NBA Odds & Picks for Pistons vs. Grizzlies: Back Ja Morant & Co. vs. Underwhelming Detroit

Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Ja Morant.

Pistons vs. Grizzlies Odds

Pistons Odds +5 
Grizzlies Odds -5 
Moneyline +176 / -210
Over/Under 222
Time 8 p.m. ET
TV NBA League Pass
Odds as of Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. ET and via FanDuel.

The Detroit Pistons continue their post-Blake Griffin era on Friday night when they head south to take on the Memphis Grizzlies.

While Detroit might finally get a top pick in the draft given its struggles this season, the Grizzlies are only one game out of a playoff spot in the Western Conference and are going to have plenty of games down the stretch to make up ground. Because of their weeklong shutdown due to COVID-19 in January, Memphis has played four fewer games than eighth-placed Denver and five fewer than Golden State in seventh.

The Pistons’ numbers say they aren’t actually the worst team in the NBA, and their 15-11-2 mark against the spread this season indicates they’ve at least been competitive. Let’s dig in to see whether they can slow up the Grizzlies.

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Detroit Pistons

The Pistons have won three out of their last four against the Nets, Celtics and Pelicans — not too shabby — but are still going nowhere fast. Detroit will be positioned well this season for the No. 1 pick in the 2021 draft, currently sitting at 8-20.

Entering play on Thursday, Detroit has been significantly below average in February, ranking 21st in Offensive Rating and 18th in Defensive Rating, according to NBA Advanced Stats.

Detroit has seen a lot of roster turnover of late, having traded Derrick Rose to the Knicks earlier this month and agreeing with Griffin that it’s probably best he never plays for the Pistons again.

Griffin’s arrangement has created more minutes for forward Saddiq Bey, and the rookie out of Villanova is taking advantage. In seven games this month, Bey is averaging 26.8 minutes and 14.9 points while shooting 54.8% from the field and 51.3% from beyond the arc. Both numbers will regress, but for a team in need of scoring next to Jerami Grant, it’s encouraging.

Josh Jackson is flashing glimpses of the potential everyone saw from him coming out of college, scoring 16.9 points per game this month.

The Pistons’ main issue defensively has been defending within 14 feet of the basket. According to NBA Advanced Stats, Detroit is allowing opponents to shoot 45.6% from 10-14 feet from the basket, which is sixth highest in the NBA, and 46.8% from 5-9 feet, which is fourth highest.

That inability to defend the midrange game is music to Memphis’ ears, as the Grizzlies make their living offensively from inside the arc. They take the sixth-fewest 3-point shots per game in the NBA but have still managed the league’s 10th-best Offensive Rating in February.

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Memphis Grizzlies

Memphis has been busy in February, going 4-6 through the month’s first 18 days. The reason for the slightly below-average record despite the strong offense is a 118.6 Defensive Rating (25th in the NBA this month).

Without a strong perimeter presence, Memphis has made its living this month inside with Jonas Valancuinas and the playmaking of Ja Morant.

The Lithuanian big man is averaging 20.1 points and 11.4 rebounds this month while shooting 66.3% from the field and 79.3% from the free-throw line, which is very impressive for someone of his stature. Morant has returned to form after missing a chunk of time due to a foot injury. In the Grizzlies’ 10 February games, he’s scoring 16.8 per game while dishing out 8.6 assists.

This month, though, the duo has been helped by strong perimeter shooting. While Memphis isn’t an overwhelming 3-point-shooting team on paper, it is shooting 40.4% from beyond the arc this month, although The Grizzlies are taking just the 23rd-most 3-balls per game in the NBA during that span.

Memphis has an impressive array of small-forward types, highlighted by Dillon Brooks, Kyle Anderson and Brandon Clarke. That group will be boosted by the presence of stretch-forward/center Jaren Jackson Jr. later this season — if we ever see him.


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Pistons-Grizzlies Pick

This line opened at Grizzlies -8 but was quickly moved down to -5. Detroit is playing well without Rose and Griffin by giving youth a chance to impress.

I just don’t see the Pistons having the firepower to take advantage of the Grizzlies’ defensive struggles. Also, Memphis is playing efficiently enough offensively that it shouldn’t have too many problems scoring.

I like Memphis to win an extremely unattractive game, given Detroit’s 29th-ranked pace this month. But I expect the Grizz to pull away enough toward the end to cover and put bettors to bed happy for backing them.

Pick: Grizzlies -5 (up to -5.5)

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