#MambaForever...Some days you win & still take an even bigger loss. Memphis and the rest of the NBA experienced it last night in a roller coaster of emotions. On Sunday we lost essentially a world leader in the sports community with the passing of Kobe Bryant, and not only did the young "Drip N Slime" Grizzlies come out focused to compete amidst such tragic news, but they also were able to grind out a win & get back on another winning streak, making it 9 wins in the past 11 games.
With the 8 seed in the western conference playoffs still in play, the Grizzlies shot 52% on 84 shots attempted while the Suns struggled to make 38% of their 92 shot attempts. One can argue the Suns also recieved favor from the refs that Memphis didn't despite being at home but Jaren Jackson Jr, Dillon Brooks, & Ja Morant have become catalyst of the 4th quarter to close games. Here we take a look at the players as individual performances with team grades.
Ja Morant- A
23 points, 8 assists, 5 rebounds & 3 turnovers with a 0 +/-
After Jaren secured the tip-off, Ja recieved the ball & took a 24 second shot clock violation in honor of the late great #24 Kobe Bryant. After that it was game time for the young Drip God as he came out prowling & howling as usual looking for tonight's dinner. Ja continues to evolve, showing the makings of not only a superstar, but also that of a certified leader by example & floor general.
Ja looked to get others going early, & focused mainly on facilitating throughout the first 3 quarters & finished the game with 8 assists. The 4th quarter however, has become the Ja Morant closing as the rookie came into the game already ranked 5th in the NBA's 4th quarter scoring leaders at 7.6 points per game. Keep in mind, Ja is the only player on this leading 4th quarter scorers list that has not been selected to an all-star team yet so that explains the levels to this ish.
The "Drip God" took over the closing stretch with 14 4th quarter points alone bringing his game total to 23 points without even making a three-point shot on the evening & only attempting one shot with the burner from deep. His defense was decent tho Ricky Rubio didn't do too much to test it but former Grizzlies draft pick & player Jevon Carter looked to make Ja work a little on the defensive end but to no avail in the end. Another great game from the "Drip God."
Dillon Brooks A-
20 points on 9-17 FG, 2-4 3pt FGA, 4 assists, 5 rebounds, 4 steals, 4 turnovers with a +12 +/-
It's only fitting that Memphis' resident #24 scored the first points of the game & ironically it came from the one player on the Grizzlies known for having the "Mamba mentality" approach to the game in Brooks. Dillon had another damn good game as he's been on a scoring binge as of late. Dillon didn't even take much assist help tonight as he came out aggressive as usual, looking to get himself going by creating shots off the dribble where he has truly improved his array of handling & moves at the basket.
Dillon is becoming a master of the mid range pull up & fadeway too, as he used the the mid-range turn around right fadeway several times early to get himself going along with floaters & layups in traffic at the rim. Dillon finished with 20 points knocking 2 of his 4 attempts with the burner from deep & the 4 turnovers were just the law of averages from a guy who clearly came to be aggressive getting 4 steals.
Kyle Anderson B-
6 points, 12 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks, 2 turnovers
Slo' Mo Anderson filled in as a starter this game for Joe Mullinax's favorite player Jae Crowder, who sat out the night's festivities along with Grayson Allen. Kyle looked to do the little things providing his signature great defense for another solid defensive showing on guys like Kelly Oubre Jr. & Devin Booker (who still scored 36) but also providing a small sample platter of the stat sheet. Kyle grinded for rebounds & looked to make off ball plays to help seal the win & despit not being the best fit with the new Grizzlies core, Slo Mo being a high IQ player will always figure out ways to contribute & that's what he did on the evening.
Jaren Jackson Jr A-
20 points, 3 rebounds, 2 blocks, +10 +/-
Most games where a power forward grabs only 3 rebounds definitely wouldn't yield an A grade for said player. However, if I told you said player had a another amazing defensive game, helping hold the Suns starting big man tandem in Dario Saric & DeAndre Ayton to a combined 18-43 shooting for only 22 points, one has to consider a grading curve of sorts. Jaren has become a constant source of not only elite defense but also the 20 piece special. Jaren continues to establish himself as a consistent 20+ points per game guy outside of the occasional foul issue. Such consistency from such a young player makes it harder to accept him not being in the All-star selection talk, especially when you consider his team's current circumstances & his role to such success on both ends of the court.
In addition to his top notch three-point shooting, he's evolving his game even more now taking guys off the dribble from anywhere in a half court setting, to create whatever shot he so chooses to make. Good luck finding somebody to defend that type of player. Jaren is quietly becoming underrated if that makes sense & tonight he added more fuel the fire of that conversation. Despite fouling out again late, Jaren helped closed this game out in bitter sweet fashion.
Jonas Valanciunas B-
25 min, 12 points, 7 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block, 3 turnovers with a 0 +/-
Jonas had a decent game with decent production as he looked to make DeAndre Ayton work for everything he got in the post which wasn't very much. Jonas got in foul trouble but when he was on the court he made use of his post scoring & banged to clean up the glass. Not a bad evening for the bruising big man with the charming looks & personality.
The bench had another solid performance as well chipping in a combined 33 points from 4 reserves played which comes out to around 8 points per reserve despite Solomon hill scoring only 4 points in his 20 minutes.
Brandon Clarke B+
Brandon however chipped in 10 points & 7 rebounds along with 2 steals & 1 block in his 23 minutes
Tyus Jones - A-
Tyus had 9 points in only 16 minutes as he came in off the bench looking to really be aggressive & get his shots falling as well as other
De'Anthony Melton- B+
17 minutes, 10 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 turnovers
How about Melton chipping in another double digit scoring performance off the bench & bringing thay contagious aggressive energy he brings that rubs off on everybody around him. He chipped in another sample platter game himself & really got involved in every facet of the game in his 17 minutes.
Scoring at the rim, attacking off the dribble & pull ups from mid range all helped Melton further his argument to become a starter.
Kudos to Taylor Jenkins & the rest of the coaching staff as well as the players for even playing this game let alone winning it. Jenkins talked after the game about the loss but held it together as a rookie coach under very unusual circumstances to rally his team for a much needed win in the western conference playoff race where
Memphis is still holding onto the 8th seed. Jenkins made smart adjustments & though many were shocked & a few pissed that fan favorite De'Anthony Melton didn't start in place of Jae Crowder, one can't argue with the results of Jenkins' decision going with Kyle for the start instead as Kyle held it down for Taylor to seal the victory. Gotta give credit where it's due & young Taylor earned his keep again tonight.