In a game that saw Memphis turn up for 73 points by halftime & yet lose a double digit lead in the 4th, The Grizzlies made it a point not to lose another game due to a 4th quarter collapse & they did just that with Jonas Valanciunas & Ja Morant leading the passing of the team's collection plate & the reserves coming up big & essentially protecting the win for the starters. From the coach to the bench, the Grizzlies flipped the on switch.
Ja Morant- B+
Another day another 20 points & 10 assists for Ja as the rookie not only looked to get himself going with his usual variety of shot selection such as his on ball pull up shots from three, reverse layup finishes on attacks to the rack, & dishing out dimes.
Ja looked to facilitate & never hesitate as he had 9 assists by halftime & was leading Memphis on a scoring blaze ironically versus the team coined the Heat. Ja used his burner from deep & rocked defenders to sleep taking advantage of his fellow rookie class member Tyler Herro & Miami big men when they disrespect the Drip God by playing man to man defense. Here's to Ja for reading & feeding. His -4 +/- (mainly accumulated when the heat went on a late game run) & the fact that Miami guards Herro & Nunn both scored at least 18 points prevented an A grade but the win with late game heroics kept him from receiving a lower B level grade.
Dillon Brooks- C
"Nights like this!" will have Dillon Brooks sounding like the Five Heartbeats if not for some late game heroics. One can argue that Memphis won this game in spite of Dillon Brooks, not because of him. The Former Oregon Duck & Canadian lifer shorted the Grizzlies over 5 points off of his nightly average of 14.5 ppg going into the evening & didn't do Memphis any favors defensively for the most part. Brooks shot 3-9 from the field for only 9 points, 2 assists & 2 rebounds as a -5 +/- in 22 minutes of action. Thankfully others stepped up & filled in where Dillon came up short as he had a forgettable performance.
Jae Crowder- C+
Jae has been the team King in +/- as of late but that wasn't the case this game vs Miami. However, despite Jae not only finishing the game with a subpar -4 +/- in 33 minutes of action, & slightly struggling from the field, Jae still carved out a double digit game with 10 points along with 6 rebounds in winning fashion. Jae has seen better nights but he has also seen a lot worst.
Jaren Jackson Jr- B-
JJJ finished the game with the highest +/- of the entire starting five with a +4, which partly came from solid defense at times & looking to get others going, as well as the 15 points he chipped in. Jaren continues to develop into an offensive force with dribble pull ups to activate the burner from deep & using wing like moves to get to the basket versus a very suspect Miami frontcourt. Jaren is expected to be a little more productive especially in scoring hence the B- grade but overall it was a pretty solid showing from the professional resident 7-foot unicorn of Beale Street (James Wiseman being the amateur version) & thus a grade best fit for such a description.
Jonas Valanciunas- A
Kudos to Jonas for identifying a weak spot & looking to exploit it early like a Beale Street Bully should. Jonas saw the grill, charcoal & took advice from Shaq essentially turning Meyers Leonard & Bam Adebayo into Barbeque, a dish appropriate at all times for where he served it. Jonas smoked Miami's defense "Big Bill's Barbecue" style early on & had 17 points at halftime. Jonas single-handily forced Miami out of man to man early on & took Kelly Olynyk & the game to the cleaners & finished the game serving a 21 piece special with a side of 10 rebounds & 2 blocks to wash it all down in only 24 minutes! The fact he was the only other positive +/- in the starting lineup aside from Jaren makes it the uber-efficient turn up. Not to mention he helped hold Bam Adebayo to only 14 points after he was just named the Eastern Conference player of the week for averaging over 20 points per game.
De’Anthony Melton- A
The best lineup this game was the bench as they not only had the highest +/-, but had the most all around performances aside from Jonas of course. De'Anthony Melton was another man to man defense abuser, as he may have abused Tyler Herro worst than anybody. Melton was aggressive as usual & scored 16 points. However what made the 16 points so special was the fact he did it in only 25 minutes & most importantly on a whopping seven field goal attempts with only one attempt from three of which he made of course. The ultimate measurement of aggression from the USC product, is the fact he got 11 cracks from the charity stripe & had the highest +/- of the entire game with a +12. Melton isn't just earning, he's taking his spot in the rotation as of late with performances like this one. Solid A grade performance from Melton.
Brandon Clarke- B+
Clarke had the usual efficient 14 points & five rebounds in his 25 minutes & also contributed to some stellar play from the bench hence his +9 in the +/- column. The fact he maintained such consistency of high production as a rookie in arguably limited minutes takes his grade from a solid B to a B+.
Solomon Hill- A
Salute to Solomon Hill for earning a grade this evening. Solomon kept moving & finding a way to get open for crucial catch & shoot buckets. In addition to being active off ball, he did the little things & it paid off serving as the OG catalyst of the “Drip N’ Slime” reserves this evening. For the record Solomon is very capable of having games like this more often than not but consistency has alluded him most of his career but not this game & for that he earned every bit of his solid A grade. In only 10 minutes he generated 15 points & did so in crowd hyping moments.
Taylor Jenkins has this group overachieving as of late & he's mainly doing so allowing guys to be themselves. Running the usual pace and space based offense, & at times mixing it up with Jonas. Taylor's young group came out like a well oiled machine from the jump, which is something that's become a trend for them. As the game progressed, he made the rookie coach mistake of allowing them to take their foot off the gas at the worst times, settling for lazy jumpers when they could've kept attacking in other ways to create space for shots when Miami switched over to more zone defense.
It resulted in him allowing a near blow out lead to slip totally away late in the game but he rallied a young inexperienced team together to right the wrongs they often make in late game collapses, especially in the 4th quarter. After retaking the lead with around 4 minutes left of play, the Jenkins lead Group regained momentum & sealed the deal on Beale.