Refusing to lose back to back is the resilience needed in order to remain playoff contenders. Even though the Hawks are in the Eastern Conference & the beloved Grizzlies are in the Western Conference, losing two straight again could have easily become a spiraling of events we don’t want to experience again like the first three games post all-star break.
So with that said, the Grizzlies came out gunning vs Atlanta to the tune of 118 points. 27 of which were scored by the Big Dawg himself, Jonas Valanciunas on only 13 shot attempts. The Grizzlies looked often to take full advantage of the Hawks clear lack of size & physical presence in the post by feeding Jonas & watching him convert on nearly every attempt. The level of efficiency from him in small increments has been amazing at times. Here’s to the Grizzlies winning the games they’re supposed to win & not allowing the shortcomings get the best of them. Making 12 three-point shots always helps in such instances too of course.
Ja Morant- Speaking of hot shooting, Morant came out looking to get everyone going early & then caught fire himself from deep. Morant started pulling up from downtown & couldn’t miss as he went 4-4 from three-point territory as he looked to shake off that D-grade performance in their home blowout loss to division rival Dallas Mavericks lead by the most deadly European tandem we may have ever witnessed in Luka Doncic & Kristaps Porzingis.
Ja probed early & attacked consistently with efficiency, something that eluded him Friday night. Ja still had another 6 turnovers with only 6 assists making him a 1/1 assists to turnover ratio but he also pulled down 5 rebounds so that says he was just extremely aggressive & hungry if anything. Can you blame him for such hunger after the way Luka the God clowned the game prior?
D-Melt also looked to bounce back from a bad performance the night before vs Dallas. Melton was so bad Friday night that he was yanked from the game after only 14 minutes of being named a starter. Melton came out ready to eat this game scoring 13 points on 5/10 shooting from the field for 50% including 3 of 5 made from three-point territory. Melton also chipped in a +15 +/- which was made possible by the 6 rebounds 3 assists & 3 steals contributed by the former USC Trojan. Great redeem game from the starting backcourt, especially considering they managed to keep the phenom known as Trae Young under 17 points for the game.
Dillon Brooks- Dillon has a rather interesting game but in a positive manner this time around. He struggled offensively across the board scoring only 4-15 from the field. However he also shot only 26% from deep this game & only 60% from the charity stripe. However he did still manage to score a not so bad 13 points & 4 rebounds, but he also managed to get a game high +20 +/- on the evening.
The thing is Dillon was a catalyst defensively & really took pride in not allowing others to beat them who weren’t named Trae Young or John Collins & that’s what you want from your young veterans. Seeing them take pride in clamp defense is always a joy to experience & Dillon made sure we got our fair share as Grizzlies fans this game. Kudos to Dillon for reading the last report card & finding other ways to be effective when the shot isn’t wet. Keeping young wings like Kevin Huerter, DeAndre Hunter, & Cam Reddish from popping off is a part of that.
Kyle Anderson was another one who took Friday night’s loss to heart & really wanted to rid himself of such bad taste in team performance. Kyle came out looking to be the ultimate glue piece. He not only contributed defensively but he also played a pivotal point forward role. When Kyle wasn’t finding crafty ways to score his 12 points on 5-7 shooting including nailing not one but two of his three deep ball attempts, he was creating opportunities for others.
As the de facto point forward, he made amazing plays such as the pass he threw between the legs of DeAndre Hunter for a post feed to De’Anthony Melton who finished the easy bucket inside for two points halfway into the first quarter. He finished the game with 5 assists, 4 rebounds & a +19 +/-, good for the second highest +/- of the entire game. In other words, “Slo Mo” is better than “No Mo” baby.
We should have known the big fella came to eat when he took the feed from Melton on the first possession of the game & posted up Dewayne Dedmon to score the opening points of the game. Big Jonas came out ballin like LaVar, as the veteran big scored 27 points on only 13 shot attempts in 32 minutes.
What was arguably even more impressive was his whooping 17 boards as Jonas completely dogged out the Atlanta front court & showed again why he was the better choice to re-sign than going after Dedmon, who I wanted the Grizzlies to replace Jonas with this past summer as a cheaper option. Gotta respect a man determined to prove the naysayers wrong & the big fella did just that in grand fashion this game as he arguably carried Memphis to this win.
Bench- Josh Jackson folks. I mean how many times will we say this name now when we talk about guys having good games? It seems like matter what is going on in the world around him, lately Josh has found a way to be highly productive. Josh scored another 16+ points tonight, 17 to be exact & it seems like even if the Titanic was sinking & Josh was on board still looking for a lifeboat rescue, somehow he would still manage to get his. I admire such consistent production no matter the circumstances. If nothing else it says his activity & energy can be relied on.
When Josh wasn’t giving us small doses of his playmaking for others, he was pulling up from all over the court with his Dead Eye badge fully activated. Josh kept things going when the starters took a rest & has truly become a source of inspiration for this program. He carried the bench play tonight. Gorgui Dieng was a big factor on the boards & looked to play solid defense & displayed his very underrated offensive game at times that made him such a threat in his Louisville days. Aside from that the bench didn’t do too much worth mentioning.
Grade- B- (mostly due to Josh)
Kudos again to Taylor Jenkins & the coaching staff. This has not been an easy stretch as they enter the toughest part of their season schedule & doing so without 3 of their core young players in Brandon Clarke, Jaren Jackson Jr, & Justise Winslow. After suffering a blowout lost at home to the hands of a division rival in a very close playoff seed race, Jenkins looked to make the most of this inner league matchup versus what some view as the mini eastern conference version of The Grizzlies in the Hawks.
Jenkins went with the hot hands such as Josh Jackson & De’Anthony Melton. Even more impressive is how he continues to maximize Jonas Valanciunas value without overexposing him. He has done the same with virtually every player on this roster & even figured out how to maximize the value of Kyle Anderson this game by allowing him to operate more in his more natural on ball playmaker role. Jenkins made sure his team defeated the teams they should beat & didn't allow them to wallow in defeat. The fish stinks from the head & in this case the winning spirit starts from up top.