The San Antonio Spurs will take on the Memphis Grizzlies Wednesday evening at the AT&T Center. It will be the second meeting between the two division rivals this season, with Memphis taking the victory in the first matchup on New Years Eve, 118-105.
After they squared off in the play-in game last May, the Spurs and Grizzlies rivalry has a renewed excitement to it. Add in the incredible seasons Dejounte Murray and Ja Morant are having, and it's must-watch television.
Although ESPN may not agree with me as they chose to pull the game from their national TV slate, it should definitely prove interesting for true fans of the game. Here's what we can expect going into Wednesday night.
The Spurs come back to the AT&T Center fresh off a clubbing of the Houston Rockets on Tuesday night. It marked their third win in the previous six games after they had lost nine out of 10 prior to that. They are doing all they can to remain in the play-in hunt despite a myriad of injuries and players sidelined in COVID protocols. With Portland's loss, they're just 2.5 games ahead of San Antonio for the 10th seed.
Memphis, on the other hand, is enjoying a stellar regular season that has them situated at third in the Western Conference standings and right on the heels of the Warriors and Suns. The Grizz have gone 23-7 since starting their season 9-10.
The Murray vs. Morant Showdown
When you look at player matchups in this game, the one that jumps off the page right away is at the point guard position. Both Morant and Murray have been nothing short of special in 2021-22, with both making legitimate cases for all-star selections. Morant has been an absolute menace in getting to the rim, ranking third in the league in paint points per game at 15.3 behind only Giannis and Jokic.
Murray has been doing nearly everything for San Antonio on a nightly basis, putting up triple-doubles and near triple-doubles every time he steps on the court. He and Morant both rank in the top 15 in the league for total two-point field goals made, and his 2.0 steals per game lead the NBA. Seeing how Morant attacks Murray and vice-versa will be very entertaining to say the least, as the two will be facing one another for the first time this season after Murray missed the first meeting with Memphis.
Injuries and Matchups
It is important to note that the Grizzlies will be without two of their key role players, Desmond Bane and former Spur Kyle Anderson, who both entered health and safety protocols last week. Memphis will miss Bane's offensive contributions as he's been their third-leading scorer this season. Derrick White should look to take advantage of this as he'll likely be matched up with John Konchar instead.
The Spurs wings will need to focus on containing Jaren Jackson Jr., who went for a double-double in the previous meeting. With his size and sharp instincts, I was looking forward to seeing Keita Bates-Diop match up with JJJ, but he's set to sit out due to COVID protocols. Guys like Keldon Johnson and Doug McDermott will have to step up and play smart defense. Down low, Jakob Poeltl will have to bring his physicality against one of the grittier big men in the league in Steven Adams.
Spurs vs Grizzlies Prediction
The Grizzlies have been very good this season and the Spurs have often been underwhelming. With that being said, Memphis will be shorthanded and facing a Spurs team that's coming off a big win.
San Antonio has taken down some of the best teams in the league this season on nights when they had no business winning. I predict they win a close one over their division rival here.
Spurs 112, Grizzlies 108