The Memphis Grizzlies return to regular season action Friday afternoon after nearly a five-month absence. The Grizzlies will face a hungry Portland Trail Blazers squad that has playoff aspirations.
Memphis leads the Trail Blazers by 3.5 games in the Western Conference standings. The Grizzlies have to keep the momentum ahead of the five trailing Western Conference teams in order to keep the eight seed and advance to the playoffs. Here’s the play-in scenario for the eighth seed:
If the Grizzlies are more than four games ahead of the team in ninth place, Memphis qualifies for the playoff berth. If the team in ninth place is within four games of the Grizzlies, those two teams would compete in a play-in tournament for the eighth seed in the playoffs. The ninth-place team must win two games before the Grizzlies wins one to clinch the eighth playoff spot.
This is a pivotal game for both contenders and "must-win" for both teams, much like a playoff game.
Keys to a win for the Grizzlies
Kyle Anderson continues his offensive swagger
In the three scrimmages, Kyle Anderson averaged 14.0 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 1.33 blocks in 23.5 minutes. After going 16–59 from three in the regular season games before the season suspension, the UCLA alum connected on seven three-point shots during the scrimmages.
If Anderson can play at this level during the eight seeding games, it will be a huge lift for Memphis. Anderson’s aggressive play will be a problem for the Blazers.
Bench production must be on point
During the regular season before the hiatus, the Grizzlies ranked in the top five in efficiency. The Memphis reserves bench ranks first in the NBA in field-goal percentage (.479) assists (12.1) and steals (4.1). The bench averaged 41.4 points per game before the league stoppage.
Tyus Jones, a key member of the bench unit will be out of action due to knee soreness. Memphis will miss his leadership on the second unit. Jones is a great facilitator who knows how to take care of the ball. The Duke alum leads the NBA with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 5.2.
The Grizzlies will likely have to rely more on DeAnthony Melton to run the second unit in the absence of Jones. Ja Morant and Anderson might have to play heavy minutes with the bench as well.
Jaren Jackson Jr. must control his fouling
Jackson Jr. is prone to foul trouble. The 6–11 forward fouled out in 8 of 54 contests during the regular season and in two of three scrimmages at the restart. The Michigan State alum averaged 16.9 points and shot nearly 40 percent from three in 28 minutes before the hiatus. Jackson must learn to defend without fouling because he is needed on the floor in order for the team to be successful — against the Blazers and in the other seeding games. During a recent media availability Zoom session, Jackson said, “I don’t think I am nearly at my potential level — definitely a lot of decision-making with or without the ball on offense, and defensively limiting fouls.”
Memphis Grizzlies vs. Portland Trail Blazers
Friday, July 1, 2020
3 p.m. CT Tip-Off
TV: FOX Sports Southeast
Radio: 92.9 FM ESPN