Let’s start by saying that the execution for this Vancouver Grizzlies throwback night was flawless.
The uniforms live up to the hype. The court is the best court — primary or alternative — in the whole league. The production, from the 90s rap to the Montell Jordan performance, was live.
It was just another home run from Grizzlies head man Jason Wexler and company.
Though they couldn’t cap off the excellent night with a win, the young Memphis Grizzlies had a strong showing against, arguably, the best team in the entire league. There was a reason to be skeptical of this game as well. The Lakers are rolling, and they have two of the five best players in basketball. Meanwhile, the Grizzlies are coming off two less than ideal performances this week.
Nonetheless, the Grizzlies came out with lots of energy and took the Lakers down to the wire behind the stellar play of both Jaren Jackson Jr. and Ja Morant.
For the first time this season, Jaren and Ja scored 20+ points a piece in the same game. Over the course of the season, we’ve seen flashes of what these two are capable of, but we’ve never seen it in the same game. In last night’s game though, we saw the potential for this dangerous duo.
Ja Morant was mad flashy and had a strong two-way game. He finished with 26 points, 6 assists, and 5 steals — the first rookie to finish with 25+ points, 5+ assists, and 5+ steals since John Wall in 2010. Offensively, he was ultra aggressive attacking the paint, finishing with contact against Anthony Davis and Dwight Howard — two of the strongest rim protectors in basketball. His fourth quarter brilliance continued, as he scored 9 of his 26 points in the final period. Defensively, he did an excellent job playing the passing lanes and igniting the transition offense.
Jaren Jackson Jr., though not as flashy as Morant, produced one of his stronger performances of the season. He scored 20 points and hauled in 7 rebounds while also connecting on 4 of his 7 three-point attempts. His play off the dribble is advanced for both a guy his size and his age, as he took both perimeter players and big men off the bounce for either pull-up 3’s or finishes around the rim. Defensively, he made an impact without fouling, only finishing with 2 fouls.
Both of these players gave the fans a glimpse of the future. Morant was the relentless, playmaking wizard that took command of the game in the final period — seriously, his poise for a rookie point guard in closing moments is very impressive. Jackson showed why he’s one of the league’s best young unicorns, as he let it fly and played like a big guard. They proved in this one that they could hang with just about anyone when they get it going.
It’s going to be to track the progress of their individual games throughout the season, but monitoring the strides they take as a duo is something to really get excited about.
The future is bright, Memphis. Don’t let a loss here hide that.