Two of the NBA’s best young guards go head-to-head Wednesday night when Ja Morant and the Memphis Grizzlies travel to Oklahoma City to face Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Their two meetings this season show the different styles of their games.
Morant is averaging 18.5 points and 9.5 assists while shooting 37.9 percent from the field against Gilgeous-Alexander and the Thunder.
Morant is at his best attacking the basket with his athleticism and distributing to his teammates.
Gilgeous-Alexander has been much more about creating for himself this season, especially recently as rookie Theo Maledon has stepped into the starting lineup at point guard. That has allowed Gilgeous-Alexander to play more off the ball.
Gilgeous-Alexander is averaging 26 points, 5.5 assists and 3.0 turnovers in splitting the first two matchups against Memphis. He’s shooting 45.2 percent from the floor and 54.5 percent from behind the arc in those games.
And both, recently, have helped their teams be successful.
Memphis comes into Wednesday night’s game having won three out of its last four while Oklahoma City has won five of its last eight and is 4-2 in its last six with Gilgeous-Alexander in the lineup.
Memphis has won two consecutive games, including Monday’s overtime win over Boston at home, where the Grizzlies had a season-high 38 assists.
Morant did have nine in that game but he was far from the only Memphis player setting up his teammates, as Dillon Brooks and Kyle Anderson each added seven assists.
“The communication’s been big,” Memphis coach Taylor Jenkins said. “We’ve been talking about that a lot as a group, making sure we were on the same page defensively and offensively, making sure we were getting the looks that we want, the matchups, the assignments and the coverages that we need.”
The Thunder didn’t have quite the same assist production in their Monday win at Minnesota, but Oklahoma City did have 27 assists, one of the better marks in the category this season for a team near the bottom of the league in assists.
But Gilgeous-Alexander had another big game — 31 points with four 3-pointers.
Gilgeous-Alexander has evolved as a shooter since his arrival from the Los Angeles Clippers two seasons ago. He comes into Wednesday night’s game shooting 50.8 percent from the floor and 41.8 percent from behind the 3-point line. Gilgeous-Alexander’s shooting is third in the league among guards with at least 12 attempts per game.
“He’s a handful to keep out of the paint to begin with so that (his enhanced outside shooting) only adds a dynamic that makes him really, really hard to guard,” Thunder coach Mark Daigneault said.
Oklahoma City’s Luguentz Dort missed Monday’s win and three of the Thunder’s last five games with toe soreness while Al Horford has missed two consecutive games and three of the last five games for rest. Horford has yet to play against the Grizzlies this season.
–Field Level Media