Two Western Conference squads that are off to disappointing starts in the NBA’s Orlando bubble compete against each other today as the 32-36 Memphis Grizzlies face the 42-25 Utah Jazz (2:35 p.m. ET Wednesday).
Memphis has lost one game apiece to each of the three teams directly below it in the standings (the Portland Trail Blazers, San Antonio Spurs and New Orleans Pelicans). The situation got worse for the Grizzlies on Tuesday evening when the team announced that young big man Jaren Jackson Jr. tore the meniscus in his left knee and is out for the rest of this season.
Utah started by eking out a win against the New Orleans Pelicans, but the team then lost to the Oklahoma City Thunder and Los Angeles Lakers by a combined 24 points.
Which team will break its losing streak? USAbetting will discuss the key points of this matchup before making our Memphis Grizzlies vs Utah Jazz predictions and betting picks for this preview.
Will Mike Conley Get the Better of Ja Morant This Time Around?
One of the key storylines in this Grizzlies-Jazz matchup is at the starting point guard spot. Utah’s starter, Mike Conley, played his first 12 NBA seasons as Memphis’ floor general, and is now wrapping up his first year with the Jazz. His replacement, rookie Ja Morant, is the runaway favorite to win the Rookie of the Year award.
The veteran and the youngster squared off twice this season in November 2019. In both matchups, Conley struggled mightily, combining for 23 points on 8-of-32 shooting in the two contests. Morant had a poor performance in the Jazz win (11 points on 4-of-13 shooting), but he was excellent in the Grizzlies’ win (25 points and eight assists on 9-of-22 shooting).
Conley had a terrible, injury-plagued start to his season, but he has gradually turned things around and has been very solid in the bubble. Morant’s shooting stroke has been a disaster in Orlando (2-of-19 from three-point range), and he has been a bit of a disappointment overall.
Now that Conley looks healthy, will he show his athletic, young replacement how it’s done? Or will Morant’s youthful energy be too much for Conley to handle?
Is a Grayson Allen Revenge Game in the Cards?
The Mike Conley trade that happened last summer between these teams also brought guard Grayson Allen to the Grizzlies. Allen was drafted as the No. 21 overall pick by Utah and played one season with the team, mostly as a deep reserve.
This season in Memphis, Allen’s role increased to mixed results, though a hip injury halted his season in January. The league’s suspension allowed Allen to get healthy, and he has looked great in three games off the bench in Orlando. Allen has drained 8-of-13 shots from three-point range since the restart.
Allen is one of the more emotional, inconsistent players in the league who can also get really hot on the offensive end of the floor. In a game that may lack explosive offense, a big performance from Allen could make a huge difference.
Will Utah’s Rudy Gobert Prove to Memphis’ Jonas Valanciunas Why He’s the All-Star?
On a per-36 minute basis, the statistics from Valanciunas actually look better than Gobert’s statistics in some ways. Valanciunas scores 20.4 points, grabs 15.3 rebounds and dishes out 2.4 assists per 36 minutes, compared to 15.7 points, 14.2 rebounds and 1.5 assists per 36 minutes for Gobert.
There is a reason why only one of these centers was an All-Star this year, and it’s not Valanciunas. Gobert is the NBA’s best rim protector, a man who strikes deep fear in the hearts of would-be slashers to the basket. He doesn’t have a big bag of offensive tricks, but he sets great screens, knows how to move without the basketball and he finishes very reliably with his elite length.
Valanciunas is definitely a solid player but he is not a dominant defensive force like Gobert, and his offense relies a lot on one-on-one post-ups, plays which Gobert is well equipped to stop.
The Jazz All-Star center needs to take this matchup as a personal challenge. If he can frustrate Valanciunas and even get him into foul trouble, the Jazz have the potential to dominate this game.
Our Betting Preview’s Memphis Grizzlies vs Utah Jazz Predictions & Picks Verdict
Considering how poorly each team has shot the ball in Orlando and the injuries they have, I don’t see this game being very high-scoring at all. Utah may have a bit of trouble containing Ja Morant in transition, but I think the Jazz offensive rebounders will force Memphis to curtail its own transition offense by rebounding with more players on the defensive end.
Memphis doesn’t have the consistent, experienced offensive threats that Utah does. The Grizzlies were slumping already without Tyus Jones and Justise Winslow and they will have a lot of trouble replacing Jaren Jackson Jr. now, as well. As for our Memphis Grizzlies vs Utah Jazz predictions for this preview, our picks against the best of the USA bookies look like this:
- I think the Jazz will do their part to keep the undermanned Grizzlies winless in the bubble. You should bet on the Jazz -4pts @ -105 with Bookmaker. It is generally -4.5pts for worse odds with the other outlets.
- Offense should be relatively hard to come by for two teams missing their best three-point shooters (Jackson for the Grizzlies, Bojan Bogdanovic for the Jazz). I really like the chances of this game being a defensive battle, so I suggest betting the under 225 @ -110 with Bookmaker. The spread or odds are less attractive with the other firms.
Jared is a lifelong sports fan and writer whose specialist subject is NBA. A 2015 graduate of Indiana Wesleyan University, with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, Jared has been a sought-after freelance sports writer. In addition to his valuable USA Betting contributions, he has also written for other top media outlets.