The Denver Nuggets host the Memphis Grizzlies in one of the more important games for both teams this season so far. The Grizzlies have taken the league by storm and opened many eyes with their excellent play to start the season. The Grizzlies were certainly not on a lot of people’s radars to be a contending team, but their 31-16 record has them firmly in the third spot and only 2.5 games back of the second-seeded Golden State Warriors. Ja Morant is poised for his first All-Star appearance with his 24.7 points per game and with the 6.9 assists he averages, he cannot be ignored. He has a case to be an underdog in the MVP discussion as well. In terms of the MVP discussion, you can’t leave out last year’s winner Nikola Jokic. Jokic is the guy the Nuggets live and die by and he still continues to produce at an MVP level. Without his two co-stars Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr, the success of the team has been on Jokic’s shoulders all season long. Jokic has been keeping the Nuggets in contention and has played solid as of late. Although the Nuggets are 3-1 on this homestand, they do face a Grizzlies group who has a 14-7 record on the road. Both teams need this win to continue their success in what could be an interesting season and tonight’s matchup might be a preview of what could be a potential playoff matchup.
How the Grizzlies can win: In a year where protocol absences have gutted rotations across the league, Memphis’ superior depth has proven a massive advantage. They haven’t faced many injuries outside of Morant’s early injury and Dillon Brooks’ recent injury but have still proven that they can take on anyone. Memphis Grizzlies injury report:
* Desmond Bane – Out (Health & Safety Protocols)
* Tyus Jones – Out (Health & Safety Protocols)
* Kyle Anderson – Out (Health & Safety Protocols)
* Killian Tillie – Out (Health & Safety Protocols)
* Dillon Brooks – Out (left ankle sprain)
The other, more prominent advantage is that the core is just significantly better than a year ago, with two players in particular figuring prominently in that. Desmond Bane‘s emergence in the backcourt next to Morant has been nothing short of amazing. Bane won’t be playing tonight but he has been a lights out shooter with a 47% field goal percentage and a 42% three point percentage. Jaren Jackson Jr. has been a huge part of the success too, as him being healthy has given the team much needed size, defense, and shooting. Finally, trading for Steven Adams has added a much needed pick and roll presence and added playmaking at the center position.
With this new added depth and success, the Grizzlies are one of two teams in the entire league who play as a true team. Their reliance on each other, on and off the court with the chemistry they’ve built had made them a scary matchup on a nightly basis. They may not be able to truly handle Jokic in terms of size, but with all the weapons they possess throughout the lineup they can certainly make use of that to get the win tonight.
How the Nuggets can win: Jokic and the Nuggets have been on fire as of late. They have scored 130+ points in three of their last four after eclipsing 130 points just once all season. Jokic is also fresh off one of his best performances and possibly one of the best Nugget performances in franchise history. His 49 points, 14 rebounds, and 10 assists was only the second time in NBA history a center recorded a 45+ point triple-double in a win
When Jokic is on the hardwood, the Nuggets are the most dominant team in the league.
Jokic in his last 10 Games:
- 33.5 Minutes
- 59.9 FG%
- 42.9 3PT%
- 84.5 FT%
- 13.8 Rebounds
- 8.2 Assists
When Jokic is on the bench, they are the most dominated team in the league. He’s been dragging this team to above .500 all season long, as he hopes Jamal Murray and Michael Porter Jr. can both get back at some point during this season. There’s not much Denver can do to help him either as their depth has been spotty with their second- and third-best players being out. They’ve been plugging guys into the rotation the best they can and the hope is that Jokic can continue to perform at an MVP level pace for this game and the Nuggets can come out on top.
In the 2 games against Memphis this season, Jokic is averaging,
- 28.5 Points
- 6.0 Assists
- 9.0 Rebounds
- 36.4 3PT%
Jokic has been playing incredibly to say the least and has shown that he can carry a team by himself. They can beat the Grizzlies if he plays like the beast he has been, especially if any of his supporting cast can add some help in terms of scoring.
The Spread Via FanDuel:
DEN: -3.5 (-114)
MEM: +3.5 (-106)
Final Prediction: Grizzlies 117 Nuggets 109
-The Grizzlies against a short handed team like Nuggets should be able to get the job done. Jokic isn’t going to let the Nuggets go down without a fight, but even with Bane and Brooks out, the Grizzlies have too many offensive weapons.