Saturday night primetime basketball. The Memphis Grizzlies and the Cleveland Cavaliers both reside in the NBA’s basement, but they have totally different agendas. After the loss of LeBron James, the Cavaliers are bottoming out hoping for a new All-Star talent to build around. Meanwhile, the Grizzlies want to pay off a debt quick and convey their first-round pick to Boston.
You love to see it.
The first quarter was absolutely brutal to watch, as Cleveland was simply out-hustling the Grizzlies in every area possible. They played a lot quicker and were more aggressive picking their spots. They attacked the basket and got to the line consistently, and they dominated Memphis in the rebounding department. Though the Grizzlies’ offense picked it up a bit, they still faced a 13-point deficit.
The Grizzlies rallied in the second quarter behind the hustle and solid play of Delon Wright, Jonas Valanciunas, and Joakim Noah. They were chasing after 50-50 balls, attacking the glass, and stayed aggressive on offense. Wright, in particular, had a lot of great takes to the basket both in transition and in the half-court. The Grizzlies closed the gap to 7 to end the half.
I thought the Grizzlies’ third-quarter woes would continue, as the Cavaliers were up by as many as 15 points. However, the Grizzlies tied it at the end of the 3rd quarter behind Joakim Noah’s aggressive play. In 2019, the year of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Grizzlies were consistently running a pick-and-roll with Chandler Parsons and Noah — yes, one that included Parsons as the ball-handler.
The fourth quarter was a good back-and-forth — I mean, about as good as you’re going to get with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Memphis Grizzlies. Kevin Love is still amazing, almost to the point where I want to package Parsons and the 7th pick for him this summer. Who doesn’t love a good short-sighted move! Valanciunas kept the Grizzlies in the game in the 4th quarter, scoring 13 of his 25 points in the period. He connected a huge corner-3, put-back’s, and a nice and-1 (that wasn’t converted).
Ultimately, the Grizzlies couldn’t pull off the road victory, as they lost to Cleveland 112-107.
Key Stat Lines
- Jonas Valanciunas: 25 points (11-19 shooting), 11 rebounds 2 blocks.
- Mike Conley: 18 points, 3 steals
- Joakim Noah: 16 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 blocks.
- Delon Wright: 15 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists.
- Mike Conley needs to be more aggressive.
There’s no reason a player of Conley’s caliber should have the 3rd-most shot attempts, fewer assists than Noah and Rabb, and under 20 points against Collin Sexton and Matthew Dellavedova. The trade rumors could’ve sucked some life out of him, but hopefully he returns as the Conductor we know and love — for potentially the last time ever.
- I love Jonas Valanciunas.
Jonas Valanciunas is an absolute beast. He’s a pitbull in the paint, bullying opponents in the post and plowing his way into rebounds. I don’t see him opting out of $17M next season, and if he does, the Grizzlies should try to lock him up for 3 years. Though more teams will have cap space, the market isn’t too friendly for big men with his play style.
- ...I love Joakim Noah too.
I was 100% wrong about the Noah signing, and I couldn’t be any happier. He brings a contagious energy on the court, and it’s so easy to fall in love with. For a team looking to establish an identity and a culture, the Grizzlies should think about bringing him back next season.