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Report Card: Memphis Grizzlies defeat Atlanta Hawks

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Season 2 of the Ja Morant show is going to be lit.

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Atlanta Hawks v Memphis Grizzlies Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

The Memphis Grizzlies were back in the Grindhouse, and it was pretty surreal to be honest. Despite the lack of fans due to COVID-19 protocols, just being back in FedExForum watching live Grizzlies basketball felt great. The Grizzlies made it so much sweeter with an absolute thrashing of the Atlanta Hawks.

The Hawks did start out hot, while the Grizzlies started slow — a reminder that they weren’t the Minnesota Timberwolves. However, once the 2nd quarter started, the Grizzlies found their rhythm within the flow of the offense. Then, after the half, the Grizzlies finished the job and put the nail in the coffin early.

We got some cool moments: lots of Ja Morant and-1’s, a Dillon Brooks hot scoring stretch in the second quarter, and an alley oop from Ja to his Murray State Racer teammate Shaq Buchanan.

With a third straight dub locked up, let’s do some grades.

NBA: Preseason-Atlanta Hawks at Memphis Grizzlies Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Ja Morant - 18 points, 13 assists, 2 steals, 7-12 shooting from the field, +27 in 28 minutes

Once again, Ja Morant was the best player on the floor, which is impressive considering All-Star point guard Trae Young played as well. As we saw in the Minnesota mini-series as well, it’s going to be the case a lot of nights.

He’s controlling the game at his pace, and he’s picking apart the defense as a result. He can pull back the tempo and get the ball moving to an open teammate for an easy bucket. He can turn on the jets for a sec to blast to the rim for an and-1 (side-note: you can definitely tell he added some strength over the offseason with his ability to finish with contact).

Ja looks like a year 10 vet out there.

Morant just put on an absolute show, while finding the perfect balance of finding his own shot and creating for his teammates. Over this preseason thus far, he’s shown that Year 2 Ja is going to make some noise in the league, and the NBA will need to add more national TV games so everyone can enjoy the show.

Atlanta Hawks v Memphis Grizzlies Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

Dillon Brooks - 24 points, 4 assists, 4 rebounds, 10-15 shooting from the field (4-8 from deep), +18 in 23 minutes (Grade - A)

Dillon Brooks really helped keep things afloat in the first 15 minutes of the game. He was shooting the ball exceptionally well, while also being more selective on picking and choosing his shot.

Obviously, this was a good Dillon game. He scored the ball at 3 levels at an efficient clip and didn’t hurt the team with his play. A different gear of good Dillon though is tied to his newfound passion for playmaking. For the third straight game, Brooks finished with 4+ dimes.

His playmaking is going to be a fascinating thing to monitor, as it illustrates an improvement in his decision-making, and it opens up more opportunities within the offense. More importantly, it opens up more looks for Ja Morant to get off the ball.

If this Dillon Brooks is a thing — the one that’s averaging 4 assists a game — the dialogue on him within the Grizz Twitter sphere will need to change.

Atlanta Hawks v Memphis Grizzlies Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

Grayson Allen - 9 points on 3-12 shooting (3-9 from deep), +10 in 23 minutes (Grade: C)

Grayson Allen got the starting nod tonight, and my takeaway was that he’ll be best suited off the bench. On opening night, he should probably be the team’s 2nd backup wing; whether you want De’Anthony Melton or Desmond Bane as the starting 2-guard is debatable.

He doesn’t look right in the starting lineup, like he’s trying to force the issue a bit and not play within himself. He was trying too much off the dribble and gambling on defense a bit as well. However, in the second half, he played within himself and found open 3’s in rhythm — a perfect illustration of his role.

It wasn’t the prettiest Grayson game, but his second half performance showcased why he’s getting minutes in the first place.

Quick Grades

  • Jonas Valanciunas (A): Another game, another double-double (20 points, 13 rebounds). Just another showcase where Valanciunas proves how underrated he is by dominating a center many analysts would say is better.
  • Desmond Bane (B): Bane looks as advertised: he can shoot the hell out of the ball, pass the ball well, and just make anything happen. He’s going to be hard to keep out of the rotation when the team’s fully healthy.
  • Brandon Clarke (B-): It was good to see Brandon Clarke back, as he was getting himself back into game shape. Due to Atlanta’s tight defense inside the arc, he’s going to benefit from the spacing Winslow and Jackson will provide.
  • Kyle Anderson (A): Anderson is becoming a 3-point marksman? 2020 is crazy. Seriously, when you combine his intangibles and all-around game with a reliable jumper, you have one hell of a NBA role player. How he builds on his preseason performance will be fun.

Tune in Saturday as the Memphis Grizzlies take on the Atlanta Hawks again for the preseason finale.

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