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Game Preview: Knicks vs Grizzlies, 1/29/2020

Can someone from Memphis bring me some Gus’s?

Ed. note: this article was edited at 4:20pm to reflect that the game will be played in New York, not Memphis.

After a bozo-fied loss last night in Charlotte, the Knicks (13-35) slide on over to Memphis slink back home to face the Grizzlies (23-24). Two games in two nights for two teams but the home team (which is the Knicks apparently) has the home cooking and got to sleep in their own beds.

One guy that definitely needed to sleep that one off is Dennis Smith Jr. The North Carolina native got the first guard off the bench minutes last night, and while he had faint glimpses of moments, it just continually devolved. On one ugly possession, Dennis threw a glob of wet cement at the back of the rim. The next time down he nearly threw the ball directly to Marvin Williams, who was unable to keep it in play.

On the inbound they ran the same play: a staggered set of screens with Dennis driving right to left over the top of Bobby Portis and then Mitchell Robinson. When he hits the second screen if he can’t turn the corner, there is a pitch back to Portis, as Robinson sets another screen, this time for Bobby. The first time, it didn’t reach the desired ring on the target. The second time... well, let’s just say it too missed the target.

Elfrid Payton replaced Dennis immediately after that turnover. It made Clyde say, “Eyeehh, what kind of pass was that.” To which Mike Breen replied, “Whoa.” Smith’s proverbial cup of coffee with the Knicks is likely down to its last sip here.

Projected Starters

Last night the Grizzlies played without starting forward Jae Crowder. He hurt his knee and is considered day to day. Likewise for wily defender and playmaker De’Anthony Melton, who sat with a sore left paw. Evil Ted Cruz’s awful spawn Grayson Allen is out indefinitely with a hip injury.

The Knicks are all healthed up aside from RJ Barrett, who is still in a walking boot with his ankle sprain. With no RJ, that means we’ll get full focus on likely Rookie of the Year Ja Morant.

Keys & Matchups

Who knows what the Knicks will do with this springy, clingy crew. The Grizzlies aren’t about to make anything easy. They are coming off of a spirited win over a tough Denver Nuggets team. I can already see Julius Randle trying to bludgeon Jaren Jackson Jr., but Jackson’s length will just drape over Jules like a giant burro’s tail.

You think Elfrid Payton is gonna slow this kid down?

What about Dennis Smith Jr.?

I don’t know, I don’t know. Maybe Frank Ntilikina is a mean jerk, and that’s why they don’t play him. The Knicks’ refusal to just fucking hand him the reins is too confusing for me to parse. That said, the need to pair Julius Randle and Marcus Morris at the same time is just as confounding. I don’t really blame Mike Miller. Morris and Randle are the big acquisitions of a strangely ballyhooed free agent window. Payton and Randle seem to have a small amount of chemistry, and you need to squeeze any little bit of juice you can find. Some of his bad rotation feels to me like a front office mandate.

I try to stay patient, but if Payton and Smith are getting real minutes after the trade deadline, I am officially and full bore on the fire Scott Perry and Steve Mills bullet train.

Knicks by -24.

Warm Up Music

I don’t apologize for being sentimental about Kobe Bryant. I feel a deep sorrow, with my entire being, for everyone immediately impacted by this, an outright tragedy. I feel like I’m always a warm memory away from the tears welling up all over again.

Rest in power.