Dillon Brooks’ scoring output against the Minnesota Timberwolves rightfully gets the headlines coming off another game where he puts up more than 20 points. Ja Morant was brilliant as a scorer and passer when it mattered most as well. But when the Memphis Grizzlies made their run in the final frame of their come from behind victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves, one player in particular paced the squad on both ends of the floor.
He leads off today’s Report Card.
Jaren Jackson Jr.: 21 points on 7-15 shooting (4-10 from three), 7 rebounds, 3 blocks, 2 assists, 1 steal, +15 in 31 minutes
Jaren Jackson Jr. was struggling entering the fourth quarter of Tuesday night’s game. Then, on both ends of the floor, he became a complete and total monster. Defensively, his ability to switch on to guards like Jeff Teague and Jarrett Culver and defend the rim allowed for the Grizzlies to get stop after stop, leading to offensive possessions that Brooks, Morant, and Jackson himself helped use to chip away at the Minnesota advantage. Offensively his shot began to fall, and multiple threes in key spots with an offensive rebound to gain a second chance here and a key pass there to open shooters there got Memphis to the promised land of a victory.
Jaren Jackson Jr. was the engine behind one of the more consequential wins of the season. More on that later.
De’Anthony Melton: 6 points on 2-5 shooting, 4 assists, 1 rebound, 1 steal, +24
You’re likely reading this, expecting it to be a love fest for Ja Morant and Dillon Brooks, and wondering “why the hell is Melton the 2nd grade here?” In a word? Fit.
De’Anthony Melton has been a major reason the Grizzlies are 11-8 in their last 19 games and winners of four of their last five. He is almost indisputably the best perimeter defender for Memphis, making plays on that end of the floor that lead to opportunities for the offensive firepower the Grizzlies now possess. He’s no slouch on that end either - he’s a much better facilitator off the ball than on it, as many predicted would be the case, and when needed he can drive off the dribble and score using his body and length well to create space.
The Grizzlies don’t need him to be more than what he is, which is more than enough as a key role player for Memphis moving forward. In an offseason of success, he may just be the best pound-for-pound acquisition the Grizzlies front office made this past summer.
- Ja Morant is special. 25 points on 18 shots, 7 assists, 4 rebounds, and 5 turnovers (hence the -). Don’t ruin it by saying dumb stuff. We’re watching the beginnings of something special. Let it happen at its own pace. GRADE: A-
- Dillon Brooks resents the whole “sixth man on a good team” thing, apparently. He also really likes playing against the Minnesota Timberwolves. 85 points against them this season certainly helped the Grizzlies sweep the season series with Minnesota. Now if we could only get him to pass...0 assists in this one. GRADE: A-
- Jae Crowder had a night. 14 points, 8 rebounds, a remarkable 5 steals, 3 assists, 0 turnovers. And the trade deadline auditions continue. GRADE: A-
Memphis is back in action Friday night against the San Antonio Spurs, in a contest that will potentially lead to the Grizzlies being in the 8 seed in the Western Conference playoff picture. Thank goodness for terrible basketball beyond the 7 seed...and to the credit of the young Memphis coaching staff and roster, impressive growth from the start of the season to now.