The NBA’s restart is officially in full swing. Most of the 22 teams in Orlando have now played multiple games since things tipped off last Thursday, and a few teams will be playing their third games on Monday night. Two of the teams playing for the third time will be the New Orleans Pelicans and the Memphis Grizzlies, who will square off in a clash with serious Western Conference playoff implications tonight.
Entering Monday’s action, the Grizzlies are now just two games clear of the San Antonio Spurs for the eighth and final playoff spot in the conference. New Orleans is 3.5 games back, which is where they were at the start of bubble play. However, both of these teams are also looking to win for the first time in Florida. The Grizzlies have dropped back-to-back games to the Trail Blazers and Spurs since the restart, while the Jazz and the Clippers have beaten the Pelicans. The loss to LA was not particularly pretty, either.
The Pelicans’ playoff hopes are essentially hanging by a thread at this point. New Orleans will have to be alone in ninth place in the standings and, at most, four games adrift of the team in eighth place if they want to have a shot at the postseason. This game is a must-win for the Pelicans as a result.
Vegas is optimistic. The Pels are currently 4.5-point favorites to beat a Memphis team that will be playing the second half of a back-to-back. These are also two of the highest-scoring teams in basketball, so it’s no surprise that we have a massive over/under of 237 points here.
Zion’s Minutes Limit
The Pelicans got back into the playoff race right around the time Zion Williamson joined the lineup in January. The former No. 1 overall pick missed the first couple of months of the season after tearing his meniscus in the preseason, but he has been everything the team could’ve possibly hoped for since suiting up for the first time.
However, Williamson was forced to leave the NBA’s campus about a week before the season began to tend to a personal matter. While he’s played in both of the team’s games since last Thursday, the team has been carefully monitoring his playing time. Zion played just 15 minutes against Utah on opening night, and he logged only 14 in the next game against Los Angeles.
The Pelicans blew a golden opportunity to beat the Jazz, and it definitely didn’t help to have Williamson sitting on the bench during crunch time. The team said Williamson’s minutes would still be monitored against the Clippers with the expectation that he would log around 20. The game quickly turned into a blowout, though, so Alvin Gentry didn’t bother risking it.
Facing a must-win scenario tonight, will we see more Zion? Williamson put 24 points on the board in his first and only meeting with the Grizzlies earlier this season, and a loss would likely end any hopes New Orleans has of catching up in the standings. The Pels are a franchise that clearly has more serious long-term aspirations than short-term goals, but it would be disappointing if they didn’t try to make a run this season. At this point, though, it looks like they’re settling and hoping to contend next year.
Memphis’ Rough Schedule
Today, the Grizzlies, Wizards, and Spurs will become the first three teams in the bubble to play the second night of a back-to-back. Memphis lost a close one yesterday to San Antonio, but they’ll have to regroup quickly to take on a more well-rested New Orleans side tonight.
Memphis has lost their two games in Orlando by a combined seven points, so it’s not like they have played poorly by any means thus far. Ja Morant, who will almost surely beat Williamson to win Rookie of the Year honors, has been in flying form since the restart. The former Murray State standout is averaging 23.5 points, 10 assists, and seven rebounds through the first two games.
Jaren Jackson Jr. has also been impressive offensively. The ex-lottery pick has scored 33 and 21 points in the two games, respectively, but he hasn’t contributed much else. Despite being 6’11” and over 240 pounds, Jackson has grabbed just six total rebounds since the season restarted. Jackson is a key to the Grizzlies’ long-term plans, but the fact that he plays like a 6’11” guard means he may not be all that close to maximizing his potential.
Things won’t get any easier for the Grizzlies between now and the playoffs. Following tonight’s clash with the Pels, the Grizz will still have to face the Jazz, Thunder, Raptors, Celtics, and Bucks before the end of the seeding schedule.
The Grizzlies playing their second game in as many days explains the spread for this one. The Pelicans are sizable 4.5-point favorites despite having looked pretty terrible since last Thursday. Memphis may have more tired legs, but the Grizzlies should still be hungry after dropping back-to-back games.
I think there is value on Memphis here. Betting the Grizz to cover the spread at -110 odds is definitely the safer bet, but there’s a bit more upside to be had on Memphis at +165 on the moneyline to win the game straight up. I’ll stay conservative with this one, though. Bet the Grizz to cover on Monday night.
Taylor Smith has been a staff writer with GamblingSites.org since early 2017. Taylor is primarily a sports writer, though he will occasionally dabble in other things like politics and entertainment betting. His primary specialties are writing about the NBA, Major League Baseball, NFL and domestic and international soccer. Fringe sports like golf and horse racing aren’t exactly his cup of tea, bu ...
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