After two uneven performances in their first scrimmage showings, Ja Morant and company decided to unleash on the Miami Heat and run them in to the ground to the tune of 128-110. It isn’t as if Miami played horribly - surely their coach Erik Spoelstra will take issue with their transition defense and the way they defended the arc at times. But the Heat had offensive success of their own - they weren’t “ice cold” or terribly out of sync. The Grizzlies were just that much better in this one.
Some quick takeaways on an afternoon delight delivered by Memphis, for Memphis.
Ja Morant is a revelation
A remarkable showing by the likely Rookie of the Year. 22 points on 15 shots. 12 assists. 1 turnover (a carry - something to watch moving forward, as Ja does indeed play with the rules a bit on that front). The Grizzlies were able to dominate the pace of this game early and often, and because of that Morant was able to run and gun, which he does as well as anybody in the NBA right now.
He can do what he wants more often than not off the dribble. But as teams take away what he does best (transition scoring, dribble penetration) Memphis must continue to evolve and make teams pay for taking away what the Grizzlies excel at.
Good news on that front!
Dillon Brooks went streaking
So apparently Dillon is tired of the criticism he’s been getting since February. 23 points on 12 shot attempts, 4 made threes, and a red hot third quarter where he did a majority of his damage are all reasons to be hopeful about what Brooks can do offensively for the Grizzlies moving forward in the bubble. The best part, though, is it wasn’t just him - seven Grizzlies made at least two threes, with Kyle Anderson and Jaren Jackson Jr. joining in on the fun among the starters (as well as Ja - 2 for 3 from three!) The team converted 19 threes in total.
Memphis is the best team in the NBA scoring in the paint. But the rest of the NBA knows that, and elite defensive units will take that away. They need the likes of Jaren Jackson Jr., Dillon Brooks, and others to be able to light it up from range. On this afternoon, they did just that.
- Have Grayson Allen and Anthony Tolliver won the rotation battle? Coach Jenkins said in his pregame media availability that this game would be more of a dress rehearsal than anything for the squad. If that was indeed the case, Gorgui Dieng did not appear at all until clean up time at the end of the game and Josh Jackson played only when Dillon Brooks got in to foul trouble. Meanwhile both Tolliver and Allen made two three point buckets and were key in helping the bench unit not just maintain the lead, but build upon it. Matchups and injuries may change things, but the rotation may be set (for now).
- A lone negative - foul trouble. As mentioned previously, Dillon Brooks had four fouls in nine minutes on play in the first half - which limited his first half impact (18 of his points came in the second half). Jaren Jackson Jr. picked up his fifth foul in the third quarter. It didn’t matter in this scrimmage, but keep in mind that this scrimmage did not matter in terms of wins and losses. When things get tough in the seeding games ahead, you will need Dillon and especially Jaren on the floor, and not on the bench. A trend from before the season’s suspension that continues here (and hopefully will stop soon).
- Jonas Valanciunas - another day, another double double. 15 points and 15 rebounds in 27 minutes. On a young team like Memphis, you need something to count on as inconsistency can strike at any time. While his perimeter defense remains a point of concern, what he does well - score at the rim and clean the glass - is like clock work every single time. Two less things to worry about. It’s on Coach Jenkins and Jonas’ teammates to help Valanciunas mask his deficiencies where he can so his physical presence can stay on the floor.
The Memphis Grizzlies open up their seeding schedule with the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday at 3 PM CT. The sprint to the postseason is upon us - stick with GBB as the race begins.