They did it! The monkey is finally off their backs. The Grizzlies defeated the Minnesota Timberwolves 95-92. Boy, does it feel good being able to say that. The streak was stopped at 11 in a row, and now the page has been turned over to a one-game winning streak looking forward to their next game in New York against the Knicks.
It was a full team effort tonight as four Grizzlies scored in the double digits. Also, all ten players who saw the court tonight had double digits in minutes as well. It is a great sign to see the team going back to their ways at the beginning of the year having a full team effort top to bottom.
The Grizzlies out-shot the Timberwolves 47.2%-44.3% from the field (28.6%-23.5% from three) and out-rebounded them 41-34. These two factors combine for a winning formula for the Grizz. The last few games we have said over and over that someone was going to have to step up for the Grizzlies to get over this hump. JaMychal Green and James Ennis III did just that tonight. Their contributions in addition to Gasol and Evans solid games was what put them over the top Monday.
Now, to team grades.
Tyreke Evans- B+
Great, all-around night for Tyreke. He had his consistent 16 points, but one thing that has stood out that cannot be praised enough. His passing has been at an all-time level for him these past few games. Monday night, he had 9 assists that showed off a passing vision that was not expected from Evans. He has tapped this new potential of his game that impacts the game outside of just his scoring. With him being able to grab a rebound and push the floor brings a crucial dimension to this Grizzlies’ offense. He is now one of the staples of this Memphis team and will be called on night after night.
Ben McLemore- C-
The only major low point of the night was the liability McLemore was on the defensive side of the court. He only contributed with 2 points and 5 rebounds in his 18 minutes played. When he was on the floor, the Wolves and especially Jimmy Butler (which, yes, is a tall task) went at him over and over when he had the chance. Because of this, Bickerstaff had to make an adjustment trying to find that fifth guy to stop the chances for Minnesota. His defense will have to improve, or his time in the starting lineup will be over soon.
Dillon Brooks- B
Dillon Brooks got back in the mix tonight having a small, but efficient night. Nights like these are what get the Grizzlies to the winning level. He had 9 points and 4 rebounds on 4-6 shooting. Not anything to blow you away, but you could really see his impact watching the game. The way, like with Evans, that he can grab a rebound and push the offense up the court helps the transition game in ways that fit perfectly with the Grizzlies/Bickerstaff style. On defense, he showed up to play Monday night. He found his way in lots of Timberwolves’ congestion throughout this game and was matched up with Andrew Wiggins. Wiggins finished the game with only 12 points, and Brooks gained more great experience against one of the best scorers in the league.
JaMychal Green- A-
As mentioned in the intro, this is the game everyone has been waiting for from JaMychal. Looking at the box score, you may not think it was that great of a game. He was a measly 4-11 shooting for 14 points and had 9 rebounds on the night. However, the impact he brought was in and around the paint which has not been seen from Green this season. Through the losing streak, the Grizzlies were out-rebounded time after time. As I have stated before, this falls on Green almost more than it does on Gasol. His game sets up for him being a smaller 4 at 6’9” (ish), but in this position, he still needs to get close to 9 rebounds a night to carry a bit of the load from Gasol. He did that tonight and hope to see this moving forward.
Marc Gasol- A
The relief and jubilation on Marc’s face after this game tells you everything you need to know. The Grizzlies needed a win, and Gasol played a major role in that happening. Coming into tonight, Gasol knew that he would be feasting on Karl-Anthony Towns, who appears to think defense is optional at times this season. Marc did not disappoint having a solid 21 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 assists in the game. He shut KAT down on defense too, allowing him to only score 7 points. With losing comes speculation and rumors flying around everywhere, and to shut them up, you must win. That is what Gasol and the Grizzlies did, and Marc couldn’t have been happier.
No Chandler Parsons or Brandan Wright again in this one once again meant the team was going to have to dig deep for points off the bench. Luckily, James Ennis III was ready to find his offensive rhythm again and contribute 13 points in 26 minutes. He was playing pesky defense most of his time on the court and showed his potential if he can tap it consistently. Ennis’s importance is very underrated for the Grizzlies.
The other positive was Andrew Harrison coming in for defense purposes against Jimmy Butler in the crucial last minutes of the game. McLemore and Mario Chalmers were such defensive liabilities down the stretch that Bickerstaff needed another option. Harrison took the burden upon himself and did not let the team down. He stayed with Butler on the last two positions for the Wolves, as he fought through screens to stay with him contesting two misses at the end.
The takeaway from this game is the losing is finally over. There is not much else to think about this night other than that. No stats, no replays, nothing can overcome the feeling the players must be going through to finally win a game after so long. It is a massive weight off their shoulders. Watch to see how much more loose and better the team looks Wednesday in New York.