Week 20 Results
Week 20 Storylines
-Not going to lie, a rather straightforward week! The Grizzlies did, in fact, play basketball. They both won AND lost some games. Not much else to report.
-Memphis’ record for the week: 2-2
-Required Reading: Memphis has never been a perfectly built basketball team. Their wins are never pretty. But GBB’s Nathan Chester finds joy in that and a future to look forward to with the Memphis Grizzlies. | Ballplayers are always going to want to play ball, even when they’re on a losing team. But as Zion Williamson has personified, there are millions of dollars on the line and plenty of risks in between a player and that money. GBB’s McCarty Maxwell discusses the risks in place for NBA players like Jaren Jackson Jr. and Kyle Anderson.
Week 20 Thoughts
-The Lakers game might be the most fun moment of the season. Followed closely by the OTHER Lakers game this season Memphis won when Jaren Jackson Jr. crossed up LeBron James and hit a three in his face to clinch a game in December.
-That was more of a moment for Jaren himself, where Monday’s game was just a lot of fun for the team. Joakim Noah has quickly become a Memphis favorite. That player-and-franchise combination probably feels the aptest around the league. Could you imagine Joakim Noah on the Grizzlies when we had Birdman Chris Anderson, Zach Randolph, and Matt Barnes??
-The difference in Memphis’ effort against teams like the Lakers and random teams like say, the Bulls (more on that later), is palpable. This might be the case with most teams, but teams like the Grizzlies can’t afford to have that difference. Golden State comes onto the court, screws around for 24 minutes, then goes on a rampage against their opponent. Memphis can’t do that. We have a hard enough time winning when we actually do try.
-But they brought it against LeBron and the Lakers and it was a lot of fun. It also caused another hilarious moment against LeBron’s new team while they still try to figure everything out. A beautiful time to remember Rudy Gay’s game-winner against the 2010-11 Miami Heat:
-And they followed up that great performance with a stinker against Chicago. I understand it was a close game and Memphis could have pulled out the win if a couple of plays went their way, but it’s freakin’ Chicago. And they’ve now lost both games in the season series against them with a loss to Cleveland sprinkled in between for good measure.
-I’m not sure I’ve talked about Avery Bradley since we even traded for him, but he is impressing me more and more with each game. His ability to handle the ball, initiate the offense, and defend is rare for this franchise.
-The efficiency might not be there, but Avery is incredibly adept at creating his own shot off-the-dribble and when running a pick-and-roll. Memphis has been looking for a secondary ball-handler that can score on their own and defend a couple of positions on the other side of the court. It’s fitting that they finally got one 5 years too late.
-The stats might not be super impressive, but he is making an impact. In his Memphis stint (before Sunday’s game), Bradley has averaged 16 points a game on .472/.432/.933 shooting splits with 4 rebounds and 4 assists per game to match. All that, and he’s only guaranteed $2 million next year if Memphis wants to move on? Everything is coming up Milhouse.
-How often has this Memphis team dominated a game like that against Dallas? An actual thorough victory from beginning to end.
-I was confident they were going to somehow blow it. Because if this team wins, it’s always a tough fight, won by a hair. Not this past Saturday. That was the Grizzlies’ largest win since their October 27th drubbing of the league-worst Phoenix Suns.
-I was waiting for the other shoe to drop, but it just never happened. Jonas Valanciunas had himself a night with 20 points on 8-9(!) shooting with 10 rebounds to boot. Dallas just didn’t have an interior presence to stop Jonas and the rest of the Grizzlies from getting easy shots at the rim. Related note: Rick Carlisle please stop playing Dirk more than 5 minutes a game. It is painful to watch.
-Between Valanciunas having good games and a famous trio of brothers putting out a new album, it was a big week for Jonas.
-The Dallas game was fun because well, winning by a lot is fun. But it also showed that maybe this team didn’t just punt when they traded Marc Gasol for a bunch of role players. Those players are contributing in their effort to convey their pick and could be good contributors next year as well. Consider me satisfied with the haul we got from the Raptors.
