Last night, the Memphis Grizzlies lost a late game to the Sacramento Kings 128-123. However, it feels like there should’ve been a third team included in the box score. That’s how distinctly different the first and third quarter performances were from the second and fourth quarter for Memphis.
Opening the game, the Grizzlies showed everything that they can be. Fans of the team saw the immense potential of its young core shine as they dominated every aspect of the game. Ja Morant looked as explosive and engaged as ever, throwing down a beautiful alley-oop. Jaren Jackson Jr had one of the most impressive quarters of his young career. Dillon Brooks even had 10 points and two assists to help the Grizz lead by as many as 20 in the opening period. When the horn sounded to end the first quarter, Memphis had scored 42 points while holding Sacramento to only 26. It was really something to behold.
Fast forward to halftime, and the Grizzlies were down by three. That’s how unique the team’s efforts and results were from one quarter to the next. If you thought it was frustrating to watch as a fan, I can assure you it was just as maddening trying to assign grades for the game as a whole.
Jaren Jackson Jr: 18 points on 14 shots, 3-4 from three, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 6 fouls in 32 minutes
Playing one of the best single-quarters of basketball the franchise has seen in quite some time, Jackson scored 14 points on 5-7 shooting in just nine minutes. He buried all three of his long-range attempts and completed an and-1 by finishing strong through contact (something with which he’s struggled mightily). Indeed, the unicorn was on full display.
Over the next three quarters, though, Jackson practically disappeared. He proceeded to shoot 2-7 for four points to pair with five rebounds. He also fouled out to make an unceremonious exit in the fourth quarter. The coaching staff has got to find a way to keep him engaged for a full four quarters. When they do, it will be amazing to watch.
Ja Morant: 23 points on 13 shots, 2-3 from three, 7 assists, 7 turnovers in 33 minutes
Despite only scoring 2 points in the opening quarter, Morant played under control and dished out three assists without a single turnover. He played more aggressively as the game continued, particularly in the fourth quarter where he scored 11 of his team-high 23 points. However, that aggressive play came at a cost as he committed 4 turnovers in the period.
The defense could’ve been better from Morant, but you could say that about the entire team. Buddy Hield and De’Aaron Fox combined for 53 of Sacramento’s 128 points, getting into the lane with absolute ease the entire night. The Kings fought their way back into the game during the second quarter through increased effort on defense. The Grizzlies didn’t return the favor.
- De’Anthony Melton was a consistent spark for the team. Beyond scoring 16 points on 7 shots, Melton was doing all of the things you would want to see. He hustled on defense, grabbed 5 rebounds, was aggressive without being careless, and drew fouls on his drives to the basket. Since December began, he’s averaging more than 20 minutes per game and earning every bit of it. In 21 minutes last night, he was the best player off the bench for Memphis. Grade - A
- Jonas Valančiūnas was consistent through the first three quarters, scoring 18 points to go with 12 rebounds. However, in over 7 minutes of fourth quarter action, he didn’t put up a single shot. The Grizzlies need to feed the big man, especially when they’re searching for a steady hand to help them weather the storm. Grade – A-
- Jae Crowder spent much of the first half throwing up enough bricks to build a new wing at St. Jude, leading fans on social media to voice their displeasure with his role on the team. It may be surprising for many, then, when they look at the rock-solid box score he put up by the end of the game. He finished with 19 points on 7-15 shooting (including 3-8 from three) to go along with 4 rebounds and 6 assists in 31 minutes. Fans should be very happy with that end result. Grade - A