The Memphis Grizzlies hosted the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday night, another “Vancouver Grizzlies” night at FedExForum. The Grizz would top the Cavs 113-109 in a competitive game, with quite a few highlights from the young Grizzlies to keep the arena entertained. The game would be close throughout the first half, and the score reflected a close contest, yet the Grizzlies pretty much ran away with it in the third quarter.
As with all jobs in life, there are reviews and grades based on your performance. The same remains true here at Grizzly Bear Blues, we grade our team on a game by game basis. Keep in mind, the Grizzlies recent performance has been off the charts, winners of now seven straight, and leading the league in scoring through January so far. For the Cavs game, my grades are below.
Surprisingly, Memphis is 11th in the NBA for three point shooting, which is pretty good historically for this franchise. With that said, this team by no means relies on three point shooting to win games. Though shooting beyond the arc has been more of a focus this season, there aren’t many shooters that will give you a consistent four or five makes a game (Dillon Brooks or Jaren Jackson Jr. maybe, but unlikely). High percentage three point shooting nights are more of bonus than an expectation for this team. With that said, Friday night the Grizzlies were 9-28 for 32%, not great, but manageable.
On the other hand, the three point defense was quality. Three point defensive percentages is a tough stat to rely on, simply because teams often just have poor shooting nights. As for the Cavs game, the defensive effort was strong: rushing shooters into quick releases and off-balanced attempts. The Cavs were not shy about shooting threes either, going 9-36 for 25%. Kevin Love, widely known as a high quality shooter, was 0-6 in his own right.
I am only including this because the Grizzlies started the season with serious foul issues, most notably from Jaren Jackson Jr. and Dillon Brooks. That seems to have evened out, at least in the month of January, aside from the 1st half of this game. I have to imagine this has been a serious point of emphasis for the coaching staff, along with the increase in pace there isn’t as much time for fouling throughout the game.
The lack of fouling has been a benefit to keep the best Grizzlies on the floor, but also hasn’t given other teams free points at the free throw line. The benefit of keeping teams out of the bonus is very obvious to close each quarters as well, the game is more free flowing and keeps the Grizzlies in a rhythm.
The same would be true for Friday night’s game. Only one Grizzly had long-term foul concerns, Brandon Clarke, but it didn’t have a strong affect on the game. Most importantly, JJJ and Jonas Valanciunas kept themselves on the floor by staying out of foul trouble.
Grizzlies Role Players, A+
The joy of watching this group as the “next generation Grizz” is the true team element that has been adopted this season. Of course players like JJJ and Ja Morant are electrifying, but there is also exciting talent coming off the bench. The rise of De’Anthony Melton has been steep and quick, and we are all here for it. His defensive tenacity along with high IQ offensive play has been such a pleasant surprise for this team. That remained true against the Cavs - Melton only had three points, yet had 5 rebounds, 4 assists, and 4 steals.
Brandon Clarke has been a high quality sixth man all season, so we have become accustomed to seeing his scoring numbers. He would contribute 15 points against the Cavs. Grayson Allen has come on the scene as of last as well, finally realizing his role off the bench. His shooting is still catching up, yet defensively he is more than dependable. He would go 5-6 from the field for 11 points in just 16 minutes.
Final grade: B-
This wasn’t the prettiest game the Grizzlies have played in the seven-game win streak, but showed that team has built some perseverance. The first half was a slow paced grind, much different than we have seen from the Grizzlies recently. Yet the third quarter was a quick adjustment - Memphis would put up 38 in the quarter to take a commanding lead.
The problem was the fourth quarter, which is a sentence that has been true at times this season. The Cavs would make a comeback that seems very reminiscent of more than a handful of games through November and December. Regardless, the Grizzlies were able to sustain the comeback and pull through, something that shows that the young guys are learning how to win.