Following a 119-109 road loss to the Boston Celtics, the Memphis Grizzlies will return home Wednesday to face a high-powered Utah Jazz team that’s scored at least 100 points in 26 straight games.
The Grizzlies are 23-5 at home as opposed to 11-17 on the road. After the Portland Trail Blazers snapped their eight-game home winning streak on Feb. 1, Memphis will look to make it three consecutive victories in the friendly confines against the Jazz.
Ja Morant is having an MVP-type season for Memphis. He’s averaging 27.5 points, 8.3 assists and 5.9 rebounds per game. Desmond Bane (21.4 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 4.2 apg) and Jaren Jackson Jr. (16.7 ppg, 6.6 rpg) are also having outstanding seasons.
The Grizzlies also added Luke Kennard from the Los Angeles Clippers at the trade deadline. A 42.7 percent 3-point shooter for his career, Kennard scored just four points in his team debut against Boston.
Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins is still planning out how to work him in.
“Adding the shooting is going to be huge,” Jenkins said. “It’s going to hopefully create more space for Ja. It’s going to create more conflicts for the defense to figure out what they’re going to do when Ja is attacking, when Jaren is attacking, if they’re going to take this away or that away.”
Steven Adams (knee) will miss his 11th straight game, and the Grizzlies have sorely missed the big man’s production.
Brandon Clarke (10.6 ppg, 5.5 rpg), Santi Aldama (9.5 ppg, 4.7 rpg) and Xavier Tillman (5.2 ppg, 3.9 rpg) have supplied Memphis with solid production in the paint with Adams out.
But the Grizzlies have had trouble containing the NBA’s best big men with their starting center on the shelf. And that could be the case once again dealing with Utah center Lauri Markkanen.
Markkanen is averaging 24.9 points and 8.6 rebounds and is fresh off a double-double (29 points, 11 rebounds) in a 123-117 win over the Indiana Pacers. He hit four free throws in the final 14.2 seconds to secure the win for the Jazz.
Jordan Clarkson also scored 29 in the win over the Pacers and enters Wednesday’s game averaging 21.1 points, 4.2 assists and 4.0 rebounds per game. He hit a clutch 3-pointer and another important jumper in the waning moments against Indiana, which helped the team earn its second road victory in its last three games.
“Jordan was in the zone tonight,” Utah coach Will Hardy said. “I wish I could take credit for any of that. We just try to make sure in those moments when he has that going that we’re executing from a spacing standpoint as a team, making sure we give him enough space to operate when he gets in those grooves. He’s incredibly capable of getting as hot as anybody in the league.”
In addition to Markkanen and Clarkson, Collin Sexton (14.6 ppg, 2.9 apg) and Kelly Olynyk (11.8 ppg, 5.1 rpg) are talented scorers who can make game-changing plays at any time.
With Adams out for Memphis, the combination of Markkanen and rookie Walker Kessler (8.2 ppg, 7.6 rpg) could pose major problems for the Grizzlies in the paint.
–Field Level Media