We are about 20 games through the NBA season so the data is starting to pile up and we are starting to get a feel for each team and their tendencies based on roster construction and a bunch of other variables at hand. One major variable at hand in any sport pretty much, is injuries. And do we have plenty of them in this one. Indiana has been without their All-Star guard, Victor Oladipo, the entire season, as he makes his way back from a ruptured quad tendon. The Pacers have managed quite well without him for the most part, currently right in the thick of it in the eastern conference playoff picture. At 12-7, Indiana is firmly in the 6th spot, and look to be even better once their star returns to the lineup.
With that being said, let me cut to the chase. Memphis is going to be without their first round pick and rookie of the year candidate, Ja Morant. He is considered week-to-week with back spasms. He was averaging 18.6 points, 6.4 assists, and 3.2 rebounds per game. In his previous matchup against the Pacers, Morant went for 19 points and 10 assists in a 12 point loss. He will be replaced by Tyus Jones in the lineup, who is a respectable backup, but not nearly as impactful as Morant. Memphis will also be without their other 2019 first round pick in forward, Brandon Clarke. Clarke actually was inserted into the starting lineup yesterday in their game against the Minnesota Timberwolves, but only played 10 minutes due to a hip injury. Why was Clarke inserted into the starting lineup, you ask? Memphis’s starting center, Jonas Valanciunas, was out yesterday due to illness, and he is listed as questionable for tonight. It is probably safe to say that IF Valanciunas does start tonight, he will not be at 100%, in my opinion, and to make matters worse, he will have to go up against one of the best defensive big men in the game in Myles Turner. Memphis will also be without Kyle Anderson due to a heel injury. Anderson contributes about 15 minutes per game off the bench as sort-of a “point-forward” kind of role. The injuries are piling up for Memphis, but on top of all that, they’ll be playing two days in a row, having played in Minnesota the day before. The combination of multiple injuries to key contributors, including their best player, along with having to play on back-to-back days/nights, is too much adversity for the Memphis Grizzlies to keep this one within 10 points in my opinion. The Pacers are a good basketball team even without their best player. Malcolm Brogdon is as steady as they come, Sabonis and Turner play well off one another, and they just play good team basketball. Look what they have been able to do without their best player in the lineup.
My argument against this pick, on the other hand, is very simple. Winning on the road is hard. I want you to read that sentence over and over and over. Winning on the road in the game of basketball is usually always more difficult than winning at home, for a variety of reasons. So if I were to have any worry about this play, it would simply be the fact that NBA teams generally don’t play as well on the road, and the Pacers could take the opponent lightly being that they will be without their best player. My belief is that the Grizzlies playing two straight days with minimal depth will create tired legs as we hit the 2nd half of play, and the Pacers having much better team chemistry with their usual lineup and bench depth, will be able to overwhelm the undermanned Grizzlies.