On Friday afternoon, the Grizzlies clearly showed their best effort in the bubble against the Thunder. Despite being outscored 37-19 in the first ten minutes of the game, the Grizzlies outscored Oklahoma City by 47 points, 102-55, over the final 38 minute. These results were the product of highly productive effort and execution, and helped the Grizzlies achieve a much needed first victory in the bubble.
Unfortunately, yesterday’s game versus Toronto did not feature that same Grizzlies’ team. Instead, Memphis looked much closer to the version of the Grizzlies that missed multiple opportunities early in the bubble. However, this time, it was not a lack of energy and effort, which helped Memphis keep the game close in the end. This time, it was a lack of execution.
Let’s hand out some grades.
Offensive Efficiency: D-
Before the season was suspended back in March, the Raptors were arguably the best team in the NBA at capitalizing off mistakes by their opposition. If Memphis was going to have a chance, it needed to make smart decisions and take care of the ball. The Grizzlies accomplished neither of those goals.
Memphis committed 22 turnovers and Toronto forced 17 steals. Their inability to take care of the ball lead to some unfortunate stretches of low scoring. The combined 31 steals between Memphis and Toronto tied the record for most combined steals in a game in the history of the Grizzlies franchise. Though the Raptors committed 26 turnovers, their superior talent shined through in a sloppy game.
The reason why this grade is not an F is that Memphis did show a needed commitment to an offensive strategy that kept them in the game. The Grizzlies were 8-17 on corner three attempts, an offensive concept that really benefits their current roster.
Dillon Brooks: F
Stats can certainly be misleading.
In the case of Dillon Brooks, yes, he did lead the Grizzlies in scoring with 25 points. However, it took 26 shot attempts to accomplish that goal. Right now, the Grizzlies options are limited, especially on offense. That means getting the shot off effectively becomes even more important. The consistent inability of Brooks to make an extra pass for a better shot instead of forcing an attempt in traffic has reached mind-numbing levels.
Even if this is how he gets in rhythm and his scoring is needed more than ever, the Grizzlies cannot afford frequently bad decisions from Brooks. Though they committed 22 official turnovers, Brooks likely caused 8 to 10 additional wasted possessions. If Memphis is to have a chance at keeping the eighth seed, Brooks has to find other ways to add value instead of limiting the Grizzlies ability to score.
Jonas Valanciunas: F
The big news of the day was the Grizzlies facing Marc Gasol for the first time since he was traded to Toronto. However, the other news that may have been forgotten was Jonas Valanciunas playing his former team for the first time as well. Unfortunately, Valanciunas responded with one of the most forgettable games in his career. In 27 minutes of play, he scored zero points.
The Grizzlies simply cannot afford for Valanciunas to be a non-factor against more talented teams. Besides Ja Morant, he is likely the most trusted offensive option for Memphis right now. Though yesterday was against his former team, Valanciunas has to be a good source of points. The Grizzlies have been at their best in the bubble when he is being featured.
De’Anthony Melton: A
One of the few bright spots for Memphis was the play of De’Anthony Melton, perhaps the player who had struggled the most through the first five games in Orlando. Though many had hoped Melton would step up with the absences of Justise Winslow and Tyus Jones, he simply had not been productive.
However, Melton was his back to usual self Sunday. Active all over the place, Melton consistently caused defensive disruptions and played well in offensive transition. In fact, Melton became the first Grizzlies player to produce six or more steals in less that 25 minutes played in a game. He was adding value on both ends of the court, a development that usually bodes will for the Grizzlies.
Finally, the most important grade of them All:
Fashion Grade; A
Arguably the two best uniforms in NBA history were on display for everyone to enjoy.