Stop me if you’ve heard this one before - the Memphis Grizzlies win basketball games when Dillon Brooks gets buckets.
Well it remains true after the 117-104 victory over the Charlotte Hornets. The victory helped to close out 2019 for Memphis with an 8-8 record in the month of December, leading to poor souls talking about playoffs once again.
Go ahead, check the standings, I will wait.
Yes, the Grizzlies “technically” are in the postseason hunt heading in to 2020. Yet remember that Memphis is not built for the long haul this season. They’ve performed admirably compared to expectations, but when the times comes valuable veteran depth will be traded away in exchange for the continued (and correct) pursuit of “assets”. Maybe that will mean more minutes for better players, at least better fits for the current state of the Grizzlies (goodbye Jae Crowder and Solomon Hill, hello more Grayson Allen and Kyle Anderson). That almost certainly means that it’ll eventually be goodbye to lofty, misguided postseason dreams.
It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Keep your eyes on the prize.
On to grades.
Dillon Brooks: 20 points on 13 shots, 2-5 from three, 2 assists, 1 turnover, 6 fouls in 23 minutes
Get past the very efficient scoring line, if you’re able. We know Dillon, at his best, can score the rock. The fact he fouled out in 23 minutes of play, on top of only having two assists and literally no other counting stats, is troubling. The Hornets are a bad basketball team - worse than Memphis, despite the records - and Dillon did his damage against undersized wings while not impacting the game in other ways. Even defensively, where you’d like to give him credit for the struggles of Charlotte’s perimeter players like Devonte’ Graham, he picked up multiple fouls and was forced out of the game at times because of the ticky tack nature of some of the calls.
Sure, Memphis is 8-0 when he scored 20 or more. He cheated on this test, though. Maybe in other games that means more...but not in this one.
Jonas Valanciunas: 16 points on 8 shots, 9 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 turnovers in 23 minutes played
Considering Memphis was playing on the second night of a back to back, and the first half of said back to back was literally thousands of miles away, the fact no Grizzly played over 28 minutes in this game shouldn’t be surprising. Also taking in to consideration the fact that the game was rarely in question helps - Taylor Jenkins managed minutes and the rotation well in this one. But in a limited run, Jonas Valanciunas dominated this contest. He was basically unstoppable inside, attacking Charlotte early and often inside. When the Hornets went to a 2-3 zone, his position at the foul line allowed for the offense to attack through him and allowing for him to be more active facilitation (hence the higher assist and turnover numbers).
Jonas scored 4 less points than Dillon, but he grabbed 9 more boards, had 3 more assists, and was more active defensively without fouling. He gets the A for this one.
- Ja Morant may be hitting a mini-rookie wall and hopefully sleeps for the next two days straight. It’s safe to assume there weren’t many cross-country back to backs at Murray State. While he only scored 8 points, he was effective as a passer and facilitated offense well. Jenkins’ rotation should probably limit Ja the next few games and take advantage of De’Anthony Melton and Tyus Jones more. GRADE- B
- Jaren Jackson Jr. gets the other A in this contest thanks to his early energy on the glass, especially. Jackson grabbed 12 rebounds in this game, the most in a single game this season for Jaren, and also blocked two shots while converting two threes on his way to his second double-double of the season. He’s special, folks. GRADE- A
- De’Anthony Melton is making it tough to keep him off the floor. His numbers from this particular game do not jump out at you - 7 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, a steal - but he is efficient (only 5 shots) and outside of Kyle Anderson is quite clearly one of the best perimeter defenders on the roster. If Brandon Ingram could miraculously become a Grizzly this summer (he won’t), I am dreaming of a Morant/Melton/Ingram/Clarke/Jackson Jr. starting lineup with a Tyus Jones/Grayson Allen/Dillon Brooks/Kyle Anderson/Jonas Valanciunas core of reserves. SWOON. GRADE- B+
The Grizzlies starts 2020 on the road on Thursday against the Sacramento Kings. Tipoff will be at 9 PM CT.