It was a premier match-up Wednesday night in Memphis as the Los Angeles Clippers came to town. Although the Clippers would be without Kawhi Leonard as he continued his hush-hush load management after he played the night before in a win over the Dallas Mavericks. It didn’t matter either way for the Clips as they still came in and got the win at the Forum.
Overall, the Grizzlies played a very solid game. They competed all game going back and forth with one of the best teams in the league. It was until the last few minutes of the fourth quarter when Memphis went cold and could not hit shots to save their lives. At the 6:48 mark in the final quarter, the Grizzlies went up ten after Jaren Jackson Jr. had a pair of free throws. It was 108-98 and then it all unraveled as the Grizzlies gave up a 23-11 run to lose on a game winning tip-in shot by Montrez Harrell.
Outside of that shot, it was the Lou Williams and Paul George show. The Grizzlies could not contain these two defensively. They were hitting the huge shots in the fourth quarter to get this team back in it. By that point the heroics of Ja Morant was not enough. He scored the Grizzlies’ last eight points but was not enough by the end of the game.
Now, on to grades:
Ja Morant- A-
Ja Morant just continues to impress on the biggest stage. Honestly, it is hard to imagine this team without him on offense. His ball dominant, score-first mentality is a perfect boost to this team. Last night, that is majorly what the team the team relied on. He finished the game with 20 points, 11 assists, and 5 rebounds in 34 minutes of play. The most impressive part of this all was that it was against one of the league’s best defenders in Patrick Beverley. He was paired up against Morant for chunks of this game, but Morant still showed what he was all about impacting this game throughout. Even in a tough loss, Morant keeps getting high marks with his development in the league.
Dillon Brooks- C+
Another very average Dillon Brooks game. He plays 26 minutes for the Grizzlies in this game but only contributes 4 points, 2 assists, and 1 rebound. Again, that is just not enough for Brooks to be a starter on this team. The Grizzlies desperately need his offense to be regularly winning games. Here is a perfect example of his game only resulting in four points and the team losing by two. Where is that 30-point game he showed off pre-season? It just is not enough impact offense without being a premier defensive player.
Jae Crowder- B+
Crowder in this game had a hard assignment. He was up against Paul George in a game where Kawhi was not active. This put all the pressure on him, and some of Brooks, to guard George when it was needed the most. Unfortunately, PG still scored 22 in this game with some big buckets that were mentioned earlier. It hurts for him as well in this one because he finished with one of his better offensive games. He finished with 37 minutes and 20 points shooting 6-of-11 from the field and 3-of-6 from three. That is a very good night for Crowder and shows what he could do offensively. He can get it all back on track soon enough.
Jaren Jackson Jr.- B
Now this grade is not negative as so much as it is just not where he can be against a team like this. Even as the Clippers have dominant players, the team is able to be taken advantage of down low in the paint. Jaren Jackson Jr. should have done a bit better in the post. It could just be the bitter taste of that last second tip-in, but whatever the case, his expectations are high now. A 17 point and 6 rebound night is not enough in a losing effort. Luckily, his front court teammate led the offense in this one and actually did attack the feeble big men of the Clippers.
Jonas Valanciunas- A-
Valanciunas came to play tonight. He was the leading scorer throughout the whole game and bullied the paint all night long. Jonas finished his monstrous night with 30 points and 16 rebounds. It was a huge reason the team stayed throughout this whole game. Unfortunately, post scoring in this one was not reliable enough to tap into late. The Grizzlies needed just one or two more buckets down the stretch in this game.
Overall, the Grizzlies graded well. The bench also contributed making this a full team effort. They are close to starting to win these games they get so close in, but for now, they are going to have to learn from these efforts and fight in.
The Grizzlies will be back in action Friday night hosting the Utah Jazz with Mike Conley coming home once again. It will be another teary-eyed event.