The Memphis Grizzlies’ Game 2 against the Los Angeles Lakers has turned into a virtual must-win situation for the Southwest Division champs. In light of Ja Morant’s injury at the start of the Grizzlies-Lakers series, we’ll be making our Grizzlies’ Game 2 predictions.
Ja Morant’s status for Game 2 is in serious doubt, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Morant suffered a right wrist injury during the Grizzlies’ 128-102 Game 1 loss at the hands of the Lakers. Los Angeles stole home-court advantage with its win in Memphis Sunday. If the Grizzlies fall into a 0-2 series hole, Memphis could find itself quickly eliminated from the 2023 NBA Playoffs.
The Grizzlies entered the first-round series as only slight betting favorites to eliminate the Lakers. Morant’s injury has turned Memphis into an outright underdog. The Lakers already have the two best players in the series in Anthony Davis and LeBron James. Morant adds to the Grizzlies’ injury woes. Steven Adams and Brandon Clarke will both miss the entire series.
All hope isn’t lost for Memphis. There are reasons to believe that the Grizzlies will beat the Lakers and tie the series as it shifts to Los Angeles. Let’s take a look at a pair of Grizzlies’ Game 2 predictions.
2. Tyus Jones will have 20 points and 10 assists for the Memphis Grizzlies
Losing Morant for even one game against the Lakers would be a devastating blow for the Grizzlies. There’s no way around it. Fortunately for Memphis, it has the NBA’s best backup point guard. Tyus Jones can be a starter on a playoff team, and he’ll show why in Game 2.
In 22 games as a starter during the regular season, Jones averaged 16.4 points per game on 50% field-goal shooting and 41.5% shooting from 3-point range. Jones’ 8.0 assists and 1.5 turnovers per game were no aberration. Last year, the Grizzlies’ backup point guard posted the best assist-to-turnover ratio since the NBA started keeping track of the stat in the 1977-1978 season. Jones’ assist-to-turnover ratio in the 2018-2019 campaign was the second-best in history.
Morant missed the final three games of the Grizzlies’ second-round series with the Golden State Warriors in last year’s playoffs. Jones scored at least 19 points twice with Mornant sidelines. He had nine assists in one game and eight dimes in another contest.
Jones had nine points, three assists and a turnover in 25 minutes in Game 1. With more playing time and more responsibility in Game 2, the veteran will step up in a big way.
1. Memphis Grizzlies will beat the Los Angeles Lakers by double digits
Morant’s injury and the Lakers’ Game 1 victory don’t mean that this series is over. Not by a long shot. Memphis is still more than capable of beating Los Angeles. The Grizzlies can even do it quite convincingly.
Because they are down 1-0 in the series and about to head on the road, the Grizzlies are the much more desperate team. There’s no way to measure how much that might affect the Grizzlies’ Game 2 performance, but it would be a mistake to overlook it as a potential factor.
The Lakers have already done their job and stolen a game in Memphis. It’s easy to envision James and Davis packing it in if the Grizzlies start to pull away, wanting to save some gas in the tank for Game 3. When the Grizzlies faced elimination without Morant in Game 5 against the Warriors last year, they blew the doors off Golden State in a 134-95 home win.
The Lakers are highly unlikely to replicate a few things that happened in Game 1. Rui Hachimura had the game of his life, scoring 29 points on 11-of-14 shooting. Hachimura made five of his six 3-point attempts. Desmond Bane suggested to reporters that the Grizzlies dared Hachimura to shoot because they don’t believe that he can consistently make shots from behind the arc. He’s probably right. Hachimura shot 29.6% from behind the arc for the Lakers in 33 regular-season games.
Is Austin Reaves going to score 23 points on 13 shots again? Will Bane miss two-thirds of his shots and seven 3-pointers? Are the Lakers going to shoot 16-of-37 from 3-point range? The answer to all of those questions is likely no, and it could result in a big Grizzlies’ Game 2 win.
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