The Memphis Grizzlies went into last night’s game with major playoff implications. That’s right. In January of the 2019-20 season, the Grizzlies are playing for playoff seeding, not lottery positioning. Despite the state of the weakened conference, it’s truly remarkable to see the Grizzlies play this well this quickly.
Meanwhile, the San Antonio Spurs are fighting the inevitable, as a rebuild seems to be on the horizon. Nonetheless, Gregg Popovich continues to prove that he could literally coach anyone to the playoffs.
It was easy to be nervous about this game too. The Spurs have looked solid as of late, winning two road contests against the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks — two of the best teams in Eastern Conference. And, the last time these two teams faced off, the Spurs clobbered them by 30.
The Grizzlies ultimately came in with a ton of poise, leading for about the entirety of the game. It was also one of their best performances to date.
The offense was smooth and free-flowing, as they generated a whopping 39 assists on 52 field goals — a statistic that is Spurs-esque. In that category, Ja Morant led the way with a career-high 14 assists. More promising, a few other young contributors flashed upside as secondary playmakers, an important facet to Jenkins’ system.
Dillon Brooks, though known as a notorious gunner, dished out a season-high 6 assists. De’Anthony Melton also chipped in 6 assists. Brandon Clarke made a lot of nice plays for others as well, tallying 4 assists — which is a huge area to monitor in his development into an elite role player.
Yes, the passing is glamorous to me, a connoisseur for pace and space. However, this game gave off major playoff vibes — both from the on-court product and the energy from the crowd.
Jaren Jackson Jr. continues to drill 3s at a Splash Brother rate. Every time the ball left his hands, you can feel the crowd’s expectation that it was going to fall in.
Love it or hate it, Brooks continued to fire away shooting the basketball. His energy and swagger on the court was also infectious and helped generate momentum as the Spurs kept trying to chip away at the lead.
Role players like Melton, Clarke, and Kyle Anderson made nice plays that got the crowd going.
Jonas Valanciunas showed why a bruising big that can put up 20 points any night is still important.
Ja Morant played with an unselfish swagger throughout the game, then kicked it into high gear to take over the fourth quarter.
The crowd was also into it from the start, as you can tell that even the casual fan knew the big playoff implications behind it.
All in all, this game was just another testament to the growth and entertainment factor of this young Grizzlies team. Nobody expected them to be here, and they’re playing in a fun, frisky style that’s ultimately captivating even to the national eye.
Now, as the Grizzlies sit at the 8th seed, it’s going to be interesting to see how long they stay in the race. As a result, I’d expect more exciting, intense contests like ones from last night.
The kids are learning how to win, and it’s going to pay big dividends.