It does not appear to be a sunny picture for the Memphis Grizzlies as they approach Wednesday night's Game 5 against the Golden State Warriors. They are down three games to one after a 101-98 loss the other night, and beyond that, they face elimination without their best player.
BetOnline customers have watched all season as Ja Morant, the uber-talented point guard, has put together a brilliant season. And in this series against Golden State, he had averaged 38.3 points, 8.3 assists and 6.7 rebounds. But then he suffered a knee injury as a result of a strange defensive play on the part of the Warriors' Jordan Poole in Game 3, causing him to miss Game 4. The diagnosis on his injury is that it is a bone bruise in his knee, which renders him doubtful for the remainder of the playoffs.
Of course, the "remainder" of the playoffs won't go past Wednesday if his team does not figure out a way to win without him in the lineup.
So that's the challenge for the Grizz. For the Warriors, it's a matter of not being complacent. They did have a scare thrown into them on Monday night, as they were down by three points with just 2:32 to go.
Here's what we're looking at as far as BetOnline's NBA playoff betting odds on the game:
Golden State Warriors -4
Memphis Grizzlies +4
Over 219 Points -110
Under 219 Points -110
I was getting into this "MVP" discussion the other day, and one of the aspects of it was looking at how various teams did without their top player out of the lineup. While clubs like the Sixers and Nuggets faltered without Joel Embiid and Nikola Jokic, respectively, the Grizzlies thrived when Morant was out of the lineup, going 20-5 straight-up (now 20-6). They have lost the last four in that position, however, and maybe there is something significant about that.
Yes, they lost the other night, but they covered a 9.5-point number, which made winners out of underdog players at BetOnline. As far as theories are concerned, there is something to be said about an opponent approaches a game from a defensive standpoint when a star player is out.
And that approach has to be different. Remember that Morant has the fifth-highest "Usage" percentage in the NBA, so he is VERY involved. The offense goes through him. And that gets a bit different when he's not around, so it's not as predictable. There is enough in the way of potential scoring balance, because you've got people like Dillon Brooks and Desmond Bane and Jaren Jackson and Kyle Anderson. And don't underestimate Taylor Jenkins, who's a damn good head coach.
Backup point guard Tyus Jones had 19 points in Game 3; I don't know if they need for him to duplicate that. But somebody in the starting lineup other than Jackson has to get to the line. The Grizzlies probably shot too many triples in Game 3, but then again, that's part of being less predictable.
The Grizzlies were 19-7 against the number with Morant out, although there was no real bias to be found when it came to the total (12 overs, 13 unders and a push).
Of course, we concede that it is a different scenario now that they are playing the same opponent for the second straight time without Morant, and that opponent has had a day in between to make some adjustments.
Overall, however, there is a lot to like about this team, which was the second seed in the West (don't forget that they have home court advantage in the series). Memphis was first in steals, first in blocks, first in total rebounds, first in offensive rebounds and fourth in Defensive Rating. So hey do a lot of the fundamental stuff well.
And they have covered numbers. Their record of 58-33-1 against the spread is best in the NBA. They are 30-16 ATS at home, which is also best. In a last stand, the dog is worth a look.
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