Both the Memphis Grizzlies and Sacramento Kings come into their Saturday night matchup on the second half of a back-to-back.
Memphis is back home after a terrible fourth quarter led to a 114-107 loss Friday at Cleveland. The previously sputtering Cavaliers outscored the Grizzlies 33-20 in the final 12 minutes, relegating Memphis to its second consecutive loss after it won four of the previous five.
Sacramento dug a deep hole early and never recovered Friday in a 119-105 loss at Indiana.
The Grizzlies rank 25th in the NBA in turnovers per game, averaging 16 an outing. They committed just seven in the loss but were outscored 22-8 on second-chance points. At 116.3 points allowed per game, the Memphis defense ranks 26th in the league.
Rookie sensation Ja Morant, who came in averaging just under 19 points per game, was held to eight on Friday, though he did contribute 11 assists.
The defensive woes at Cleveland fit with a theme coach Taylor Jenkins discussed with reporters at the beginning of the week.
“We’re still trying to establish that identity. It’s not just a matter of putting in new coverages,” he said. “It’s guys embracing the one-on-one challenges.”
Sacramento enters Memphis for the finale of a road swing that began with a win over the Golden State Warriors and then continued with losses to the Charlotte Hornets and Indiana Pacers.
The Kings played Friday without Bogdan Bogdanovic, who was sidelined due to an ankle injury. His status for Saturday was uncertain. Trevor Ariza also was not with the team in Indiana due to personal reasons.
Due to the absences, Justin James and Yogi Ferrell both saw significant increases in their minutes totals at Indiana. James, a rookie who was averaging 3.3 points per game, matched his career high with 14, and Ferrell contributed seven points.
Despite being depleted due to injuries much of the early season, Sacramento sat in the No. 8 spot in the Western Conference after beating the Warriors on Sunday, though the Kings are now a half-game behind that position. If they are able to finish in the conference’s top eight, they would snap the NBA’s longest current drought without a playoff appearance.
Sacramento last made the playoffs in 2006, and entered the 2019-20 season two more consecutive missed postseasons away from tying the 1976-77 to 1990-91 Los Angeles Clippers for the league record.
But the postseason remains a goal several months down the road. In the meantime, the Kings are searching for a consistent complementary scorer to go with Buddy Hield, who is putting up 21.1 points per game. On an off night for Hield — such as Friday, when he shot 3 of 15 from the field and scored seven points — Sacramento is often in trouble.
One positive for the Kings is that Marvin Bagley III is back in form after returning last week from a broken thumb that sidelined him for 22 games. Bagley is averaging 13.8 points per game in five games since coming back, and he had 17 on Friday.
Coach Luke Walton said earlier this week that he might ask Bagley to see some time at center instead of his standard power forward position. The 6-foot-11 Duke product said he was flexible.
“I’m doing whatever I’ve got to do,” Bagley said, according to the Sacramento Bee. “Whatever coach needs, whatever the team needs, I’m going to adjust and learn and continue to try to help the team win.”
–Field Level Media