The new year presented not so new problems for the Memphis Grizzlies as the young team was once again shorthanded. Grayson Allen joined the ever growing list of names on the Grizzlies injury report. The bodies piling up left the Grizzlies with only 9 healthy players entering last night’s game against the Charlotte Hornets. Although the start was a tad slow as the Grizzlies struggled to get shots to fall, the action itself was a good indication of what was to come. The Grizzlies were getting open looks due to playing beautiful basketball, swinging the ball around and finding the open man. The Hornets played the Grizzlies close thanks in part to the early play of forward PJ Washington, yet the Grizzlies carried a six point lead into half time.
The Grizzlies great play continued in the second half as they looked more comfortable than they did Wednesday night against the Boston Celtics as they stretched the lead by as much as 24 points. The Grizzlies nearly led wire to wire as they closed out the Charlotte Hornets with a 108-93 win in their first contest of the new year.
The Grizzlies victory was thanks to smart basketball being played. In the postgame press conference, Dillon Brooks stated that the team watched the film and learned from their mistakes. This produced a ton of positives including the Grizzlies tallying 34 assists on the road for only the 5th time in team history.
They played excellent team defense and capitalized on the turnovers they generated. as they held a 14-0 fastbreak points advantage at halftime. All things considered, there’s just not many negative things to take away from this game that saw the young squad put together 4 good quarters of basketball.
For the first time in a few games, the Grizzlies were able to win on the floor and come out in the end with a clean bill of health. Now let’s gooooo to some grades.
Tyus Jones – 29 minutes played, 3-7 shooting (0-2 3PT), 6 points, 12 assists, 1 rebound, 2 steals, 1 turnover, +25 +/-
Man it feels good to have a reliable vet to step in for your injured star point guard. Overwhelmed isn’t quite the right word, but Jones looked off in his new role as the Grizzlies lead guard for the first game and a half. After a long layoff due to injury, there was still obvious rust on Tyus Jones as he got readjusted within the Grizzlies rotation. Against Charlotte, Tyus Jones looked like the Jones Grizzlies fans fell in love with last season.
Scoring wasn’t a priority for Jones against the Hornets as he focused on making the right play to set up his teammates. Any time you can get 12 assists from your starting point guard with only one turnover you will absolutely take it. This version of Tyus Jones that makes plays off of pick and rolls and plays smart basketball on both ends of the floor is what will help keep the Grizzlies afloat in the absence of their star players.
It was a rough start to the season for Tyus and I was glad to see him return to form last night.
Grade - A
Brandon Clarke – 32 minutes played, 6-11 shooting (1-4 3PT), 15 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocks, +12 +/-
The story surrounding the first four games for Brandon Clarke were simple ones “Brandon Clarke is broken.” “Brandon Clarke has fallen off.” “What’s wrong with Brandon Clarke?” Injury recovery is rarely a straight line as sometimes it takes aspects of play longer to return than others. Brandon Clarke started the season less aggressive and with a new jump shot than the one he utilized to moderate success in his rookie season. Last night, Brandon Clarke was able to get off of the sidelines and start his first game of the season in place of recently injured Grayson Allen.
In turn, the real Brandon Clarke stood up and he’s baaaaccckkk. The new jump shot still has more questions than answers but the positive aspects of his game that made him a top rookie last season returned. The synergy that made Tyus Jones & Brandon Clarke one of the best bench duos last season reappeared as they connected on a number of pick & rolls. After being missing in action so far this season, Clarke rejoined the “float gang” as his patented mid-range floater returned in all of its glory. He was taking advantage of opportunities set up by his teammates and dunking on people again seemingly having fun for the first time this season. Clarke even got involved in the playmaking, setting up Jonas Valanciunas with an alley oop.
While we still figure out what’s going on with that new jump shot it was nice to see the return of the super sub from last season. A healthy Clarke is an efficient scorer and a great help defender on the defensive side of the floor. The Grizzlies are in a rough patch right now with all of the injuries but Brandon Clarke returning to form will make this stretch so much easier for the team.
Grade - B
John Konchar – 27 minutes, 3-7 shooting (1-2 3PT), 7 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 steal, +2 +/-
We are once again going jitty on jitty.
I believe Brevin Knight and Pete Pranica described John Konchar’s performance last night the best, calling it “Kyle Anderson lite.” John Konchar was all over the place as always making his presence felt whenever he was on the floor. Whether it was tying his 3 days old career high with 5 assists or hustling for rebounds, John Konchar once again stuffed the stat sheet in the most action he’s seen in his NBA career. He showed his value as an NBA player, as a grinder that simply wants to make the right play whether it benefits him or his teammates. The best part is he made an impact while not turning the ball over.
Grade - B
The Hornets came off a 2 game win streak that saw them beat a fully loaded Brooklyn Nets team and division rival Dallas Mavericks yet the short handed Grizzlies were able to overcome the odds and beat them on the road. While these performances stood out, this was definitely a team effort. Kyle Anderson and Dillon Brooks put in two stellar performances of their own while showing leadership on and off the floor. This was also the best the bench unit has looked all season thanks in part to Gorgui Dieng and Desmond Bane. Hopefully this foreshadows the tide turning as the Grizzlies begin to return to having one of the best bench units in the league once they are at full strength.
The Grizzlies won in the training room and on the scoreboard last night as they started 2021 on the right note. They’ve got a tough test ahead with a back to back against the Los Angeles Lakers which I will boldly predict they will steal one of those games as things can only go up from here.
GRIZZLIES GRADE - A