If you ace 75% of the test, and then get a 0% on the final quarter of the assessment, are you allowed to just ignore that final part?
Asking for a friend.
The Memphis Grizzlies played relatively well for a young team on opening night for the first 36 minutes of their game against the Miami Heat. While there were plenty of mistakes, and lots of missed threes (27 to be exact over the span of the whole game), the Grizzlies stood toe to toe with a Heat team that while they were missing their best player in Jimmy Butler was still better constructed to compete in the here and now.
Then the bottom fell out.
This will be a common refrain for this version of the Grizzlies. Fourth quarters will almost certainly be the tipping point in the wrong direction with Memphis, as they simply do not have the right combination of talent and experience to win basketball games against most NBA teams. This will hopefully improve as the season grinds along - the experience part in particular. But game one went about as expected with regard to not being able to sustain for a full game.
On to the grades.
Jonas Valanciunas - 16 minutes played, 7 points on 3-7 shooting, 1 rebound, 1 assist, 1 steal, 1 block, 3 turnovers, -19 +/-
So wait, you’re saying missing the entire preseason can make for a bad opening night performance?
Who could’ve seen that one coming?
Valanciunas looked like he hadn’t played NBA basketball in a long time because, well, he hasn’t. He fouled far too often (a couple calls were questionable, but he still wasn’t in the position he should have been), he was not active enough offensively, and the entire flow of his game was off because of it. Jonas is vital to these Grizzlies. He needs to eat center minutes for Jaren Jackson Jr. and Brandon Clarke so they can get their time against lesser bigs. He needs to be an effective pick/screen setter for Ja Morant and wings on the perimeter. He needs to defend the rim without fouling.
He didn’t do anything of these things nearly well enough last night.
Jonas is supposed to be one of the best players on this team. He wasn’t against the Heat. The Grizzlies lost.
You shouldn’t be surprised at the outcome, given Jonas’ performance.
THE BENCH (Tyus Jones/Grayson Allen/Marko Guduric/Kyle Anderson/Brandon Clarke) - 41 points on 17-36 shooting, 19 rebounds, 12 assists
If you’re looking for positivity, the reserves for the Memphis Grizzlies are a good place to start. While they weren’t good enough to build or maintain a lead, they did show enough before the game got out of hand to make Grizzlies fans excited about this unit’s potential. Tyus Jones led the way, displaying a scoring aggression and acumen that probably would surprise some Minnesota Timberwolves fans. Marko Guduric was more capable as a slasher and finisher at the rim than expected, and both Kyle Anderson and Brandon Clarke filled their respective roles nicely for most of the contest. Grayson Allen, the least productive member of this unit against the Heat (only 5 points and 2 assists, 1-5 from beyond the arc), brings down the overall group grade.
But on a night where things got out of hand pretty quickly in the final frame, the 2nd group was more up to the task of competing than the 1st.
GRADE - B
The season ahead should be graded on a curve...especially to start.
Growing pains are sure to come. The longest tenured member of the Memphis Grizzlies in Dillon Brooks, who has been here two years. Among last night’s 10 main rotation pieces only three of them (Jaren Jackson Jr., Kyle Anderson, and the aforementioned Brooks) were on the roster this time last season. Their highest paid player on the roster is off in the Bay area or L.A. waiting for a call to be traded. This team is not supposed to be able to win basketball games very often.
That’s why the fool’s gold of the first 36 minutes of the Heat game must be taken for what it is. Perhaps in March or April they’ll finish better, compete more completely, and not lose quarters by 20+ points.
In October, and almost certainly for the next 3-4 months? More Miamis are to be expected.
The coaching staff themselves are brand new in multiple ways, and needs to grow as well. Better execution offensively to protect possessions, better rotations defensively to not allow 37 point quarters to opponents...that falls on coaching, too. But Taylor Jenkins and his staff are not unlike their roster - inexperience reigns, and will continue to do so until they get more time together with their team in competition than one regular season game and three weeks of a training camp.
How much more time they will need remains to be seen. Until then, for now, failure isn’t failure...unless they fail to learn from it.