- WHEN IS IT: Tuesday, January 28, 8:05 PM ET
- THE LOCATION: FedExForum, Memphis, TN
- TELEVISION: Fox Sports Southeast – Memphis, Altitude
Like every team, and everybody else for that matter involved in the NBA community, the Denver Nuggets (32-14) mourned on Sunday the tragic loss of Kobe Bryant, and like the rest of the league, it was tough to function.
After the Nuggets would grab a 117-110 victory over the Houston Rockets and it was time to talk to the press, players would admit that their focus wasn’t all the way there for the game — there was just too much pain and sadness. However, the same reason for their dark skies was the same reason why they still put on their sneakers, and that was Kobe Bryant’s love for basketball, and they knew Kobe would want them to stay strong and still play. And that they did.
“To be honest, when you think about Kobe it’s, ‘No excuse. Nothing can put your mind off what you love to do.’ It’s the Mamba mentality for sure,” Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic stated.
It was the same story for the Memphis Grizzlies (22-24) on Sunday as they took on the Phoenix Suns, a game where both the Grizzlies and Suns honored Bryant. For Memphis, they would honor Kobe with a 24-second shot clock violation, which was one of his jersey numbers throughout his career, while the Suns would take an 8-second violation to pick up Bryant’s other number.
After their 114-109 win over Phoenix, Memphis Grizzlies forward Jaren Jackson Jr. would comment on how it was tough to play basketball after the death of a legend.
“I didn’t feel like doing it, to keep it 100 (percent),” said Jackson. “You’ve got to be a pro. That’s what (number) 2-4 stood for and there’s no better way to go out there and honor him than to play pro basketball, what you love to do, so that’s what we did today. Both teams.”
Not just the National Basketball Association, but the entire world of basketball is feeling the pain of Kobe Bryant’s death — it’s heartbreaking, it’s devastating, and it honestly doesn’t make sense. But that’s unfortunately where we’re at, and even though the mourning will be heavy for sure, it still has to be business as usual for the NBA. Especially when the playoffs are just over two months away.
For the Denver Nuggets and Memphis Grizzlies, their business continues on Tuesday night against one another at FedExForum. In the 2019-20 campaign, the two have already met twice, with the Nuggets getting both of those W’s for the 2-0 edge, and this includes a 131-114 steamroll fest on November 17 in favor of Denver on Memphis’ grounds.
The last contest between the Nuggets and Grizzlies would take place a month ago on December 28 at Pepsi Center. Denver would take the nine-point victory, but Memphis has progressed quite well since that game. The Grizz have been hot as of late, winning 10 out of their last 15 games since they would take that loss in Colorado — maybe the legal marijuana did them good, eh?
Statistical Comparison: Denver Nuggets vs. Memphis Grizzlies
Last Five Games
- Nikola Jokic (Denver Nuggets): 19.7 PPG, 50.7 FG%, 79.4 FT%
- Jaren Jackson Jr. (Memphis Grizzlies): 18.0 PPG, 48.4 FG%, 74.5 FT%
- Nikola Jokic (Denver Nuggets): 10.1 RPG, 7.6 DRPG, 2.5 ORPG
- Jonas Valanciunas (Memphis Grizzlies): 10.0 RPG, 7.3 DRPG, 2.7 ORPG
- Nikola Jokic (Denver Nuggets): 6.5 APG, 2.8 TOPG, 31.8 MPG
- Ja Morant (Memphis Grizzlies): 7.1 APG, 3.3 TOPG, 30.0 MPG
Okay, just kidding, but that winning stretch has shot the Memphis Grizzlies up to the No. 8 position in the Western Conference, which positions themselves to take the final seed in the playoffs if the season ended today.
In his second year in the NBA out of Michigan State University, Jaren Jackson Jr. has led the Grizzlies in scoring with an average of 18 points-per-game. With that being said though, Memphis has received numbers from their roster all around, to the point where they have five different players averaging in double figures when it comes to putting up points on the board.
The Grizzlies are dealing with a slight injury bug at the moment, having their guard Grayson Allen, the former Duke Blue Devil, out of action for some time. During the 125-112 Memphis victory over the Detroit Pistons on Friday, Allen would suffer a hip injury, and as a result, the Grizz were forced to recall Joshua Jackson from the G-League.
For the Nuggets, injuries have been nothing new for them, as they’ve dealt with health problems for the entire season. It’s gotten so bad for Denver, that they currently don’t have three of their top rotation players available to them. The three: Forward Paul Millsap, point guard Jamal Murray and center Mason Plumlee. For Millsap, he will miss his 10th consecutive game with a left knee contusion, while Murray will be on his seventh straight with a left ankle sprain. Plumlee has missed three games so far due to his right foot injury.
- Paul Millsap: Out (Knee)
- Jamal Murray: Out (Ankle)
- Jae Crowder: Doubtful (Knee)
- Grayson Allen: Out (Hip)
Despite the injuries, however, the Nuggets have kept up their solid level of play, and this has mainly been because of productivity from the rest of their roster. In particular, guard Malik Beasley has been seeing more minutes and has been useful with them, while their rookie forward Michael Porter Jr. has increased his numbers the past month. He would be forced to miss a game last week because of back tightness, but it would bring no negative effect on his play.
In the last four contests, Porter Jr. has been averaging a double-double putting up a stat line of 15.5 points-per-game and 10.3 rebounds-per-game. In that stretch, he would record a double-double in two games.
The biggest hurdle in the way for the Memphis Grizzlies to get a win over the Denver Nuggets is to shut down their big man Nikola Jokic. With all of the injuries that Denver has been dealing with, Jokic has really stepped up his production, so the Grizz will need to do everything in their power to lock him down. In the win against the Rockets, Jokic would record his ninth triple-double of the campaign, and in the last 27 contests, he has put up a total of 21 double-doubles
So, Who’s Going to Win?
As an away team this season, the Denver Nuggets have been solid, and this has been courtesy of their defense of theirs that has been dominant, and that’s a scary trait for any opposing team to face — mainly because it doesn’t normally disappear like good shooting can. On the road in particular, any teams (such as the Nuggets) can suffer a bad night of shooting, but they’ll always stay in the contest if the defense is there. And this is why Denver has been playing good basketball on the road.
For the Memphis Grizzlies, defense has been the exact reason of why they’ve been struggling against the Nuggets this season. In both of their losses this season to Denver, the Grizzlies have allowed a combined 250 points. So when it comes time to playing the Nuggets, Memphis not only struggles to score against Denver’s elite defense, but they have a hard time containing the Nuggets’ potency as well. For the Grizzlies, it’s “when it rains, it pours” against the Denver Nuggets.
At FedExForum this season, Memphis’ opposition is averaging a tally of 116.4 points-per-game against them, which creates potency for any team visiting Tennessee. Another thing that kills the Grizzlies is the fact that they turn the ball over a ton as well. For the campaign, they’re averaging 15.6 turnovers-per-game, and this compared to the Nuggets who very rarely turn over the ball — it’s just pure, clean basketball in the Mile High City.
Give me the Denver Nuggets for the win and to cover the spread, and also give me the over.
BETTING PREDICTION: Denver Nuggets 128, Memphis Grizzlies 112