Yes, the Memphis Grizzlies were on a five game winning streak before playing Houston Tuesday night. Yes, James Harden is the best scorer in the entire league, scoring 40+ in 4 straight against Memphis. Yes, the Rockets are the 4 seed in the Western Conference, while the Grizzlies are below .500. Yes, Houston was without Russell Westbrook, but that’s their fault.
In my Path to the Playoffs breakdown, this was the one loss I predicted on the homestand, obviously without knowledge of Westbrook resting, but it didn't happen. Memphis won, and won by double-digits, despite Houston came out white hot — James Harden had 17 in the first quarter alone.
Yes, this Grizzlies team is overachieving, but that is not a bad thing, so enjoy the heck out of it while you can.
Yes, this is a report card, and a great one — so let’s dive in.
Ja Morant: 26 points on 10-11 shooting, 8 assists, 5 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 block and +16 box +/-
I listened to the Book of Basketball 2.0 podcast today and Bill Simmons was joined by Steve Nash to discuss the infamous, hidden from the internet, 2007 playoff series against the Spurs in which the Suns lost Amare Stoudemire and Boris Diaw to suspension for leaving the bench.
Before discussing the game in depth, Nash broke down his philosophy as a point guard. Get my guys going, take over at the end when needed. For many games this season, that seems to be the strategy for Morant as well. As a top 2-option on this team, I am not always a fan of this approach, but without fail Morant drops 8-10 in clutch time.
Tuesday night was a different approach for Ja, scoring the first 7 points for Memphis. Between Austin Rivers and James Harden, no backcourt player had a chance to slow down the rookie. He carried the team through their opening slump and paced them throughout the game, finishing as the highest scorer and assister for Memphis.
Add this game to his ROTY voting campaign.
De’Anthony Melton and Grayson Allen: 18 points, 8 rebounds, 8 assists and +22.
Both shot less than 50% on the night, but both are always around the ball making plays on both sides of the ball. Crowder’s absence allowed for Grayson to receive early minutes and he continued to prove he deserves to be in the rotation.
These two young players helped spark the early comeback and once Memphis found their rhythm, it was over from there. Both these guys should remain mainstays in the backcourt rotation both now and in the future.
- Jonas Valanciunas was a victim of the poor representation that is the raw +/- as he was a -14 overall while posting 19 points and 6 rebounds. Despite the +/-, Jonas still finishes with a B.
- Dillon Brooks scored 24 points and you know you hear the voice of Brevin Knight reminding you they are undefeated when Dillon scores 20+ points. It held true once again. He shot an impressive 6-10 from three while pitching in 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocks and 1 steal. Grade A
- Solomon Hill played 14 minutes, made one shot and led the game in +/- at 25. While the advanced stat doesn't accurately show his impact, he did not force things and filled that stat sheet up in ways. Grade: B-
The Grizzlies continue on the home stand against the lowly Cavaliers. Memphis will need to be careful to not lose a hangover game and remain perfect on the stand.