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Report Card: Grizzlies extinguish hot Blazers

Mike Conley leads the way.

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Memphis Grizzlies Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

How is it possible that in the middle of a losing season, the Memphis Grizzlies have become fun to watch again? It is a rare thing that a team in the midst of a lottery season is also fun to watch. The Grizzlies are that team right now.

It looked as if it was about to be a long night on Beale Street and that J.B. Bickerstaff was headed for yet another failing grade.

The Portland Trail Blazers jumped out to a 12-2 lead, and that was without Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum pitching in. JB had Mike Conley was guarding Maurice Harkless and the Blazers abused that mismatch, yet JB didn't adjust right away.

Luckily the Grizzlies bench unit pulled the Grizzlies back into the game and Memphis ended with a win.

So let’s look at how the Grizzlies graded out.

Player of the Game

As the game was going on, it seemed that Delon Wright was going to be the obvious choice for MVP of the game. He led the bench unit that brought the Grizzlies back in the game from the hole the starters dug out of the gate.

However, it would be an absolute crime and possibly the end of my time at Grizzly Bear Blues if anyone other than the conductor himself, Mike Conley was named play of the game.

After not scoring in the first quarter and missing five free throws, Conley scored 16 points in the 3rd and 17 in the fourth on his way to a career high 40 points. While the bench got the Grizzlies back into the game, it was Conley that carried the team home. Mike hit 6 of 7 threes and 12-18 shooting for 67%.

Grade: A++++++

Sixth Man of the Game

This one is just as obvious as Mike winning Player of the Game. Delon Wright has been unlocked. It was almost as if he needed that start against Oklahoma City for him to gain the confidence necessary to play up to his potential.

Wright had 25 points, 4 rebounds, 2 steals and a block in 26 minutes of play, tying his career high in points. Memphis was struggling to start the game, but when Wright came in and aggressively attacked the basket, the game began to shift in the Grizzlies’ favor.

Wright earned his way to the closing unit tonight helping the Grizzlies beat one of the more complete teams in the Western Conference playoff picture.

Grade: A+

The Best of the Rest and the Rest

Jonas Valanciunas should never be fifth in touches on this team. He should also never end a game with only two rebounds. He was actually a -5 in the box score, so maybe it was just a match-up thing for him. He did go 6-7 (85%) and hit his obligatory one three of the game. He wasn't in foul trouble but only got 21 minutes of run. Grade: B

Bruno Caboclo and Chandler Parsons both checked in the game but failed to make any type of impact on the game, so they both grade out with F’s.

CJ Miles knocked down some big shots down the stretch and speaking of stretch, he closed the game as the stretch 4 and helped spread the floor for Conley to probe into the paint for his patented floater. Grade: B

Avery Bradley had one of his more inefficient nights shooting (35%) but did end the night with 14 points and 2 steals. Grade: C

Joakim Noah is the pirate from Captain Phillips that looks at Tom Hanks and says, “Look at me, I am the captain now.” He is quickly winning the hearts of the Memphis fans and leading with his play and energy on the court. Conley never has been a vocal or emotional leader and Noah is inserting himself as that guy. He was also inefficient shooting the ball, but he did have 9 points, 10 rebounds and 7 assists which is more than you could ever ask from a guy signed on a veteran’s minimum contract off the bench. Grade: B

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