Two teams not invited to the NBA’s Christmas showcase hope to demonstrate that basketball on the day after can be just as entertaining when the Memphis Grizzlies visit the Sacramento Kings on Sunday night.
Despite being an up-and-comer in the Western Conference, the Grizzlies have been relegated to Dec. 26 status 16 straight years, going just 4-12 in those games.
They’d won two in a row before Ja Morant’s 28 points went to waste in a 122-112 home loss to the Atlanta Hawks a year ago.
The Grizzlies have never played on Christmas Day.
The Kings, meanwhile, last got a bite out of the NBA’s Christmas pie in 2003, a game in which their current acting coach, Doug Christie, played 24 minutes and contributed five points to a 111-103 home loss to the Dallas Mavericks.
Since then, they’ve played 13 times on the day after, including last year, when De’Aaron Fox starred with 24 points in a 106-103 home win over the Phoenix Suns.
A Morant-Fox duel might make for some must-see television amid the Christmas leftovers, but the Kings standout has missed the past four games in the COVID-19 protocol. Sacramento has lost three of those four games.
Sacramento did welcome back Richaun Holmes in Wednesday’s 105-89 home loss to the Los Angeles Clippers after he had sat out seven straight games with an eye injury.
Holmes had to undergo a medical procedure after getting a laceration in his right eye in a game against the Orlando Magic on Dec. 8. Donning goggles that he said will be a permanent part of his game attire, the big man had four points and seven rebounds in 17 minutes against the Clippers.
“I think he’s got hit in the face and the eye and that area more than anybody in the NBA this year,” Kings interim coach Alvin Gentry observed before himself having to go on the COVID list. “I mean if I was him, I would be a little perturbed by the whole thing. It seems to just happen at the most inopportune times. You know, he’s back and he’s playing well, and now all of a sudden, you know, he’s got a bandage over the eye again.”
Holmes missed Sacramento’s 124-105 home loss to Memphis earlier this month, after having been forced to sit out a 128-101 loss at Memphis in November while dealing with COVID.
Morant also missed both earlier meetings while dealing with a hamstring injury that kept him out for 12 games. He has returned for the club’s last two games, scoring 16 in a home loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder last Monday and 21 in a 113-104 defeat at Golden State on Thursday.
“Ja is looking great,” Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins insisted after the game in San Francisco. “I loved the tone he set early in the game. He’s still playing the same brand of basketball that we got accustomed to. Really proud of all the work he put in while he was out.”
The Grizzlies have lost three straight, but have beaten the Kings five times in a row.
–Field Level Media