|Time||9 p.m. ET|
|TV||NBA League Pass|
|Odds via <!–BetMGM–>BetMGM. Get up-to-the-minute NBA odds here.|
Phoenix is coming off a tough loss on Christmas in a battle of heavyweights against the Warriors. The Grizzlies are on a back-to-back after breaking a losing streak against the Kings in a blowout.
Can Memphis hang with the reigning West champs? Are the Suns in a letdown spot? Let’s break down Grizzlies-Suns.
Grizzlies Play Up to Top Competition
Memphis has Dillon Brooks, backup guard De’Anthony Melton, Jarrett Culver, and rookie Ziaire Williams in COVID protocols.
Let’s get to this right upfront. Ja Morant was on protocols and got out about a week ago. Now Brooks, Melton, Culver and Williams are in. We’ve seen these protocols operate in rolling waves. Two guys out, then a game, then two more guys, then a game, then two more.
So I would advise waiting until closer to tip to make sure there are no surprises, especially with the Grizzlies.
Memphis’ entire win profile is baffling. They are 9-5 against teams who are .500 or better, and 11-9 vs. teams under .500. They have the second-most wins against .500 or better teams in the West, and are tied for the second-most losses to teams under .500 among the top-10 West teams.
They beat good teams and lose to bad ones. That inconsistency is often a red flag for long-term success, but in a game like this, you want the team that can jump up and bite the Big Bads, and Phoenix is definitely a Big Bad.
Memphis has stabilized its early-season defensive issues. They rank second in defense in the month of December, first improving with Morant out but even when he returned, the defense has been better. Their offense is top-10 and has been throughout the season.
Brooks and Melton’s absence matters though. Melton helps stabilize the second unit and Phoenix has the seventh-best bench in the league by Net Rating per NBA Advanced Stats. Brooks is the kind of defender you need to put on one of CP3 or Booker to try and limit them.
The good news for Memphis is that they match up fairly well. Their offense has enough shooters to match the Suns in firepower. They have size with Steven Adams to go against Deandre Ayton and Jaren Jackson can play five vs. JaVale McGee if need-be. (Xavier Tillman may struggle in that matchup.)
Ja Morant is 3-4 in his career vs. CP3, a pretty good record. He’s averaged 17-5-6 in those games, shooting 48% from the field but just 29% from behind the arc. The Suns play drop coverage in pick and roll the seventh-most in the league per Second Spectrum. Morant is 58th percentile against that coverage this season, good enough to keep pace.
Memphis will struggle to defend in this game. Memphis plays drop more than Phoenix, and the Suns are 10th-best in the league at carving it up. If you like Memphis, you should like the over, because their path is through scoring.
This has been a good spot to back the Grizzlies this season, though, they are 3-0 ATS this season as a dog of six points or more.
Will the Suns Leave the Door Open?
COVID finally started hitting the Suns on Sunday as Jae Crowder and Elfrid Payton entered protocols. So they’re also a risk for more players to hit the Heath and Safety protocols list. Frank Kaminsky and Dario Saric remain out with injury.
The Suns are the opposite of the Grizzlies; they are just extremely competent. They have the second-best record in the league, are fifth in halfcourt offense, fourth in transition, fourth in halfcourt defense and No. 1 in transition defense per possession according to Synergy Sports.
The Suns are just 9-9 ATS as a home favorite, and are 7-10 ATS overall this season as a favorite of 6 or more. As a double-digit favorite, Phoenix is just 2-3 ATS as a double-digit favorite.
They beat teams. They don’t demolish them. They don’t need to.
Phoenix has the third-best starting unit in Net Rating, and seventh-best bench net rating. They’re consistent quarter by quarter.
The Suns should absolutely hammer Memphis’ bench, which has been better lately but without Brooks and Melton, their depth is compromised. Crowder’s absence presents issues with defending Jaren Jackson as well.
This game screams “Suns win, Grizzlies cover.”
Memphis will hang with runs using their shooters, but wont’ be able to get over the hump. The Suns will let the Grizzlies hang around but have control of the game.
I have this projected at Suns -3.9. Brooks and Melton shouldn’t move the spread enough to get this to double-digits and Memphis should be able to keep within contact.
Phoenix is getting too much respect here. If no one else is added on either sides to protocols, I’ll take the points with Memphis.
A note on the total: I have this projected at 212.5 which is a solid under number, but I’m not playing it. Phoenix plays at the third-fastest pace, and while their transition defense is best in the league per possession, they give up the most transition opportunities in the league. It’s often back-and-forth and Memphis is willing to play that style.
I lean towards the over but won’t play it because of Memphis’ improved defense as of late, Crowder and Melton’s absences, and my having the number lower.
Pick: Memphis +8.5, would play to +7.