The Memphis Grizzlies won a hard fought contest (no pun intended) on Wednesday night, topping the New York Knicks 127 – 106. On a night where Jaren Jackson stumbled out of the gate, missing all 6 of his first quarter shots, the other starters were there to pick up the slack by shooting 9-13 for 20 points. The Knicks fought back, though, and had the game tied going into the second period.
That’s how the night largely went last night. The Grizzlies started strong each quarter, grabbing and extending leads. Then, between the 4 and 5 minute marks, substitutions would be made and the Knicks would claw their way back into the game. This was most markedly illustrated in the third quarter when Memphis built up a 22 point lead with less than six minutes to go in the quarter, only to see Knicks close the gap back to 12 by the break.
In the fourth quarter, however, with the Knicks making another late push (again, no pun intended), the Grizzlies refused to let the game slip away and stayed focused in a manner that would have made the Grit-N-Grind Grizzlies proud. Memphis shutout New York over the final two minutes with an 8-0 run to finish it off, punctuated by three free throws from Josh Jackson.
Unfortunately, the most notable story line will be the scuffle that occurred with 48 seconds left. That’s really a shame, as there were a lot of positive takeaways from a well-played game.
Ja Morant: 18 points on 7-13 shooting, 10 assists, 3 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 block, 0 turnovers, 0 fouls
Morant was spectacular against the Knicks, turning in his eighth double-double of the season. It really goes beyond the box score in this one, though. When he was on the court, the Grizzlies were a well-oiled machine. When he wasn’t on the court, the team faltered. Morant was +42 on the night, while Tyus Jones ended the game at -21. The margin of victory was 21 points. That’s not a coincidence.
Dillon Brooks: 27 points on 17 shots, 3-5 from three, 2 rebounds, 0 assists, 2 turnovers
Brooks has been an offensive juggernaut of late, averaging 24.5 points per game during this most recent four game win-streak. Over that span, he has shot 53% from the field, including 36% from three. He is playing the best basketball of his career right now and is a big reason that Memphis is on a roll. There is no doubt that a team is going to make him a substantial offer this off-season. Hopefully, that team is the Grizzlies.
Jae Crowder: 18 points on 6 shots, 4-6 from three, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, 1 turnover
The time off apparently did wonders for Crowder. In his previous five appearances, Jae shot a combined 5-33 for an average of 3.8 points per game. That certainly wasn’t the case last night, as he was locked-in from the opening tip. He was making the “veteran” plays that don’t show up in the box score as well, clearly frustrating the Knicks all night long. That obviously culminated when he stole the in-bounds pass and shot a three-pointer with 48 seconds left, prompting Elfrid Payton to take a cheap shot and shove Crowder to the ground while he was shooting. To be fair, the Knicks were still playing like they weren’t ready to call it a game yet, and neither was Crowder.
- Taylor Jenkins has done an unbelievable job as a first-year head coach. He took over a team that was predicted to be among the league’s worst and has turned them into playoff contenders. Now at 24-24 and in control of the 8-seed in the Western Conference, Jenkins has one of the youngest rosters in the NBA playing with the confidence and poise of veterans. The players have clearly bought into his philosophy, and the Grizzlies have become one of the most enjoyable stories in the NBA as a result. Grade – A+
- The #FreeJoshJackson movement had its biggest moment of the season last night when Josh Jackson checked into the game at the 9:53 mark in the second quarter. While he only played five minutes, he did hit all three of his free-throws after the “incident” to finish with 3 points and 1 rebound. Grade – C+
- Brandon Clarke had a great game off the bench for Memphis. In 27 minutes of game action, he scored 17 points on 10 shots to go along with five rebounds, three steals, and a blocked shot. He continues to grow and the Grizzlies are benefiting from that. Grade – A-