After that incredible game between UNC and Kansas, college hoops season officially comes to a close, but there’s plenty of b-ball action with the NBA playoffs right around the corner.
In this week’s Showstopper, we’ll break down everything you need to know for Suns vs. Jazz and Celtics vs. Grizzlies. We’ll also preview the UFC 273 fight card, including Alexander Volkanovski vs. “The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung in a featherweight championship bout.
UFC 273: Volkanovski vs. The Korean Zombie
Saturday, April 9 | TV: ESPN+ PPV
Alexander Volkanovski puts his UFC Featherweight Title on the line against Chan Sung Jung in what should be a very entertaining fight. This will be The Korean Zombie’s second chance at becoming a champion in UFC, and although he’ll be the crowd favorite, he remains the heavy underdog to win. Volkanovski hasn’t lost since way back in 2013, but the champion’s last four victories have come via decision, so the Zombie does have a shot to go the distance – especially with his strong grappling ability. Jung has won three of his last four, with his last two fights going to the judges’ scorecards.
Also on the card, the UFC Bantamweight Title is on the line between current champion Aljamain Sterling and interim titleholder Petr Yan. These two fighters last battled in March 2021, when Yan seemed to have a clear path to victory before getting disqualified for an illegal knee strike. Sterling underwent disc replacement surgery in his neck one month after that bout and hasn’t fought since. This is a complex surgery where Sterling opted for the disc replacement instead of fusion to preserve his mobility. Yan’s supreme striking ability will be tough to combat, and Sterling will have to shake off the Octagon rust to pull off the upset.
Phoenix Suns vs. Utah Jazz
Friday, April 8 | TV: NBA TV
The Suns have already clinched the league-best record, while the Jazz are still jockeying for playoff seeding despite having clinched their berth. With only a couple of games left before the playoffs begin, the Jazz definitely have more to gain by wrapping up their season on a winning note. Utah is on a five-game home win streak amid rumors of internal beef between Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert (which both stars have outright denied). The Suns and Jazz rested a bunch of key players on Wednesday night, leaving these squads in fresh shape heading into Friday night’s showdown.
The Suns are 7-3 over their last 10 games, averaging 118.2 points per contest over that stretch. Phoenix holds a 2-1 edge in the season series against Utah, with the Jazz narrowly winning the last matchup by a score of 118-114. Donovan Mitchell (26 points) and Devin Booker (30 points) were the high-scorers in that game, which featured a total of 30 three-pointers made. Booker has averaged 35.3 points per game against Utah this season. On the injury front, Mike Conley and Royce O’Neale will likely return to the lineup after being held out of Wednesday’s action. The same goes for the Suns’ group of stars, as Booker, Chris Paul, Jae Crowder, and Deandre Ayton make their return to the lineup.
Boston Celtics vs. Memphis Grizzlies
Sunday, April 10 | TV: TNT
How about those Memphis Grizzlies? Without Ja Morant in the lineup, the Grizzlies have stormed to the 2nd spot in the Western Conference and have gone 7-3 in their last 10 games. The Celtics have also gone 7-3 over their last 10, as they attempt to hold onto the 2nd seed with the Bucks and 76ers both in the mix. After dropping Thursday night’s game to the Bucks, this matchup holds even more weight for the Celts. Morant is getting closer to returning from a right knee injury, but there’s no definitive word on whether he’ll play before the postseason. The good news is the Grizzlies got their second-leading scorer, Dillon Brooks, back in the lineup Thursday night.
With Morant out of action, Tyus Jones has been picking up heavy minutes at point guard. Jones has topped the 20-point mark in two out of his last three games. Memphis holds a 3-0 lead in the season series with Denver, but all of those wins came with Morant in the Grizzlies’ lineup, so the result could be much different this time around. Nikola Jokic has averaged 27.6 points per game versus Memphis in spite of those defeats. The Grizzlies can actually break the franchise record for regular-season victories if they win their final weekend games against New Orleans and Boston.