Last night’s game was going to be tough regardless. Even healthy, the Memphis Grizzlies could be closing a four-game road trip, that already included meetings with each Los Angeles team, with a red-hot Houston Rockets team.
It’s easy to hate on their small-ball methodology, as “starting center P.J. Tucker” isn’t super intimidating. However, they deploy this switch-everything defensive system, and the offense is spacious. Operating with Tucker and Robert Covington in the corners allows James Harden to isolate more often and Russell Westbrook to have the space to wreck havoc. He seriously looks like a 6’3” Giannis right now.
Anyways, Grizzlies. Yes, right...
I don’t know how to grade them, because I don’t know what should’ve been expected. Yes, they shouldn’t give up 140 points to anyone. However, they are having people play out of their roles with the absences of Jaren Jackson Jr. and Brandon Clarke. Their bench, aside from Tyus Jones and newcomer Gorgui Dieng, consists of guys who were playing in Southaven in the G-League at the beginning of the calendar year.
Could there be tweaks? Yeah, sure. I’d try to give Dusty Hannahs or Marko Guduric more run off the bench to supply more spacing. Are they NBA-caliber rotation players? I don’t know, but they can at least shoot the ball, even if it’s in theory. They could try to get De’Anthony Melton or Kyle Anderson on ball more often to allow Ja Morant to get going scoring as a cutter.
It’ll be okay though.
Anyways, who graded out well?
Ja Morant: 12 points, 9 assists, 3 turnovers, 3 rebounds, 5-13 shooting, -9 (C+)
Ja Morant’s first game against Russell Westbrook wasn’t great, but asking a rookie point guard to hang with Westbrook is like expecting a kindergartner to solve a calculus problem.
However, Morant was actually pretty good for what was a difficult game for the team as a whole.
Though he didn’t really get going scoring, he was able to find his teammates efficiently. I do think it’s cool that he posted a 3:1 assist-to-turnover ratio, despite losing by 28. In addition, he had a single-digit negative +/-. Maybe it’s me looking for positives, but it means something. Right?
Over time, we hope to see from Morant what we saw from Westbrook tonight — using his aggression and superior athleticism to absolutely bully the other team and to generate a load of momentum for his team.
Nights like these are a part of the process.
Dillon Brooks: 22 points, 3 assists, 9-26 shooting (4-10 from deep), -11 (C)
Okay, so it’s easy to say Dillon Brooks attempted to literally shoot his way out of this slump.
There’s a mixed bag of results.
One on hand, he did find somewhat of a rhythm from 3, connecting multiple 3s at a 40+% clip for the second time this month. However, 9-26 is ugly.
How should he look to break the slump? I would think focusing more on 3’s instead of contested 2’s could help a lot. He shoots at an above-average clip (37.3%), so maybe distributing more shots there could open up the rest of his game.
Even though 9-26 wasn’t pretty, it was nice to see Brooks make some progress in breaking his slump.
- De’Anthony Melton (D): “Mr. Do Something” struggled to create anything in his first start this season. Westbrook destroyed him, but he does that to almost everyone. He had a team-worst -26 +/-, which is super rare for him. Melton couldn’t get anything going either. Hopefully, he finds his offensive game against Sacramento.
- Jonas Valanciunas (B-): Valanciunas looks out of place in games like this, but it was neat to see him tally a 16-point, 10-rebound performance on efficient shooting (6-9). I wish they made more of an effort to find him offensively though.
- John Konchar (B+): Offensively, I don’t know what else he can do besides grab rebounds and make the right pass, but he’s damn efficient at it. Four of his 7 rebounds came on the offensive end, and he also had 3 steals. He gets the “+” here for attempting to baptize Jeff Green.
- Josh Jackson (C-): After a strong 3 games, Jackson had an off game. He couldn’t get going offensively, and Ben McLemore cooked him on defense.
- Dusty Hannahs (B): In garbage time, he was able to hit more 3s than everyone not named Dillon Brooks — and the same amount as Tyus Jones. For a team that needs spacing, he needs a look.
Be sure to come out and support them in the GrindHouse, as they take on the Sacramento Kings tomorrow night.