to step up. Head coach Taylor Jenkins may need to play Gorgui Dieng more this game to keep up with the speedy Hawks.
  3. Bench Production. With Clarke and Jackson sidelined, the Grizzlies are missing roughly 30 points per game. Someone has to step up to fill that void. The bench unit has been great for the team all season, but has struggled a bit with new players and changing roles. De’Anthony Melton has moved into the starting lineup for the past three games, and the bench has been shaky at best. Tyus Jones’ efficiency has plummeted. The team has utilized two-way players Yuta Watanabe, John Konchar, Dusty Hannahs, and Marko Guduric, all of which have little NBA experience. It is more essential now than ever that the bench unit steps up. It needs to figure out its issues quickly, just in case another injury happens in the future.

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About Richmond Bailey Caldwell

Die-hard Grizzlies fan since 2009. Aspiring basketball writer and coach. University of Georgia sport management alum. Perennial first team all-defense selection.

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