There is only one thing that can be said after a game like this: The Memphis Grizzlies are back.
Before this season began, many people - including yours truly - didn’t give the Grizzlies much of a chance of having close to the same success as they have had over the last decade. And to be sure, this is still only the beginning of the season and just one game. But at least for one night, the Grizzlies showed that Grit ‘N Grind is still alive and well with a thrilling 92-84 victory over the Utah Jazz.
As ugly and gritty as it may almost always be, it was a game that made you remember what the essence of Grizzlies basketball is: swarming, suffocating defense.
It was a game that reminded you (or made you learn for the first time?) what a solid backup point guard is, as Shelvin Mack hit two huge threes within a minute of each other to put the Grizzlies ahead by double-digits in the middle of the 4th quarter.
It was a game that reminded you of what a playoff atmosphere feels like.
It was a game that made you remember what it’s like to be on the edge of your seat, caught between the two opposing extremes of joy and agony.
And most of all, it was a game that reminded you of three key words.
Hammer. Nail. Coffin.
In my game preview, I said that in order for the Grizzlies to win, Mike Conley and Marc Gasol would have to outplay their matchups, and they more than delivered. Although they both finished with rough shooting nights in a muddy game in which both team shots below 37%, they both led the Grizzlies like it was 2017 once again.
Conley finished with 23 points on 6-20 shooting along with 7 rebounds and 4 assists. Marc Gasol ended the game with 18 points, 13 rebounds, and 4 assists after fouling out with less than four minutes remaining. However, Ricky Rubio and Rudy Gobert struggled, finishing with 6 and 11 points respectively.
In the battle between the two teams’ rising stars, Jaren Jackson Jr. won this round over Donovan Mitchell. The Grizzlies’ swarming defense forced the second-year prodigy into an awful 6-17 shooting night and six turnovers. While he didn’t exactly fill up the stat sheet, Jackson dominated the painted area on defense, altering every shot and every drive that came his way. He finished with 11 points and 7 rebounds.
The Jazz did make it interesting at the end as they managed to cut the lead to six with a minute remaining. However, free throws from Mike Conley and Wayne Selden would allow the Grizzlies to finish strong.
On an unfortunate negative note, Chandler Parsons only played six minutes before leaving the game and never returning. Hopefully, it’s nothing serious and he will return healthy soon.
But for tonight, there is no negativity. There is belief—belief that the Grizzlies can still beat the NBA’s elite, and belief that they will continue to do so in the future.
Let’s welcome back the Memphis Grizzlies. They were greatly missed.