Two perennial Western Conference contenders currently tail spinning due to injury-ravaged rosters go head-to-head on each’s favorite holiday when the Golden State Warriors visit the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday afternoon.
The Warriors have lost seven of 10 and the Grizzlies two straight as they prepare to meet for the first of three times this season.
Highlighting the matchup is the anticipated return of Warriors forward Draymond Green, who is planning to play after missing 13 games during his suspension, per reports from ESPN and The Athletic Sunday.
Green missed three more games after his reinstatement Jan. 7 while getting back in game shape. The Warriors have gone 8-8 without him.
Warriors coach Steve Kerr noted how important it is that Green holds himself to a higher standard upon his return.
“Draymond knows his career is on the line. It really is,” Kerr said. “This really put him on notice. He’s put himself on notice. That’s what makes this different. And that’s why his response has to be what it’s got to be.”
Golden State managed a 140-131 win at Chicago on Friday, before electing to rest Stephen Curry for what turned out to be a surprisingly competitive 129-118 loss at Milwaukee the next night. Curry is expected to play Monday.
The Warriors will be playing their third straight on the road, having headed to the Midwest without Chris Paul (broken hand), Gary Payton II (strained hamstring) and Moses Moody (strained calf).
If there’s reason for optimism — other than seeing another struggling team on the other side of the court — it’s that both the Warriors and Grizzlies have enjoyed more than their fair share of success on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Golden State has gone 21-9 on the holiday; the Grizzlies have hosted MLK Day games each of the past six seasons, going 4-2. They’ve won the past three, including 136-106 over Phoenix last year.
Unfortunately for Memphis, none of the five starters who combined for 92 points in the win over the Suns were available for Saturday’s 106-94 home loss to the New York Knicks.
One of the five, Dillon Brooks, was lost to free agency over the summer, while the other four — Ja Morant, Desmond Bane, Jaren Jackson Jr. and Steven Adams — were injured.
Morant (shoulder surgery) and Adams (knee surgery) are out for the season, and Bane (sprained ankle) is out indefinitely. Only Jackson (bruised right knee) hasn’t been ruled out of Monday’s game.
Throw in Marcus Smart (sprained ring finger), Brandon Clarke (torn Achilles), Derrick Rose (strained thigh) and Santi Aldama (sore knee), and the Grizzlies were left with a starting lineup against the Knicks that included two-way player Jacob Gilyard.
Then backup Jake LaRavia suffered a sprained ankle four minutes into his stint off the bench. He, Aldama and Rose are all questionable for the Golden State game.
No problem, coach Taylor Jenkins noted, having seen his club put together two-, three- and four-game winning streaks this season.
“The fact that we’ve gone through it kind of just toughens up your skin a little bit more, toughens up your spirit a little bit more,” Jenkins said. “Right now, it’s one (injury) after the other, (but) our guys’ spirits have been great. We just got to continue picking each other up. ”
Making just the 11th start of his two-year career, Vince Williams Jr. had 17 points, eight rebounds and eight assists against New York.
–Field Level Media
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