For the first time in nearly a month, the Memphis Grizzlies were able to celebrate a home victory on Saturday night thanks to the Washington Wizards. This was not just any win either. It was a statement type win, one in which several Grizzlies not named Ja Morant, Jaren Jackson Jr., or Jonas Valanciunas stood out. In what overall was a great sports day for the city of Memphis, the Grizzlies enjoyed a Saturday night on Beale that many hope will become the norm in the near future.
Let’s take a moment to highlight a few individuals who arguably had their best nights in a Grizzlies uniform so far:
Solomon Hill: Grade A
Solomon Hill continues to provide quality minutes in his role as the veteran glue-guy reserve in Taylor Jenkins rotations. He currently is producing the best scoring rates of his career, mainly due to his significant improvement beyond the arc. That improved ability was certainly on display tonight, as Hill went 4 for 4 on three pointers. It was his third time scoring in double figures this season, as well as the third time he produced a +15 or better rating. While Hill may continue to see a reduction in playing time as the Grizzlies get back to full health, he continues to provide decent production when on the court.
Brandon Clarke: Grade A+++ (all the pluses to infinity)
At this point, he should just simply go by Brandon “Grade A” Clarke. It seems every game he plays, Clarke offers more and more of a reminder of how special he is and can be. However, this game was different. This time, Clarke took the stage to John Cena’s “My Time is Now”, held up a big sign in bold lettering that read “Arrive. Amaze. Depart.”, and gave it his own stamp of approval.
Clarke set a career high with 25 points on 11-14 shooting from the field. He was the first Grizzlies rookie since Marc Gasol to score 25 or more points while shooting 75% or better from the field. Many have hoped Clarke would continue seeing his role grow once he got back from injury, and Clarke chose the perfect stage to make it known he will thrive.
Make no mistake, there was purpose behind his production. Many speculated that the first ideal spot for Clarke to get drafted in the 2019 draft was at number nine by the Wizards. Instead, they took Clarke’s teammate from Gonzaga, Rui Hachimura. Not only did Clarke make sure to leave nothing but regret on the Wizards for passing him by, he also made sure to eliminate any doubt as to who is the most talented rookie from Gonzaga in the NBA. Hopefully, this performance will continue Clarke’s emergence as a potential starter in the near future.
Tyus Jones: Grade A
There is no denying Tyus Jones’s time in Memphis so far has been a bit of a struggle. In fact, this arguably has been his worst season in the NBA since he was a rookie. Obviously, the transition to a new setting and system has likely played a role. However, the regression in the strengths that made Jones attractive to the Grizzlies have been noticeable. Thankfully, that was not the case last tonight.
On the evening, Jones displayed the historical efficiency he showed in the past, as he scored nine points, dished out nine assists, produced two steals, and committed only one turnover. He was 4-5 from the field, including one three-pointer. This is the exact production the Grizzlies had envisioned when they signed Jones to back up Morant. Quietly, Jones has now distributed seven or more assists in four of his past five games. He also has produced an assist-to-turnover ratio of seven-to-one or better in three of those contests. Hopefully this is a sign that Jones has found his groove and will continue to be a significant asset for Memphis off the bench.
Memphis Grizzlies and Yuta Watanabe: Grade A Class
Last night’s contest made NBA history, and it did so in a way that likely has more value than any statistic can provide. For the first time in the history of the league, two Japanese-born players, Yuta Watanabe and Rui Hachimura, played in the same game against each other. The significance of this milestone cannot be understated. For a game that continues to expand globally, one of the more significant world stages where the NBA is still attempting to make an impact is Japan. The efforts of Watanabe to expand the awareness of the sport in Japan has helped to set the stage for a significant talent like Hachimura to hopefully make the NBA’s popularity explode.
It was a wonderful move by the Grizzlies to feature Watanabe in tonight’s game, and a great job by several individuals in the news and through social media to bring attention to the importance of the moment.