Hi everyone, nice to see you and welcome back to the King James Victims Meeting for the 2nd time in 72 hours. In the 2nd game of the Los Angeles Lakers double dip in Memphis, the Grizzlies once again pushed them to the brink of defeat before their hopes were dashed by the future Hall of Famer from Akron, Ohio and it absolutely sucks. That being said, the Grizzlies shouldn’t exit this double header hanging their heads in shame. Some will say “Oh, the Lakers only gave 60% effort and beat the Grizzlies they’re better than everyone!” and they’re entitled to that opinion but what I saw was the 2nd youngest team in the Association grow up right in front of all of us frustrating LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers for the 2nd game in a row and coming close to conquering the NBA champions without their two biggest stars.
The bench was a weak point for the Grizzlies to start the season but tonight, as has been the case the last few games, they kept the Grizzlies afloat with their play on both ends of the floor. The starters simply couldn’t get it going and for an extremely large stretch a Brandon Clarke corner three were the only points scored by starters in the first quarter but the Grizzlies bench stepped up and kept the game competitive in what would become the story of the night even as the starters rounded into form. The Grizzlies bench would out score the Lakers bench by a 36-22 margin and contributed to the scrappy defense that the Grizzlies played that saw them finish +4 in the turnover department.
These turnovers helped the Grizzlies get out to leads as big as 10 but the Grizzlies finishing -14 in the rebounds played a role in the Lakers being able to finish the game off generating more possessions for the defending champs – putting them over the edge securing them a 94-92 win in Memphis keeping the Grizzlies winless at home and ruining the debut of the Isaac Hayes/Stax City uniforms.
The Grizzlies regained De’Anthony Melton as the Grizzlies injury report slowly but surely starts to shrink and it allowed Taylor Jenkins run some different lineup combinations that hadn’t been seen primarily due to a variety of injuries. Things didn’t go their way but the Grizzlies nearly went blow for blow with the champs outshooting them by nearly 10% from 3PT range and had an opportunity to win in the final seconds as Melton stole the ball on the Lakers final play before losing the ball. Talent won out in the end as LeBron James put the Grizzlies away with a late fourth quarter takeover but there was plenty of positives to take from taking on the best the league has to offer.
The Grizzlies have avoided new injuries for the 2nd game in a row and eventually they will win games like these even without Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr., but the way the team took it to the champs is a positive sign of things to come as the scrappy culture of “Grizz Next Gen” is cemented and lives through everyone from the top down.
Gorgui Dieng – 22 minutes played, 6-8 shooting (1-1 3PT), 13 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals, +8 +/-
Who has been the Grizzlies best player over the last 4 games? There’s an argument for a few guys but a candidate that should receive a ton of consideration is Gorgui Dieng. Dieng has looked like the former first round pick that he is in the latest stretch of games injecting energy into games in relief of Jonas Valanciunas. Dieng has been a walking bucket showing the ability to stretch the floor on the offensive side of the ball even with Defensive Player of the Year finalist Anthony Davis and basketball savant Marc Gasol on him there was nothing anyone could do to stop him.
His performance was particularly illuminating when you contrast it with Jonas Valanciunas. The Lakers made Jonas Valanciunas a Guantanamo Bay resident on the low block last night making him nearly unplayable against the starters as almost any time he touched the ball led to a negative result. Insert Gorgui Dieng who was able to make plays for himself on the low block while helping others make plays from the top of the key setting screens. He was also a defensive stalwart posting one of the higher defensive ratings of players that played significant minutes last night.
Gorgui Dieng shooting the ball well and being a defensive anchor for the 2nd unit that has now added Xavier Tillman has been a delightful development. The longer it continues the less it seems like a fluke and more like the Grizzlies have an excellent backup center that can keep the team competitive when the 2nd unit goes in.
Grade – A
Desmond Bane – 25 minutes, 3-8 shooting (1-4 3PT), 7 points, 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, +12 +/-
It feels good to be right. During pre-draft evaluations, I stated that the Grizzlies being able to obtain the services of Desmond Bane would be the rich getting richer and to this point that prophecy has been fulfilled. Bane has put up better stat lines of late but his impact against the Lakers went beyond the box score and improved the stat lines of his teammates. If you watch this game back – the last one as well – Desmond Bane is becoming the vocal team defender that made him a special defensive talent at TCU and is making the jobs of his teammates easier defensively and on the glass using his muscular frame to get the right angles and box out the opposition on both ends.
Bane is hustling and making his presence felt upon entering game as he gets more and more comfortable at the NBA level. His jumper wasn’t necessarily there tonight, so he contributed at a high rate in ways that won’t show up in the box score which shows his maturity for a rookie and why sooner or later it will be time to start Desmond Bane.
Grade - B
De’Anthony Melton – 16 minutes, 2-6 shooting (1-3 3PT), 5 points, 2 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 steal, 1 block, +12 +/-
“Mr. Do Something” was one bad mother *shut your mouth* last night for the Memphis Grizzlies as he returned to the rotation after missing the last week plus due to COVID health and safety protocols. Melton came back doing everything in the box score and then some as his performance jumped off the screen as you could see that gold number ‘0’ everywhere. Last night was Melton at his best, doing whatever it takes to win. The defining play was blocking Anthony Davis then sending home an electric dunk on Talen Horton-Tucker in an incredible sequence.
De’Anthony Melton came back in full force last night and this version of Melton off the bench is exactly what the Grizzlies ordered when they locked him in for 4 years this offseason. Where the starters struggled, Melton was there to pick them up off the bench and be one of the most positive players to touch the floor last night fighting literally until the last second to get the Grizzlies a huge W even though they came up short.
Grade – A-
The Grizzlies fought hard but lost another close one to the defending champs. The starters struggled but their brothers came off the bench and kept the game competitive. If the bench were to get a standalone grade it would be an A, they played that well. When you play against two of the best players in the league its perfectly understandable that the starting lineup for the 2nd youngest team in the league struggles. This game relayed a bigger message. If the Grizzlies played to their age, they could have laid down and taken whatever the Lakers brought to the Forum last night, shot bad shots, played no defense and been in awe of a player they all grew up watching but they didn’t do that.
Instead, they exhibited the hard working, no nonsense, gritty culture they have instilled within the franchise. This team is going to compete night in and night out regardless who is or isn’t dressed out and they’re going to pick one another up in the process.
That…that people is what it’s all about win or lose and the wins will come.
GRIZZLIES GRADE - B