The Memphis Grizzlies out-rebounded the Sacramento Kings 51-27 on Thursday night, including an 11-3 advantage on offensive boards. Memphis also shot over 50% from the field and 40% from three. That doesn’t even include the 27-32 (84%) shooting from the free-throw line. Ja Morant even provided some of his best 4th quarter heroics to date, scoring 15 points in the final period on 5-5 shooting. Yet, it all resulted in a loss for the playoff-chasing Grizzlies as they fell 129-125 on the road.
It was just that kind of night in Sacramento. Memphis was filling up the box score, but seemed to be chasing the Kings from behind the entire night. The reserves for the Grizzlies were responsible keeping the game within reach for most of the evening, as the starters seemed to be outplayed consistently by their host counterparts. And, no matter who was on the court, there seemed to be no lineup that could get consistent defensive stops. Even still, the difference in the game boiled down to turnovers. While the Kings only committed 10, the Grizzlies had 19. For a game that was within 1 point with fewer than 8 seconds remaining, having almost twice as many turnovers is incredibly difficult for any team to overcome.
Josh Jackson: 11 points on 3-6 shooting, 1-2 from three, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 block, 1 steal
Jackson had his best game as a Grizzly yet, contributing in multiple ways throughout the contest. When the starters seemed to lack energy and aggressiveness, he came in and provided the spark when it was desperately needed. Beyond scoring 11 points on just 6 shots, he was finding open teammates, hustling back on defense to prevent easy buckets in transition, diving out of bounds to grab and save rebounds, and doing all of the “little” things that teams need for a chance to win. Indeed, he was a large reason that Memphis had a chance to steal the game at the end.
Ja Morant: 19 points on 7-12 shooting, 0-1 from three, 2 assists, 1 rebound, 5 turnovers
Even looking at his stat line at the end of the game, it’s a bit disappointing to see so few assists and so many turnovers. It took a massive scoring burst in the fourth quarter just to make it look that good, though. Through three quarters, Morant had only scored 4 points on 2-7 shooting. Until the fourth quarter, he was practically non-existent. The Kings were daring him to shoot from behind the arc, and he seemed hesitant to take them up on their offer. He only shot it once from long range, and seemed content to just hand the ball off to somebody else.
As usual, he took his play to another level when the fourth quarter started. He scored 15 points on 5-5 shooting in the final period, but also still seemed frustrated. He had a couple of costly turnovers towards the end, and just couldn’t do quite enough to get the win after allowing the team to fall behind badly during his first three quarters of action.
De’Anthony Melton: 24 points on 5-10 shooting, 4-5 from three, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 block, 1 steal
Melton was the best player for Memphis last night. In 23 minutes, he had an absurd 24 points on 10 shots thanks to his ability to get to the free-throw line, where he went 10-10. Along with Josh Jackson and Tyus Jones, they were able to get the game back in reach every time that the starters let it slip away during the first three quarters. Even at the end, his three free-throws got the team within one point with 7.5 seconds remaining. Melton was not only the “jack-of-all-trades” that he usually is, he was a true leader and playmaker against the Kings.
- Tyus Jones was great off the bench, running the show with the second unit that kept the game close for Memphis. He scored 16 points on 6-7 shooting and made 6 assists, but, most importantly, he had 0 turnovers. His steady hand helped Memphis find a rhythm, and his play helped make up for the poor production from Morant until the fourth quarter came. In only 18 minutes of court time, he had a +27 for the night. Grade: A
- Dillon Brooks was a mixed bag against the Kings. He had trouble finding his shot, going 0-6 from three on his way to 4-14 overall for 9 points. However, he at least seemed to be playing with intensity and effort all night. While there were the usual couple of bad shots, he was attacking the basket and taking a lot of shots that he’s shown he can regularly make. They just didn’t want to fall last night. Grade: C-
- Speaking of mixed bags, Jonas Valanciunas was completely benched in the fourth quarter and barely played over 5 minutes in the third. It seems head coach Taylor Jenkins viewed him as too much of a defensive liability against the red-hot shooting from long-range that Sacramento was showing early. Still, he had the highest offensive rating of all the starters (125.0) and absolutely dominated the glass with a rebounding percentage of 35.5% while grabbing 11 rebounds (4 offensive) in 20 minutes. Grade: B