-No Mike Conley against the Thunder, which means it’s a bonus game that doesn’t count toward the standings in any way, shape, or form. It’s in the NBA rule book do NOT look this up.
-Despite the free bonus game, Delon Wright did very well to produce as a starter. 17 points, 8 rebounds, and 6 assists in the first half gave Memphis the surprising 6-point lead at halftime. I said a few weeks ago that Delon Wright is already the best backup PG the Grizzlies have had in several years, thank goodness he’s proving me to be right on something for the first time in years.
-An outstanding team defensive game against Oklahoma City, too. Russell Westbrook is prone to bad shooting nights, but it’s still an achievement to actually force one. The Thunder not having Paul George was obviously a huge factor in the defensive success, but the Grizzlies deserve a lot of credit for showing tremendous effort in transition and when a play breaks down. Memphis held the Thunder to just .355 shooting from the field. That is always going to be a productive defense. It wasn’t enough for the win, but it was an encouraging performance on the defensive end of the floor.
-Memphis went ice cold on the other end in the fourth quarter in Oklahoma City. Not surprising, but still heartbreaking when it happens and the win was in reach if they even just had an average offensive 4th quarter.
-Two side notes: 1) No Protection Inspection this week because we’re still in the 6th spot with the same amount games ahead and behind us like last time and 2) my knees hurt whenever Chandler Parsons and Joakim Noah run a pick-and-roll.
Week 21 Schedule and Preview
Portland Trail Blazers @ Memphis Grizzlies Tues. Mar. 5th 8:00 PM ET/7:00 PM CT
Utah Jazz @ Memphis Grizzlies Fri. Mar. 8th 8:00 PM ET/7:00 PM CT
Orlando Magic @ Memphis Grizzlies Sun. Mar. 10th 6:00 PM ET/5:00 PM CT
A favorable three-game home stand for Memphis! Even though all three teams are of solid quality, everyone can agree that staying at home for a week is always a good feeling.
First up in the gauntlet are the Portland Trail Blazers, who are smack dab in the middle of the Western Conference playoff standings. As of this writing, just 2.5 games separate the 3rd seed and the 6th in the West. A good couple of days could mean hosting the first round series and playing the Denver Nuggets in the semi-finals while a bad stretch could have you on the road in the first round only to face the Golden State Warriors if you make it out.
The Week-side Help is known for its Portland slander, but Damian Lillard has been incredible yet again this season. He looks on pace for his second straight All-NBA and fourth total distinction while boasting his highest single-season field goal percentage of his career. According to basketball-reference.com, the Trail Blazers are 14.1 points per 100 possessions better with him on the court versus him off the court, Lillard’s highest On-Off split in his career. I am going to be begrudgingly accepting of his All-NBA nod this year and only talk trash in hushed tones.
Then comes the Utah Jazz, who are on the lower end of the congested part of the West where Portland also stands. A lot of talk about Donovan Mitchell regressing this season was overblown and frankly just a product of a first impression of the season. Lately, Mitchell has looked like he’s actually improved upon his rookie campaign. Since February 1st, Mitchell is averaging 27.5 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists a night, albeit on just 42% field goal shooting. He’s still great. Rudy Gobert is still great. Utah is also winners of 4 of their 5 games since the All-Star break. They likely take this game too in their playoff hunt.
I’m going to be out of the country when the Grizzlies and Magic tip-off, so you’re just not going to get my thoughts on the game when it happens next week. My only preview subject is: holy crap Nikola Vucevic is playing out of his mind. It feels like a few years ago a center averaging 20 points, 12 rebounds, and 4 assists a game would be an automatic 1st or 2nd team All-NBA player. But not in a world where Joel Embiid, Nikola Jokic, Rudy Gobert, Anthony Davis, and Karl-Anthony Towns exist. They might be stats with empty calories because no one else on the Magic is taking those shots, but it’s impressive nonetheless.
But the good news is that the day of the game, March 10th, is Daylight Savings Time! So enjoy the extra sunlight and just don’t watch this game. Orlando is actually decent and a lot of you are going to be mad if and when we lose this game. Can’t get mad about the results though if you purposefully ignore them!