On a night where things set up nicely for the Memphis Grizzlies to pick up a much-needed win as their schedule prepares to become much more difficult, Ja Morant and company rose to the occasion.
The Brooklyn Nets, who despite being without Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving still have a good amount of talent, were coming off a big overtime win in Boston against the Celtics the night before. Caris LeVert, Spencer Dinwiddie, and other members of the Nets have proven throughout the season that once Durant and Irving are healthy and in the fold, Brooklyn will likely be a title contender. But too much energy went in to the win in Boston, and the Nets simply did not have their legs under them in this second game of a back to back. 33.3% from the field and 16.7% from three is evidence of that.
But credit the Grizzlies. They took advantage, and especially in the final three quarters of the contest (they outscored the Nets 96-56 from the 2nd quarter on) dominated Brooklyn to the tune of a 118-79 victory.
Some takeaways from a good road victory.
The Grizzlies won the battle of the bigs.
Even with the injuries to the top two stars for the Nets, the front court depth of Brooklyn should have - in theory - had success against Memphis with Jaren Jackson Jr. and Brandon Clarke both out due to injury. Jonas Valanciunas is a monster, but between Gorgui Dieng and Anthony Tolliver the tandem of DeAndre Jordan and Jarrett Allen should have - again, in theory - feasted. It never materialized. The two Grizzlies centers (Jonas and Gorgui) grabbed 30 of the Memphis 59 rebounds and owned the paint from pillar to post for almost the full 48 minutes of the contest. Brooklyn simply didn’t have an answer for the bigs of the Grizzlies in and around the lane, and that was an area that the Nets needed to have success in if they were going to be winners in this game.
We need to talk about Josh Jackson
But in a good way!
Another night, another stellar performance from Josh. He dove for loose balls, showed flashes of defensive explosiveness, and scored an efficient 19 points on 12 shots. He once again was not very impressive in other areas in terms of counting stats - no rebounds, one assist - but at some point, considering what was expected of Jackson (nothing) we need to tip our caps and say a few possible truths that are coming further in to clarity...
- Josh Jackson is a functional basketball player...and that may be a conservative statement.
- His time in the G-League, while rightly debatable, seems to have helped him mature.
- He may well have a future in Memphis if the price is right.
That last one will take some time to digest, considering the fact that just nine months ago he was seen as the least valuable part of a trade involving De’Anthony Melton and a couple second round picks. Yet it doesn’t make it any less real in the here and now. Many folks - myself included - have been waiting for the “bad” Josh Jackson to show up. He hasn’t yet...and he may not do so.
Maybe Memphis has found its next reclamation success story after all.
- Ja Morant is violent in the best way possible. 15 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists made up a decent showing from the young leader of the Grizzlies. But his main highlight on this night will come from a missed dunk that would have made the Barclays Center ascend in to the heavens if it had connected.
God bless dumb luck and ping pong balls.
- Tyus Jones can ball. Tyus Jones is a baller. 18 points, 6 assists, 6 rebounds, 0 turnovers. He won’t always shoot 5-6 from beyond the arc, but that assist to turnover ratio is very sustainable...and makes his fit on this roster darn near perfect moving forward.
- John Konchar might be around Memphis a while. He was a startling +25 on the night in 22 minutes of play, and he seemed to always be making smart plays on and off the ball on both ends of the floor. He’s not an elite athlete, and there’s a definitive ceiling to what he can be for Memphis. But if that ceiling is “12th or 13th man”, and that comes at a team-friendly cost? You can do a lot worse.
Memphis should enjoy this win, but they also need to turn the page quickly. There’s no time to enjoy blowouts like this one in a playoff chase, and the Grizzlies need to continue to separate themselves from the Kings, Pelicans, and others behind them in the race for the eight seed. Memphis, now 31-31 on the season, begins a back-to-back of their own Friday night in Dallas in a must-see showdown between Ja Morant and Luka Doncic.