Despite reaching last season’s Western Conference finals, the Memphis Grizzlies were always destined for a subtle makeover with new coach Dave Joerger revealing early on that he wanted to increase the team’s pace, and with a metrics-friendly front office bringing some influence to the strategy on the floor.
In bare numbers however, the key difference is defence. Last term, the Grizzlies conceded a stifling 89.3 points per game. In a less than promising 3-3 start, they’re giving up an average of 99.5. It’s partly a symptom of achieving five more possessions per contest but that can’t account for that entire slippage. As Joerger acknowledged, the transition is taking a little longer than he would have liked.
Yet after pulling out an impressive 108-90 win over Golden State on Saturday, Memphis’ evolution gets its bigger test yet when they travel to the unbeaten Indiana Pacers, looking for a first victory on the road.
Indiana has taken over the Griz’s mantle as defensive juggernaut, giving up a leaguelow 85.3 ppg while reducing their own number of possessions by over three. Ironically, the best chance for the Grizzlies would be to revert to that former, effective type, which is why this one could stay under the total points line on 183.5. And with a generous handicap of +6.5 on Memphis, back them to keep this a close encounter, even if Indiana may sneak out on top.
Two fallen idols clash in Salt Lake City with the Denver Nuggets solitary triumph this season still managing to surpass the winless Utah Jazz. Denver’s poor defence could be left even more exposed by JaVale McGee’s absence but Utah’s offense – hindered by a league-low 40.1% shooting – will struggle to capitalise. It could get ugly. But have a punt on the Jazz to break their duck on a handicap of +3 at 1.94.
Back Memphis on a handicap of +6.5 against Indiana at 1.91
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