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Game Preview: San Antonio Spurs vs. Memphis Grizzlies

The Spurs host Ja Morant and the Griz in a second game of a back to back.

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Memphis Grizzlies Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

The Spurs return home tonight for a SEGABABA against the 3rd placed Grizzlies. After dropping their first meeting of the season on New Year’s Eve, the Spurs will be looking for revenge as they host a Memphis squad in the midst of a rough patch, having struggled to stay afloat against a challenging schedule over the last two weeks with a rotation weakened by injuries and Health and Safety Protocols.

Still, the Grizzlies pack plenty of wallop. Led by Ja Morant’s 25.3 points per game, the team has the league’s 9th best offense, thanks in large part to the fact that they lead the league in points in the paint and second chance points. Both areas will be key as the Spurs allow the 3rd most points in the paint and the 4th most second chance points in the league.

San Antonio Spurs (18-30) at Memphis Grizzlies (32-17)

January 23, 2022 | 7:30 PM CT

Watch: Bally Sports Southwest| Listen: WOAI (1200 AM)

Spurs Injuries: None

Grizzlies Injuries: Brandon Clarke - Day to Day (Back), Kyle Anderson - Out (Health and Safety Protocols), Dillon Brooks - Out (Ankle), Tyus Jones - Out (Health and Safety Protocols)

What to watch for:

  • Dejounte missed the first Grizzlies game due to Health and Safety Protocols. Since he returned to the lineup on January 5th, he’s been on an absolute tear, setting new career highs for points and rebounds and putting up 3 triple doubles while falling just a single rebound short of 3 more. All those numbers haven’t translated into much improvement in the wins column just yet, as the Spurs have yet to figure out a way to consistently convert close games, but Dejounte’s done everything he can to get them there.
  • Unfortunately for the Spurs, Ja Morant is on a pretty impressive hot streak of his own, having scored over 30 points in three straight games. Like Dejounte, those herculean efforts haven’t led to string of victories, though, as the Grizzlies have dropped 3 of their past 5 contests while missing several key players due to injuries and Health and Safety Protocols. It’s probably also relevant to mention that their two wins in that stretch were against the Bulls and Nuggets and their three losses were to the Mavericks twice and the Bucks once, so they’re not exactly scuffling along.
  • The Spurs’ modus operandi this season has been to remain competitive against their more talented opposition, hanging just on the edge of striking distance and weathering run after run, often fighting their way back into a one or two possession game late, before eventually succumbing to the weight of the other team’s experience and/or star power. Sometimes in the 3rd quarter, often in the 4th, the Spurs lose touch and can’t generate the same type of big runs of their own frequently enough to make up the difference. That’s exactly what happened in the 3rd quarter of the team’s first meeting, as the Grizzlies seized control of the game against a small Spurs’ lineup.
  • The Grizzlies also gave the Spurs a pretty brutal beating inside in that game, scoring 72 points in the paint. That’s tied for the most the Spurs have allowed in a game this season, but only the 3rd most the Grizzlies have put up this year, meaning if the Spurs don’t find away to protect the interior any better than they did that night, it could get even worse. Given the Spurs struggle to settle on a back up big man, that might be a problem.
  • One of the few bright spots of that game was the play of Derrick White. Despite taking a pretty vicious, inadvertent elbow from Kyle Anderson that forced him out of the game for a brief stint, Derrick put up 15 points with 9 assists and 0 turnovers in 24 minutes of play as the team’s primary playmaker in Dejounte’s absence. With Dejounte back on the floor for the rematch, if Derrick can hit that level of play again, the Spurs will have a much better shot of evening the score.
  • This game marks the beginning of as tough a stretch of games as any team will likely face all season. Over the next 8 days, in addition to the Grizzlies (32-17, 3rd in the West), the Spurs will play the Bulls (29-17, 2nd in the East), Suns (37-9, 1st in the West), Warriors (34-13, 2nd in the West), and Heat (30-17, 1st in the East). A win against the Grizzlies would go a long way towards making the rest of that slate a little easier to bear.

For the Grizzlies’ fans’ perspective, visit Grizzly Bear Blues.

PtR’s Game thread will be up this evening for those who want to chat through the game. You can also follow along with the action through PtR’s Twitter feed.