The race for the playoffs began with a thud in Sacramento last night for the Memphis Grizzlies. While they showed grit and an ability to fight to the finish despite a poor first half performance - especially defensively- it wasn’t enough, as the Kings took the 129-125 win. The loss puts Memphis at 29-28 for the season, looking down the barrel of three games against three of the top six-or-so teams in the Western Conference over the next six days.
This was not a must-win opportunity missed...but still an opportunity lost.
Some quick takeaways-
- De’Anthony Melton is great...but...he probably should never be the leading scorer on the Grizzlies on any given night. The offense wasn’t necessarily the problem - see the 125 points scored - but how they got those points was a bit problematic. Melton’s ideal role on this team is to be a near-elite defender and create for himself and others when necessary. It’s not his fault he was the leading scorer...it’s others. And it shows more of an issue with them than him.
- The Dillon Brooks issues continue. Dillon has shot a putrid 15.3% from beyond the arc over his last five games, and an only slightly better 28.7% from the field overall. He is still shooting at a pretty high volume - he was the leading shot taker last night - but he isn’t making them the same way he was before this recent slump. He has also only attempted eight free throws over those five contests, meaning he either isn’t getting foul calls or he isn’t being as aggressive getting to the rim. Something has to give, though, if Memphis wants to remain a playoff team. They’ll need good Dillon.
- The defense had a rough night. And it wasn’t the usual suspects. Jaren Jackson Jr. had trouble keeping in front of Nemanja Bjelica at times and his rim protection was not as solid as it should have been, especially in that first half. Kyle Anderson wasn’t 100% at fault for Harrison Barnes’ red-hot offensive performance, but he was responsible for him defensively to start the game when Barnes began 4-4 from beyond the arc. The offense was ready to rock post All-Star Break. The other end of the floor lacked...and that was the difference in this one.
The good news? Memphis can get right back to work tonight to try to correct their issues. The bad news? It’ll have to be against the Los Angeles Lakers, the 2nd best team in the NBA. That is what makes this Kings loss sting a little more...it was a “winnable” game that got away from the Grizzlies.