The Memphis Grizzlies hung tough in a variety of situations in this game against the Chicago Bulls, refusing to go away despite poor offensive performances and a lack of execution on both ends of the floor. Even with a terrific showing from Jonas Valanciunas scoring and on the glass (32 points, 13 rebounds in 29 minutes of play), Memphis fell in Chicago 106-99.
Here are some takeaways from the loss.
A slow 1st half
The first quarter started sluggishly for the Grizzlies - a 7-0 early run led to a Taylor Jenkins timeout to try to get his squad going. The largest lead for the Bulls was 11 in the quarter, and the Grizzlies were able to cut it down to four at one point behind the unified efforts of Jaren Jackson Jr., Tyus Jones, and Jae Crowder. But Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen were too much on the offensive end (6-7 from the field, 18 points in the frame) and Chicago led by 7 at the end of the first quarter.
It got a lot worse from there. The Grizzlies couldn’t make a three and had very little offensive efficiency at any level as Chicago expanded their lead. Dillon Brooks isn’t a starter on a good team, much less a leading scorer. He had to try to be that at times, and it...went poorly. Memphis literally went a stretch where they missed 20 of 21 shots.
20. Missed. Shots. Being down 50-35 was a gift- their worst offensive half of the season could’ve resulted in a much worse spot to be in.
As Memphis tries to develop throughout the season, a full 48 minutes needs to be had competitively. Usually the team falls apart in 2nd halves. The slow beginning tonight is what doomed them, as the Grizzlies suffered their first loss of the season in which they never led at any point in the game despite a much better 2nd half performance.
We are still three weeks away from the Christmas holiday, the date that I set as my “time to make declarative statements about players/the team”. But Marko Guduric is consistently one of the lowest level contributors to the roster, and man that was true again in this one. A terribly missed three, a lack of contribution in areas beyond shooting, four minutes of play and no return to the court from there. De’Anthony Melton and Grayson Allen ate his minutes up in the 2nd half. If he isn’t going to be a three point threat, he serves little to no purpose on a roster that has other young wings and guards worthy of development reps.
Three weeks. Roughly 10 games. Time to get it together. But the eye test and the numbers are saying the clock is ticking for Marko. There are other players (see above and below) that should get looks in his rotation spot if things don’t turn around, and that process may have already begun.
There are reasons to be optimistic. Jenkins started De’Anthony Melton to begin the 2nd half and had him finish the game, rewarding a young player that had competed well and prioritizing effort and execution. Memphis, led by Melton and Valanciunas, battled coming out in the 3rd quarter and didn’t simply lie down after their terrible first 24 minutes of play. But without Kyle Anderson, Ja Morant, and Brandon Clarke, the Grizzlies didn’t have the horses on this night to finish the race.
Melton turned the ball over too much. Valanciunas remains a pick and roll defense liability. Jaren showed his immaturity in this game, struggling offensively and allowing that to impact his overall game far too much. This team is fatally flawed...and will remain that way for some time. That’s what a rebuild is - a process. And that process includes a lot of losing. As long as they compete, that’ll do for now.
Memphis is back in action Saturday against the Jazz in Utah.