It is no secret that the Memphis Grizzlies have been a tale of two teams before and after halftime this season. The Grizzlies are in the top ten of the NBA in first quarter points differential and in points per game in the first half this season. However, the Grizzlies are last in points differential per game in the NBA for both the third quarter and second half. As was expected, the Grizzlies can experience both outstanding highs and forgettable lows on any given night.
That was again the case Sunday afternoon against the Nuggets, a game that involved some streaky play from both teams early on. The Grizzlies suffered a 9-2 deficit in the first 101 seconds of the game, forcing Taylor Jenkins to use his first timeout less than two minutes into the contest. However, Memphis would storm back with a 21-3 run, with 16 points coming from Ja Morant and Jonas Valanciunas. The Nuggets would then answer with a 16-9 counter steak of their own. However, at the end of the first quarter, Memphis would lead 32-28.
Grizzlies were outscored 44-17, actually. Nuggets went on a 34-6 run at one point. Jamal Murray has 26 points and five assists. Valanciunas has 16 and eight boards, and Ja Morant has 13 points— Omari Sankofa II (@omarisankofa) November 18, 2019
If your hope was that the positive vibes would continue into the second quarter, you may just want to stop reading now. Memphis actually scored the first two baskets of the quarter, extending their lead out to 8 at 36-28. However, Denver would have its best quarter of the season while Memphis experienced one of the worst quarters in franchise history from that point on. The Nuggets outscored Memphis 44-13, including a 34-6 run at one point. Jamal Murray could not be stopped, scoring 26 points in the first half.
While the Grizzlies have been infamous for struggling in the third quarters of games over the past few years, tonight their issues appeared a bit earlier. This was only the second time since 2010 that Memphis had allowed an opponent to score 44 points in a quarter since 2010. It was only the fourth time, though second time this season, that Memphis had been outscored by 27 or more points in a quarter since 2007. Without a doubt, the Nuggets were playing out of their minds. However, the second quarter of tonight’s game was historic for all the wrong reasons for the Grizzlies.
The end result was a 72-49 halftime deficit for Memphis. The Grizzlies allowed another 36 points in the third quarter, though the reserves did offer an encouraging showing in the fourth quarter to make the score less appalling in the end. The game ended with 131-114 score, in a game that proved to be quite rare in Grizzlies’ franchise history. This was the second time since moving to Memphis that the Grizzlies allowed an opponent to make 45 or field goals, 18 or more threes, and shoot 55% from both the field and beyond the arc in a game ( the other time was in 2008). This was the fifth time in franchise history that the Grizzlies and their opponent both made 15 or more threes while shooting 40% or better from three. The Grizzlies actually accomplished this same feat in their previous game against Charlotte.
Overall, tonight was a reality check for Memphis, in a game where it simply was not their night. However, there were a few positive takeaways overall that the Grizzlies can continue to build on.
The Bigs Let It Fly- Despite their overall struggles, Memphis had quite a bit of success from their bigs beyond the arc. Jaren Jackson Jr., Jonas Valanciunas, and Brandon Clarke combined to shoot 9-12 from three in tonight’s game. Jackson Jr. has now made four or more threes in three of the last four games, while Valanciunas is shooting and making threes at the highest rate of his career.
Struggles Defending the Three Continue- Memphis has now allowed the third most three pointers in the NBA this season, and have surrendered the eighth-worst opponent 3PFG% in the league. The Grizzlies are tied for the most games allowing 16 or more threes to an opponent. Perimeter defense was an obvious weakness of this team entering the season. If the Grizzlies are to be consistently better, they must improve their ability to defend the arc.
De’Anthony Melton Continues to Impress- Over his last two games played, in 30 minutes of action, Melton has produced 21 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals, and 3 three pointers, while shooting 50% on 16 shots. Sure, Melton has not played in three of the past five games. However, even with Grayson Allen returning, Melton has flashed his significant potential as box-score stuffing combo guard. Hopefully, Jenkins and his staff will find ways to increase Melton’s usage in the near future.
Following a memorable night last Friday, this one should be an easy one to forget for the Grizzlies. With a good opportunity to get back on the right track with the Warriors visiting Tuesday, Memphis simply needs to move forward with the confidence that has made this season a success so far.