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Report Card: Suns scorch Grizzlies

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How each starter and the bench graded out in a tough loss against the Phoenix Suns

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Memphis Grizzlies Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

If you thought maybe the juggernaut Suns would finally relent against a plucky Grizzlies team, you thought wrong.

The Suns handily defeated the Grizzlies 114-105 where the final score isn’t quite as disparate as the actual play. The Grizzlies’ defense couldn’t stop the Suns from scoring at will and couldn’t maintain any comeback effort as a result. In one of the few decent offensive outings for the Grizzlies this season, their defense could not keep up.

The Suns had themselves a field day inside the paint until it reached a critical mass in the third quarter. After the Grizzlies held a two-point lead going into halftime, the Suns blasted them out of the water 37-22 in the third frame and never relinquished the lead again. Both teams, young and with new coaches, experienced droughts and runs alike in this contest. But the Suns’ domination of the second half made this a tough game to watch.

How did the individual Grizzlies grade out in this loss? Well, keep reading. You knew they were going to be in here. The article has “Report Card” in the title.

Ja Morant: B

A mixed bag for Ja tonight, but a good night. A team-high 24 points (9-16 FG) and 7 assists for the rookie was quite a bit of production considering there were stretches early on when he was invisible. Ja also gets extra points for starting to take more three-pointers, going 2-3 against the Suns. As incredible as he is driving into the paint, he’ll become an even bigger offensive weapon when he establishes the threat of the three-point shot. Defenses won’t have any idea what to do when he’s coming down the court at full speed.

Where Ja is faulted and loses points is his defensive play. His effort came and went on that end of the court throughout the night. Where he WON’T be faulted is not taking this charge against Aron Baynes. If anything, his grade gets a bump for showing high IQ. Maybe not basketball IQ, but life IQ.

Jaren Jackson Jr: D+

Getting injured midway through a game will always garner you a bad grade in this writer’s rubric. He also gets a demerit for his four fouls in the 22 minutes he actually played and for disappearing at times. Phoenix denied Jaren the opportunity to have any prolonged success. He didn’t help matters with four turnovers, too.

I will say that when Jackson did touch the ball, he was okay offensively. He shot 3-5 from the field and was generally in the right spot. But the disappearing act due to foul trouble and a tough defense made it so he didn’t have too much of an impact.

Here’s hoping his injury isn’t too serious.

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Memphis Grizzlies Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Jonas Valanciunas: C+

Good counting stats for Jonas. He has a fairly high floor as an offensive center because of his touch around the rim. Now that he has been adding a three-point shot to his game, he’s become quite valuable in the playing time he’s received thus far and again displayed that against the Suns.

But the interior defense of Jonas left a lot to be desired as the Suns feasted inside the paint. That blame isn’t all on Jonas, some belongs to Jaren and perimeter defenders that allow easy penetration, but Jonas did not look good on the defensive end.

Dillon Brooks: B

Some really erratic decision-making from Brooks, but they came from good intentions. As Memphis could not get a consistent offensive rhythm, Brooks was always there to do his best to generate some points any way possible. He gets credit for being aggressive offensively while still being efficient (6-12 FG, 2-4 3P). On the other end of the court, he found himself ball-watching too long and out of position on closeouts quite a few times as well. He ended the night with a team-high five fouls, too. An average day with some bright spots offensively for Brooks.

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Memphis Grizzlies Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Jae Crowder: D-

0 pts, 0-8 FG, 0-5 3P.

It’s not actually that simple sometimes, but other times it is. Especially considering the needs of the team. Jae Crowder’s only offensive role is to hit shots when he’s open. He isn’t necessarily asked to create shots for his own and create off the dribble. Those opportunities presented themselves in transition when Crowder had the ball and he just couldn’t convert. In a game where Memphis needed every bucket possible, these missed opportunities were costly.

Bench: B-

Wow, is this bench lucky that Brandon Clarke is on it, or what? He had a huge game on both ends of the court and continues to look like a potential star. The bench also gets extra credit towards their grade for the load they had to carry in this contest. No starter played more than 29 minutes as Taylor Jenkins tries to find a suitable rotation.

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Memphis Grizzlies Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

The bench scored 45 points on 18-36 shooting, a great night by all means. But 31 points on 11-27 shooting when you take away Clarke’s contributions is not as helpful anymore. Without Clarke, this grade may have been a C-/D+. Grayson Allen, may his injury not be serious, is horrible and was horrible against the Suns. The rest of this bench is a lot of “fine” with no real dependable night-to-night options. It is quite a telling sign for this team that a rookie is their rock of stability off of the bench.

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