Last night was a movie.
Yes, it’s a phrase I overuse, but something about that game was a work of art — almost like it was scripted.
A former franchise player returns to his forever team for this first game as an opponent of his career. The emotions are high, and as the tribute video played, you could feel the energy overwhelm you. It was so overwhelming it felt like Mike Conley was trying to hold it back.
Basketball-wise, it was everything you could ask for in a regular season basketball game. There was a nice pace and flow to the game, the lead never really got too out of hand on either side, and the crowd was electric.
And for the Memphis Grizzlies, their 2nd overall pick — who ended up taking the reins the former franchise player once had — was electrifying, looking the part of a bonafide superstar in the making.
And the finishing touches? A Grizzlies victory.
Like every critic, you have to rate it with some grades. So how did everyone fare out?
Ja Morant: A+
This one is easy as pie. Ja Morant looked the part of a superstar in his national television debut. I mean...
... LOOK AT THIS ...
... AND THIS ...
... I MEAN OH MY GOD!
Ja Morant put on a dazzling performance, leading to 25 points and 8 assists. He showed a lot of poise controlling the offense, as well as the comfort to shoot the 3-ball — which is an encouraging sign.
As we all honored and recognized a franchise icon, it was sweet to receive a reminder that same night that the future is in great hands with this floor general of the future.
The Veterans: A
Jonas Valanciunas, Jae Crowder, Kyle Anderson, and Solomon Hill all did a wonderful job guiding these young kids to victory here.
Though the number of shot attempts were small, Valanciunas did a great job capitalizing on his looks, connecting on 4 of his 6 shot attempts, while also carving out space for driving lanes and rebounds.
Jae Crowder’s impact was quiet, as he finished with 11 points, 10 rebounds, and 4 assists. He did a great job spacing the floor, hitting 3 three-pointers. Down the stretch, he crashed the glass and made some huge rebounds to prevent any extra possessions for this Jazz offense.
Kyle Anderson’s second quarter performance helped set the tone and extend the lead for Memphis. In the second quarter alone, he had 13 points and 6 rebounds, as he found his groove in the mid-range and even knocked down a 3.
Solomon Hill gets lumped in here, because he ultimately made the biggest play of the game. In the final possession, as Donovan Mitchell was looking to find an open look before the horn, Hill stripped the ball from him to seal the game.
Veterans are important for young talent, as they teach them the importance of the small details needed for victory.
Other High Grades
- Dillon Brooks (A) - Dillon’s shot was on last night, as he finished with 20 points on 7-15 shooting (3-6) from deep. He also brought an intensity and edge, a product of the crowd’s high energy.
- Brandon Clarke (B) - His stats don’t pop out, and he was a negative in the +/- department, but Clarke did a fantastic job handling the 5 for stretches and finishing around the rim.
- Tyus Jones (B-) - Jones didn’t do anything that popped out, but he did finish with 7 points and 5 assists, which is always nice production for your backup PG. Though he had 0 turnovers, he had a +/- of -8.
- Marko Guduric (D-) - After a hot shooting stretch over the past 5 games, Guduric struggled mightily, missing all 6 of his shot attempts.
- Jaren Jackson Jr. (D) - Foul trouble plagued him in this one, but Jaren also struggled to find his rhythm and spots in Utah’s defensive scheme. Though he was willing to let it fly, he couldn’t get anything going, missing all 9 shots — 6 of those from 3.
Be sure to tune in Sunday at 5:00 PM CST to see the Memphis Grizzlies take on the Denver Nuggets. Can they extend their winning streak to 4?