The NBA Playoffs are just one day away, but before all of the action kicks off on Saturday, there is still one playoff berth up for grabs. The Memphis Grizzlies travel westward to take on Steph Curry and the Golden State Warriors in a loser leaves town matchup tonight at 8pm CT on ESPN.
Grizzlies vs. Warriors for the No. 8 seed.
Friday night. Win or go home. pic.twitter.com/72oIHrBrrl
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) May 20, 2021
While the losing team’s season will come to an end, the winners are rewarded with a date with the Utah Jazz in a best-of-seven first round series. Although the Jazz will be without star point guard Donovan Mitchell, tonight’s victors will certainly have their hands full.
The Grizzlies and Warriors have squared off three times this season with Golden State edging ahead of the Grizz with a 2-1 record head-to-head. The Grizzlies’ only win against Golden State came in March while the Warriors were without Curry.
The only game in which Curry played against the Grizzlies was the regular season finale with both teams jockeying for the 8-seed in the NBA’s inaugural play-in tournament. The Warriors edged out Memphis by the score of 113-101 behind a masterful 46-point performance from Curry.
Dillon Brooks vs Steph Curry
If Memphis is to advance, they must find a way to contain Curry. Dillon Brooks is likely to draw the task of shadowing the best shooter in NBA history this evening. Brooks, who is no slouch offensively averaging 17.2 PPG, is known as a defensive pest with the ability to fluster his assignments.
Dillon Brooks is the 2021 valedictorian of Marcus Smart Academy.
— Rob Perez (@WorldWideWob) May 20, 2021
In the most recent matchup between these two teams, Brooks fouled out with 6:12 in the fourth quarter with the game tied at 91-91. With Brooks off the floor, Curry was able to take over dropping 11 points in the final six minutes.
Put Dillon Brooks on an All defensive team pic.twitter.com/VwD350zALn
— Bryson🐻 (Playoffs szn) (@CaptainCIutch12) May 16, 2021
Brooks is going to have to commit to playing tough defense without fouling for the entire 48 minutes as he is the Grizzlies’ best chance at keeping Curry under wraps.
Grizzlies point guard Ja Morant won’t have much room for error either. Morant struggled from the floor the last time out against Golden State, finishing with 16 points on an anemic 7-of-21 from the floor and 1-6 (16.7%) from the three-point line.
In the Grizzlies’ 100-96 win over the San Antonio Spurs in the first play-in game, Morant struggled from the free-throw line, shooting just 2-6 from the charity stripe. In fact, Memphis shot just 54% from the line as a team. The Grizzlies cannot afford to leave points on the board against Golden State.
Soon after the Grizzlies won, Ja Morant returned to the court to shoot free throws. pic.twitter.com/wyrr7ro591
— Evan Barnes〽️ (@evan_b) May 20, 2021
According to DraftKings Sportsbook, the Warriors currently sit as a 5-point home favorites with the total set at 221. Memphis has been one of the best teams in the NBA this season against the spread at 57.5%, which is good for third in the association.
The Grizzlies are even better when in an underdog role. Memphis has covered the number as an underdog at a 62% clip this season which ranks second in the league behind only the Phoenix Suns. However, in games where the Grizzlies are listed as at least 3.5-point underdogs, their record against the spread drops to just 12-13.
Featured image courtesy of Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports