The Grizzlies arrived in Detroit Friday night on the heels of arguably their most disappointing week since before Christmas. As a result, they needed a strong response to get back on track. Though there were a few struggles, Memphis made sure no one doubted who the more talented team was, as they earned a 125-112 victory.
The big takeaway from tonight was not just that the Grizzlies won, it was how they did it. Though the officiating was questionable throughout the game, Memphis, despite its youth, took full advantage of their opportunities and made the most of it. The ability to respond in that fashion two nights after one of their more disappointing performances of the season in Boston is very encouraging.
When the Grizzlies play to this level, highlighting specific performances becomes a bit harder to do. However, to make it easier, let’s start out with the roster as a whole:
Offensive Efficiency- A+
Though Detroit has a rich history of music and sound, no one cares to hear the frequent sound of a whistle during an NBA Game. Unfortunately, that was the case Friday night. Multiple technical fouls and 46 personal fouls led to 62 total free throw attempts for both teams. The end result was the Grizzlies attempting a season low 79 shots, the only time they have attempted less than 80 shots this season. It was also 12 fewer shots than Detroit.
However, that did not prevent the Grizzlies from scoring 125 or more points for the sixth time this season. Memphis’s offensive performance tonight was actually a franchise first. This was first time in franchise history the Grizzlies scored 125 or more points on less than 80 field goal attempts in a game, according to GrizzliesPR. The ability the Grizzlies showed in staying focused on their opportunities despite the distractions tonight and pressure to rebound from the past two games was quite impressive.
Jaren Jackson Jr.- A+
Though he is known to many as JJJ, Jaren Jackson Jr. could easily be described as AAA after Friday night. Simply put, he was there when the Grizzlies needed him the most, as he was assertive, aggressive, and amazing. Similar to his breakout game last year against the Nets, Jackson Jr. established himself as the most dominant player on the court early and often.
Though he ran into a bit of foul trouble in the second half, the first half is exactly what the Grizzlies need Jackson Jr. to continue doing against less talented teams. One trait that will really allow Memphis to remain ahead of schedule and establish themselves as consistent winners in the near future is their young players realizing when they truly can take over game. Jackson Jr. was able to do it early, while Dillon Brooks and Ja Morant were able to do it late. If Jackson Jr. finds consistency being able to score at will from both inside and outside as he did tonight, he will make a legitimate case to earn an All-Star nod in the near future.
Ja Morant- First three quarters C, Fourth Quarter A++
It was no secret that this was one of the more disappointing weeks Morant has had as a professional. In fairness, he had not been feeling well and may be running into the proverbial “rookie wall” that is common around this time of the NBA schedule. Tonight, Morant struggled early, both with his decision making and shot selection. However, Morant took center stage late and shined brightly to help the Grizzlies secure the victory.
With five minutes left, Morant entered the game with Detroit leading 104-103. Ten points and two assists later, Morant served as the catalyst for a 22-8 run by the Grizzlies to finish the game. As amazing as Morant can be at any given point, his consistent ability to play his best in the clutch moments late in games is one of the biggest reasons he could be a future superstar. He truly has the ability to lift the team on his shoulders and will them to victory, which he did in spectacular fashion tonight.
While Jackson Jr. and Morant were major reasons for the Grizzlies victory, head coach Taylor Jenkins use of rotations with the Grizzlies bench also played a major factor. Ending the first quarter with De’Anthony Melton, Kyle Anderson, Tyus Jones, and Brandon Clarke allowed the Grizzlies to go on a 17-6 run. As foul trouble became a reality in the second half, Jenkins again relied on a lineup featuring Melton, Clarke, Morant, and Brooks. As mentioned above, a 22-8 run was and a win was the result.
Though Jenkins has relied a bit too much the on ineffective play from veterans such as Solomon Hill and Jae Crowder at times, he has become more creative with his lineups to end games. Tonight, the Pistons had no answer for the combination of Melton and Clarke. As a result, Jenkins made sure they were featured when it mattered most. The Grizzlies now have more than enough proof that different variations of lineups featuring Melton, Clarke, Morant, Jackson Jr., Jones, Brooks, and Anderson continue to work. If Jenkins and his staff can continue being creative with their rotations, that will be a big key to the Grizzlies remaining in the playoff hunt as their competition gets tougher.