The Miami Heat are headed to Memphis to take on the Grizzlies in what could turn out to be a classic trap game. This matchup starts a pivotal stretch in their season, where 9 of their next 10 contests will be on the road.
Beware of the Trap Game
Miami is 0-3 in road games thus far, and will be facing a desperate Grizzlies team. It could be a recipe for disaster.
The Grizzlies are in the midst of a miserable 1-6 start to the season without their star point guard, Ja Morant, who is suspended for the team’s first 25 games. They’ll need to quickly string wins together to dig themselves out of an early hole. With each loss their playoff hopes in a brutal Western Conference will dwindle. Many people thought they’d at least be able to tread water without Morant, but the boat is already beginning to sink. Every game is now of the utmost importance to them — even this early in the season.
This is exactly why Miami should be on high alert for a potential trap game. It’d be easy for Miami to overlook them. That would be a huge mistake. Just last season, the Grizzlies boasted a 35-6 home record which topped the NBA. They’ve failed to get a win on their home court in three tries this season, but it’s clearly not an easy environment for visitors to succeed in.
Miami and Memphis split their series last season. Each team won on their home floor.
This time around, the Heat will be seeing an all too familiar face: former Boston Celtics’ point guard Marcus Smart. Smart has had countless battles with Miami in his career. He always seems to play at his absolute best against them, which makes him a key player to watch.
Sharpshooting guard Desmond Bane and reigning Defensive Player of the Year (DPOY) Jaren Jackson Jr. will be under the spotlight as well. Miami usually manages to hold both players in check. Although, Jackson Jr. did shine last March against Bam Adebayo and company, dropping 25 points and 9 rebounds in a loss.
The head-to-head showdown between Jackson Jr. and Adebayo will be must-see TV. Adebayo is looking to win his first DPOY award, much like Jackson Jr. was last season. Voters have continuously overlooked Adebayo which is probably why the team started campaigning for him early this year.
Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra gave high praise to Adebayo last month:
“I think Bam is the best defensive player in the league and I just can’t understand why he’s not recognized for how impactful he is on that end of the court. So he’s just going to have to prove it again and just do it this year until everybody notices.”
Needless to say, this game could mean a little more to Adebayo. It’s a chance to outplay Jackson Jr. and show why he’s deserving of the DPOY award.
All Hands On Deck
Everyone else will need to play with the same added motivation because it’s going to take a well-rounded team performance to leave victorious. The Grizzlies need wins more than anyone in the league right now, so Miami will have to match their intensity for all four quarters.
They are slight favorites entering the game on a two-game win streak, but it wouldn’t be surprising if they struggle. This will be a major test for them. Great teams are able to stack consistent performances together to avoid trap games. It’s easier said than done.
Miami can get back to .500 if they come out with a win. That would be a welcomed sight after a lackluster start that caused some early panic.