I think the prediction of their demise was always a bit over-exaggerated. I had them going 42-40 and pushing for the 7 or 8 seed before the season began, and I think that is still more likely than them falling out entirely. What has gained traction, however, is the idea that they may be better than that 42 number by a few games. Almost all the players Memphis needed to contribute (Chandler Parsons and Tyreke Evans, most importantly) are doing just that, and the Grizzlies have had the best version of Marc Gasol more often than not so far in this season. The best part? They are currently without four key rotation pieces- Mike Conley (who has struggled overall to start and sat out against the Magic due to a sore Achilles), Wayne Selden Jr., Ben McLemore, and JaMychal Green. Three of those figure to be starters. Memphis should get better as the year goes on as long as Conley and Gasol do not miss extended time.
2) Tyreke Evans is in Memphis now? And he's playing well? Explain
He is playing like he is pissed off he got a 1-year $3.3 million deal. He is an early favorite for Sixth Man of the Year, as he leads a Grizzlies bench unit that has quite literally won games for Memphis so far this season. He dropped 32 points on the Magic Wednesday night and his hitting both his threes and his free throws at a career-best clip. If he can keep that up (unlikely), he is unguardable.
3) Chandler Parsons has really struggled to get healthy during his time in Memphis--is this season different? Is he ready to have a breakthrough?
He is as healthy as he has been, and he scored 24 points on the Rockets, including six (!!!!!) threes. But he is still on a minutes limit (roughly 19-20 minutes a game) and they are being cautious with him, bringing him off the bench as a reserve so far this season. He is moving very well, has been a good-to-exceptional defender (believe it or not), and seems to have his confidence back. The process is working.
4) Clippers fans know the Marc Gasol-Mike Conley pairing extremely well, but are there any key new faces in the supporting cast should they probably know about before tonight's game?
Parsons and Evans aside, the presence of Dillon Brooks, the Grizzlies second-round pick, as an actual decent basketball player is a pleasant surprise. Look for him to take a shot that makes your readers cringe a little bit, because his swagger on attempts has been described in Memphis as Kobe-esque. He is confident in his abilities, and while he will make rookie mistakes (he fouls way too much) his effort and willingness to attack offensively is something Memphis has needed on the perimeter for some time. James Ennis III as a starter (old face, new role) is also working surprisingly well as he fills that TA wing rebounder role. Watch for him to play some small-ball four as well.
5) Can the Grizzlies nab another win against a Western Conference playoff team tonight? What's your prediction.
There is no way they win both this game and the game against the Lakers. A weekend in LA, a back to back, with Conley already questionable and Gasol playing through an ankle injury? Highly unlikely they get today and tomorrow. That being said, the Lakers seem to be...well...less good than the Clippers. I think Blake Griffin dominates our weakened front court, Patrick Beverley limits an already limited Mike Conley if he plays, and the Clippers take this one 103-96. Would love to be wrong, though.
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