Grizzlies oppose a favorite opponent, Pistons

The Memphis Grizzlies will be looking to extend their recent dominance over the Detroit Pistons when the clubs meet for the first time this season on Wednesday night in Tennessee.

Dec 31, 2018; Houston, TX, USA; Memphis Grizzlies forward Kyle Anderson (1) and forward Jaren Jackson Jr. (13) and center Marc Gasol (33) talk after a play during the first quarter against the Houston Rockets at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Grizzlies have beaten the Pistons in 14 of the past 17 meetings, including 130-117 last April in the most recent head-to-head at Memphis.

The Grizzlies were without star guard Mike Conley in both matchups with the Pistons last season, including Memphis’ 104-102 loss at Detroit in February.

Conley has returned to lead Memphis back into playoff contention. The Grizzlies flipped the calendar at 18-18, just outside the Western playoff positions but six wins better than a year ago, when they failed to reach the postseason for the first time in eight seasons.

The Grizzlies have lost their past two in a row overall against a pair of NBA heavyweights — the Boston Celtics and Houston Rockets. They hope to turn things back in a positive direction in a two-game homestand that also includes a visit from the Brooklyn Nets on Friday.

One guy who believes he can help end the losing streak is forward Chandler Parsons, who hasn’t played since October because of a knee injury.

Parsons would like to return against the Pistons (16-19), he told reporters over the weekend, but that decision is not his.

“Look, I’m over here trying to help our team win in any way I can,” he said. “I’m not a distraction. I get along with everybody on the team. I love the coaching staff. I love the medical staff. So it’s just confusing as to why I can’t play and help our team, who is clearly struggling and could use me right now.”

The Pistons had an untapped weapon when Luke Kennard never left the bench in Detroit’s 106-95 home win over Washington on Dec. 26.

The benching came after Kennard, who missed 16 games earlier in the season with a shoulder injury, struggled in his return to action, scoring three or fewer points in seven of 11 games.

However, the guard found his form on the first two stops of the Pistons’ current four-game trip, totaling 30 points on 12-for-19 shooting in losses at Indiana and Orlando.

Kennard came out firing again when the Pistons began a back-to-back Tuesday night at Milwaukee, but he shot only 3-for-10 and was held to eight points in a 121-98 blowout loss.

“Taking shots that I should be taking that I haven’t before, that’s been my focus,” he said of his new approach to coming off the bench. “Just being aggressive, having that killer mentality in me.”

A matchup between the Pistons and Grizzlies means a duel between two of the league’s top big men — Detroit’s Andre Drummond and Memphis’ Marc Gasol.

They played to a pair of near-standstills last season. Drummond recorded a pair of double-doubles (14 points, 15 rebounds; 12 points, 18 rebounds). Gasol matched his rival’s double-double with 19 points and 14 rebounds in the February loss at Detroit before nearly logging a triple-double with 20 points, nine rebounds and nine assists in the Grizzlies’ home win in April.

If there were a positive to Detroit’s blowout loss on Tuesday, it was that Drummond was asked to play just 30 minutes. He did, however, see his streak of 12 consecutive double-doubles come to an end, as he finished with just seven rebounds to complement 15 points.

—Field Level Media

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