The Memphis Grizzlies gave their fans an early Christmas present with a 107-99 win over the Los Angeles Lakers. It was a complete team effort, from the coaching staff to the players, as Memphis finally played with a sense of urgency and executed at a high level on the offensive end of the floor. On a night where the Lakers played relatively well, the Grizzlies were just the better team.
It was a sight for sore eyes heading in to the holiday. On to grades.
Jaren Jackson Jr. - 27 points on 21 shots, 9 rebounds, 1 assist
He took the most shots of anyone on the team.
He was clearly the focus of the game plan, using his quick first step and ability to attack the basket against an injured/weakened Lakers front court playing lesser young players.
And when the moment came, he did not shy away from it.
A 19-year-old hit a game-clinching step-back three over one of the greatest players in the history of the NBA at his home arena. When his team needed him to be “The Man”, he was.
There will still be bumps in the road. But the Memphis Grizzlies to this point are one of the big winners of the 2018 NBA Draft...and that’s saying something, considering how well the other top rookies have been doing. Now we just need J.B. Bickerstaff to keep Jaren in the plans.
Speaking of J.B...
J.B. Bickerstaff and coaching staff-
Mike Conley, Marc Gasol, and Jaren Jackson Jr. were some of the leading minutes players Sunday night. Shelvin Mack played less than 20 minutes. Aside from the Garrett Temple outlier (40 minutes played led the team, but this was in part due to Kyle Anderson foul trouble), the rotation looked to...dare I say...have some logic to it? Mack was especially a nice sight to see - Shelvin has been a scapegoat of sorts (by me as well), but Bickerstaff was asking him to do too much. In 16 minutes a night, Shelvin can optimize his time and be the veteran backup to Conley he was supposed to be.
Beyond the rotation, the implementation of a clear game plan was nice to see. Jaren was the focus, with the understanding that he could physically win his matchups more often than not. And even when Jaren made mistakes, like a bad turnover, he stayed with the rookie.
It paid off. Well done to Coach Bickerstaff and crew.
It is Christmas Eve, so this is a shorter report card. Sorry.
- Kyle Anderson gets a B, despite scoring only two points. Slow-Mo had a unicorn-type game - 2 points, but 6 rebounds, 2 steals, an assist, a block, and the primary assignment of defending LeBron James. He was a +4 on the game, while LeBron was a -3. Plus/minus is an imperfect stat, especially in a single game, but Kyle made an impact in a variety of ways beyond the box score, especially defensively.
- Mike Conley gets an A...even though he only took 13 shots. Usually in this space I get frustrated when Marc and Mike aren’t the lead shooters, because they are the team’s best players. But on a night where Jaren was (correctly) featured, Conley served in a facilitator role and did it masterfully. 17 points, 8 assists, only 1 turnover, and fresh legs in the 4th quarter to hit two straight three to help keep the Lakers away - a great game.
- Marc Gasol gets an A, and looked more like himself. There was a stretch in the game where Marc was the best player on the floor. He made defensive impacts, he drove and dunked, he hit threes and made great passes. He almost had a triple double (17 points, 9 rebounds, 8 assists) and looked the most comfortable that he has been in some time. More of this Marc, please.
- The bench gets a B+, even with another 0- shooting night for Shelvin Mack. JaMychal Green and Wayne Selden Jr. scored in double figures, Ivan Rabb got another shot at meaningful minutes and had some success, and Dillon Brooks returned. All involved either did something solid or have been good in the past, and hopefully Bickerstaff rolls with these 10 (Mack/Selden/D. Brooks/Rabb/Green and the starters) in the rotation for the forseeable future, give or take an Omri Casspi.
- Garrett Temple gets an A for playing his ass off. 14 points on 7 shots, 7 rebounds, and when Kyle Anderson got in to foul trouble he drew the assignment of guarding LeBron. In 40 minutes played, Temple showed the poise and veteran presence that so many raved about when he was acquired and why Bickerstaff trusts him. These performances need to be more consistent, but it was a great night for Garrett.
Six players scored in double figures, driving home what we already knew - for Memphis to beat the good teams in the west (the Lakers are only going to get better, one way or another) they will have to do it together. They did just that Sunday night.
The Grizzlies will be back in action Wednesday night, finally back home against the Cleveland Cavaliers. From the GBB family to yours, Merry Christmas!