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Report Card: Grizzlies struggle on MLK Day

Coaching matters

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Memphis Grizzlies Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

The Memphis Grizzlies faced off against the New Orleans Pelicans for their one guaranteed true national television game of the year. This was the game for Memphis to showcase to the entire country for 48 minutes, what they have been showing the last month. This was also supposed to be the first match up between Zion Williamson and Ja Morant, the first two picks in the 2019 NBA Draft.

Neither of these things happened — Zion is still injured, set to debut Wednesday, and the young Grizzlies failed to show out on TNT. Memphis also failed to extend their winning streak to eight and they end their six game home stand 5-1.

Handing out grades following a loss like this can be tough at times because it is easy to be a prisoner of the moment. If grades are handed out in the context of the greater picture of what the Grizzlies have been doing and what the current goal is, then it makes it easier.

So let’s get to those:

Taylor Jenkins

The roster a coach has is the roster he has, he cannot sign and trade players to fit what he wants as that job is left up to the General Manager. Tonight is one of those nights where the roster match-ups were heavily mismatched on both sides of the floor. Jonas Valanciunas could man-handle Jaxson Hayes if he chose to, while Jaren Jackson Jr. had the size advantage on Brandon Ingram.

The same is true on the defensive end of the court, which was the problem this game. Starting Crowder on Brandon Ingram makes sense, but that left Jaren Jackson Jr. guarding Jrue Holiday.

Jenkins would get an A for the offensive side of the floor for his opening game plan. The first few possessions, the Grizzlies fed Jaren on the block with Ingram on his back. Coach recognized the obvious mismatch and sought to take advantage of it.

The decision to switch Jaren off of Holiday came after he took advantage and knocked down his first three shots, allowing him to find his rhythm early. Adjustments must be ready to be made on a possession by possession basis. It does not take a coach long to recognize something is not going to work — some coaches choose to stick with it longer than others even still.

Jenkins also allowed Nicolo Melli to destroy his defense. Whether you blame Coach or Jonas, it still falls on the coach to call out the adjustment or make a substitution. The entire NBA knows that Jonas is not comfortable showing high on the pick and roll defense, therefore Melli never rolled — instead he popped and sprayed threes all afternoon.

The offense was not the problem on Monday, as the Grizzlies scored above 110 again. The porous defense leads to a final grade of C-.

Tale of the Tape

The Grizzlies scored 70 points in the paint, out rebounded New Orleans 51-43, had more assists, steals and fast break points. These numbers typically translate to a W. But the Grizzlies were woeful from behind the arc and at the free throw line, shooting 27% and 71% respectively.

It is typical for Memphis to allow one of the opposing players to “get theirs” while not letting the other team beat them. Jrue Holiday got his with 36 points, the problem is that Brandon Ingram also had it going, scoring 25 of his own.

Day games in the NBA are tough. This team is young and playing above their expectations. A loss like this is not a surprise. The players fought until the end, cutting it to five, but they will need to regroup before a not so easy road trip.

Team Grade: C+

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