In a showdown of the 2019 rookie draft class, Jarrett Culver came to boogie as he danced to the tune of 24 points. Dillon Brooks led the Grizzlies in scoring with 28 points, however in the end, Ja rules the battle for the evening between he & fellow classmate Jarrett Culver. "Drip God" Ja served up a 25 piece special with a side of 7 assists as he & Jaren Jackson Jr both closed the game out in true superstar tandem fashion, as the Grizzlies are now 10-6 in their last 16 games.
Jaren especially recovered big time to take over the game in the 4th quarter after struggling throughout the game. As of the start of the 4th, Jaren had only hit on one of his seven attempts with the burner. However when they needed him most, Jaren along with Morant & Dillon Brooks sparked the run that eventually lead to them stealing a game they trailed most of the way.
The fact that Jaren stuck with it after having a rough time shooting most of the game & still finished with a decent 21 points, is a clear sign he continues to develop into a high caliber player. His play on defense as well as offense was the catalyst down the closing stretch. Crazy thing is he doesn't turn 21 until September, as GBB Site Manager Joe Mullinax often points out.
The starting lineup for the game was Ja Morant/Dillon Brooks/Jae Crowder/Jaren Jackson Jr/Jonas Valanciunas. The Timberwolves countered with a starting punch of Shabazz Napier, Jarrett Culver, Andrew Wiggins, Robert Covington, & Gorgui Dieng, who started in place of Karl-Anthony Towns as he missed his 11th straight game due to a knee issue.
The Grizzlies started this game out scoring first as they rebounded a missed attempt from the Timberwolves & Jaren passed it up court to a streaking Ja Morant who scored the first basket of the game 2-0. Ja wasn't the only one looking to make plays for himself & others. Jae Crowder came out assertive on fastbreaks, looking to take it all the way to the rim full court at times and convert. It was him looking to feed guys like Dillon Brooks in rhythm shots, Jae played his part in opening up the offense scoring 14 pojnts on 4-6 shoooting from the field, 1-2 from deep & a perfect 5-5 from the charity stripe. Defensively he was just as good if not better as he had 5 steals & helped limit Andrew Wiggins to just 15 points & kept Wiggins from attacking the basket & making easy transition buckets. As a result, Wiggins was forced to stay outside where he finished 3-8 from three-point territory.
The first quarter featured quite a bit of Dillon Brooks as he looked to get going early & whenever he got the ball, you understood there would be limited passes. Whether it was back down spin fadeways or attacks at the rim with floaters & layups, Brooks has the “Mamba Mentality” if nothing else. His matchup kept up with his high output scoring affair but in the end Dillon's fast start proved to be the straw that broke the camel's back becuase it gave him the green light to spark that late run in the 4th quarter that was capped off with Jaren & Ja looking like a young Marcus & Mike Lowry from the movie Bad Boys.
The Grizzlies went into half-time trailing the Minnesota Gang 5 points 56-51. The Grizzlies bench played solid defense & held the fort down while the starters rested but no one off the bench scored over 6 points this game, although the good thing is 3 different reserves scored at least 6 points for the Grizzlies despite none of them exceeding the 21 minutes. De'Anthony Melton played this game as he was one of the three reserves who scored 6 points & also chipped in 4 rebounds & played some astounding defense as he still had the game high +/- with a +24. His intangibles were crucial in this win.
The Grizzlies outscored the Wolves 37-28 in the final period as the young Memphis core came alive & did their part to keep themselves just a half game back of the 8th & final seed in the Western Conference playoff race to bring them to 16-22 overall on the season.
Jonas Valanciunas had a very pedestrian scoring line in his 22 minutes, but even worse was the fact the Timberwolves small lineup was clearly too much moving for the big fella as he finished with a game low -17 despite his team winning the game.
Brandon Clarke looked overmatched a couple of times in the post serving as the back up center but still had a pretty good showing in his limited 17 minutes finishing with a +9 in the +/- column.
Ja Morant scored what proved to be the game clinching bucket. He took the Wolves to school in an iso play that finished with him creating another highlight at the rim despite essentially the entire Minnesota Timberwolves defense collapsing on him. This put the Grizzlies back up 5 points with less than a minute left to play.
The Wolves make a few last second attempts but the Grizzlies are now less than a game outside of the playoffs if it started today. As a wise man once said in the GBB slack chat yesterday, "I know it's too fast to grasp this all so soon, but the lord works in mysterious ways."
Or something like that.