Coming into the game, the Memphis Grizzlies entered as the Vegas favorites to win this game. It’s crazy, considering the Denver Nuggets came to Beale winning 7 of their past 10 games and possessing a 32-14 record.
They must have known something.
Those odds might have shifted the Grizzlies’ way, because of the injuries on Denver’s side — as they were missing Jamal Murray, Paul Millsap, and Mason Plumlee. In addition, the Grizzlies are a .500 team at home, so that helps. If you had told me the win would be this resounding, however, I’d be shocked. The Grizzlies led throughout the game, holding a double-digit lead for the majority of the second half. Jonas Valanciunas and Dillon Brooks really set the scoring tone for the Grizzlies throughout the game, while Jaren Jackson Jr. and Ja Morant struggled to find their rhythm. The two young stars kicked it into another gear though to hold off Denver’s comeback efforts.
Now, how did everyone grade out?
Dillon Brooks (A): 24 points, 11-19 shooting, 3 assists, +4
Dillon Brooks maintained an aggressive mindset and generated a lot of buckets attacking downhill. Despite having good defenders in Gary Harris, Will Barton, and Torrey Craig, the Nuggets were unable to find an answer for Brooks, as he cooked for the first 3 quarters.
He went cold in the fourth quarter. However, it’s worth noting that he entered the period with 24 points. He finished with 24 points and only missed 8 shots.
Sports can be so damn cool.
Jonas Valanciunas (A): 23 points, 12 rebounds, 11-19 shooting, 3 assists, +6
If you told a non-basketball fan that an All-Star center would be playing in this game, they would think it was Jonas Valanciunas.
Though the box score would suggest he didn’t have much of an answer for Nikola Jokic defensively, Valanciunas absolutely bullied him offensively. He did a lot of his damage in the paint, as he didn’t take a single 3-pointer. His early attack mindset really got things going for the Grizzlies, helping them sustain a lead throughout the game.
This game illustrates Valanciunas’ value. On nights where Ja and Jaren can’t get much going, the veteran big man is more than capable of a big scoring night to keep the team afloat.
The Young Stars: B
Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. didn’t score a lot in the first 3 quarters, but they flipped a switch in the fourth quarter.
Morant started to attack the Denver defense more, capitalizing on his floater in the mid-range and on a ferocious dunk on Jerami Grant. He also did a good job not forcing anything, as he finished with 14 points on 11 shot attempts and with 7 assists against 3 turnovers.
Jackson had an off-shooting night, scoring 10 points on 4-10 shooting (2-8 from 3). However, his impact on defense was unbelievable. He finished with 7 blocks, and more importantly, he only committed 1 foul. That’s mightily impressive to be that aggressively defensively with little foul numbers, especially given his known tendency to draw a whistle.
Overall, it was a quiet game for these two offensively, but they played within themselves, didn’t force anything, and impacted the game in ways other than scoring.