Extra Pass: Morant, Grizzlies take on Kings

Published January 23, 2023, 2:30 PMYoyo Sarmenta

Two of the top three teams in the Western Conference lock horns as the Memphis Grizzlies take on the Sacramento Kings at 11:30 AM on NBA League Pass. 

What’s up with the Grizzlies?

After the Grizzlies saw their 11-game win streak snapped by the Los Angeles Lakers, they came out flat against the Phoenix Suns and lost their second game in a row. They fell behind by as many as 29 points but mounted a massive comeback in the second half. They scored 73 points in the last two quarters and got to within two points with less than 30 seconds remaining. Unfortunately for them, Phoenix made its free throws and held on. 

Despite the back-to-back losses, the Grizzlies remain one of the titans of the West with a 31-15 record. They play with a ton of ferocity on both ends led by their star Ja Morant. There have been a number of viral moments courtesy of Morant and his teammates ranging from gravity-defying dunks to even off-court shenanigans with an ex-NFL player. However, the team isn’t built by their highlights or flashy plays. They are a scrappy team who will make you work on the boards and on defense. 

Memphis is currently number two in rebounding with 49.4 per game. Steven Adams leads the team in that department with an average of 11.4 but there are five other Grizzlies who are pulling down at least five per contest. And if you include Santi Aldama’s 4.9 average, you have a total of seven players consistently controlling the boards. These rebounds then lead to their fast-paced offense and tremendous spacing. It’s not rocket science to equate that a loose ball corralled by Adams can easily turn into a Morant highlight on the other end. 

Another aspect of the Grizzlies that goes beyond the dunks is their defense. They are on top of the defensive rating list at 109.2. It’s no coincidence that they are in the top five in terms of blocks and steals. Even though their offensive efficiency is only in the top ten at 114.6, their defense pulls them to a higher net rating, second only to the Boston Celtics. 

What’s up with the Kings?

Sacramento’s surprise season continues. The Kings are third in the West, trailing only the Grizzlies and the Denver Nuggets. They have a renewed identity and are on pace to have a winning record for the first time in 16 seasons. 

The Kings are mostly doing it with their precision offense. They lead the league in points per game with an average of 120.0 (Memphis is fifth with 117.4). They shoot a crisp 49.3 percent from the field as well as 36.7 from deep. Furthermore, they have a 117.7 offensive rating right behind the Nuggets. Impressively, the Kings are making their offense click without a megastar and two-time MVP in Nikola Jokic.

What Sacramento does have are Domantas Sabonis and De’Aaron Fox. Those two have enough star power to give you a fighting chance every game. Sabonis might be a shoo-in to the upcoming All-Star Game, which will be his third appearance. He’s averaging a double-double of 18.8 points and 12.6 rebounds while his assists aren’t something to look past either with 7.3 per game. 

As for Fox, will he finally be recognized as one of the league’s top guards? The numbers are there (24.4 points and 6.0 assists) but what’s different about him this year is his ability to close out games. The Kings have 26 wins so far this season and a number of them have been dictated by Fox’s playmaking and shooting in the clutch. 

Expect the matchup between the Grizzlies and the Kings to be high-level basketball featuring some of the best young talents in the game today.