One is a Southwest Division team and postseason staple that recently traded away its face of the franchise north of the border, losing its gritty identity in the process, and the other is — well, you get the joke.
Anyway, the Spurs close out the first leg of their Rodeo Road Trip on Tuesday in Memphis, greatly in need of a win after an 0-4 start to the typically catalyzing rite of passage. Unlike San Antonio’s previous road opponents, the Grizzlies appear firmly headed toward the lottery, a fate they sealed at the trade deadline in sending away organizational cornerstone Marc Gasol to the Raptors. The move takes considerable heft away from the division rivals, but given the Spurs’ road struggles, a bounce-back win is far from guaranteed.
San Antonio Spurs (32-26) @ Memphis Grizzlies (23-34)
February 12, 2019 | 7:00 PM CT
Watch: FSSW | Listen: WOAI
Spurs injuries: Dejounte Murray (knee — out), Derrick White (heel — out), Walker (ankle — out), Rudy Gay (ankle — probable)
Grizzlies injuries: Kyle Anderson (shoulder — out), Dillon Brooks (toe — out)
The defense has been bad, but playing Memphis may help
The Spurs’ defensive rating during their four-game swoon: 128.7. In that span, they’ve tried going with two traditional bigs and sunk into a zone, but all to relatively little success. This is a team that needs to rest up and get back to full strength.
When actual improvement isn’t an option, playing one of the league’s most anemic offenses will do. The Grizzlies, who rank 29th in offensive rating, last in pace, and have eclipsed 100 points just once in the last 7 games, should make things a bit easier.
A featured role for Jaren Jackson Jr.
The Grizzlies are rebuilding around their promising rookie, which should mean more playing time than the 21.5 minutes he’s averaged against the Spurs in the last three meetings. It should also mean more variance in this game — he could go for 30, 10, and 5 or get into early foul trouble and be unable to find his stroke.
A Rudy Gay return would be nice
After sitting out the Jazz game with an ankle sprain, Gay was listed as probable in Monday’s injury report. The loss moved the Spurs to 4-7 when their versatile forward doesn’t suit up. The San Antonio defense is still shaky and inconsistent with Gay around, but he’s a playmaker on that end, and one of the few on this season’s roster. When you factor in his ability to create offense out of nothing, it’s not hard to see the value he brings when on the floor.
Vegas prediction: Spurs by 4.5.
Game prediction: Spurs by 1.
For the Grizzlies fans’ perspective, visit Grizzly Bear Blues
PtR’s Gamethread will be up this afternoon for those who want to chat through the game. You can also follow along with the action through PtR’s Twitter feed.