After back-to-back competitive losses to the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers, the Grizzlies welcomed an injury-riddle Cleveland Cavaliers to the friendly confines of FedExForum. The Cavs were limited to just 3 non-bigs on the night in Damyean Dotson, Isaac Okoro and Cedi Osman as a majority of their guard rotation was out due to injury. Even without Collin Sexton and Darius Garland, the Cavs were able to put up a strong effort against a Grizzlies team clearly missing Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr., among others.
After holding a steady lead most of the game, the Grizzlies stumbled through the 4th quarter and as a result they fell to the Cavs 94-90. Simply put it was a bad loss for a Grizzlies team that played so well earlier in the week against the Lakers. The 4th quarter exposed the Grizzlies for who they are: a team with a fair amount of solid role players, but clearly missing their stars. Do the Grizzlies blow what was once an 8 point lead with Ja Morant playing? Probably not.
Regardless, the Grizzlies don’t have Ja (though maybe not for much longer after how he’s looking) and need to figure out a way to steal some wins with their stars out. Let’s hand out some grades from last night’s loss.
Brandon Clarke - 14 points (7-11 shooting), 9 rebounds, 2 assists
Brandon Clarke is looking more and more comfortable as each game passes by. Last night was arguably one of his best performances on the season as he was finishing well around the rim and taking on a larger rebounding role against the many Cavs big men. Clarke also flashed some passing ability in the game, including a nifty high-low pass to Jonas Valanciunas that resulted in a JV dunk.
Jonas Valanciunas - 17 points (6-11 shooting), 10 rebounds, 3 assists
JV extended his double-double streak to 8 straight games to start the season, but he still left a lot to be desired. Jonas is still missing a lot of the shots he made over the past season and a half as a Grizzly and really struggled defensively picking up 5 personal fouls. Andre Drummond (22 points, 15 rebounds) ate JV up and caused a ton of problems for the Grizzlies defensively. JV has been getting his numbers, but it hasn’t really contributed to winning like it has in the past
Dillon Brooks - 11 points (4-13 shooting), 4 assists, 4 turnovers
Bad Dillon showed up last night for the Grizzlies. DB forced things a bit offensively and had a cold shooting night. Dillon showed growth in his willingness to be a passer (4 assists) but also showed some growing pains of someone trying to do too much (4 turnovers). I try to cut Dillon some slack since he’s being asked to do more in the absence of Ja and Jaren but last night was tough to watch at times.
Kyle Anderson (C) - Kyle chipped in 10 points and 8 rebounds but shot just 4-12 from the field and 2-7 from beyond the arc. On a night the Grizzlies needed an extra scoring punch, Kyle just couldn’t deliver.
De’Anthony Melton (C) - Melton played decent in his second game back scoring 8 points on 4-7 shooting and picking up 3 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals. That said, it’s obvious at this point Melton isn’t a point guard and shouldn’t have nearly all of his 20-ish minutes be where he is the primary ball-handler.
Desmond Bane (B) - Bane didn’t shoot the ball as well as Grizzlies fans are accustomed (just 2-6 from the field, 2-4 from deep) but he showed growth in promise in other areas of the game. He played well on the defensive end and picking up a career high 6 rebounds. The more Desmond shows he’s more than just a shooter, the more difficult it will be to have him sit on the bench.
Taylor Jenkins (D) - Last night was one of Jenkins’ worst as Grizzlies head coach. He needs to stagger his lineups better so that at least one of Tyus or Kyle are on the court at all times. Neither Dillon Brooks nor De’Anthony Melton are point guards. If he wants to stick with some of the lineups he has, he needs to put Tim Frazier in the rotation so teams at least respect what the Grizzlies are doing on offense. Between questionable rotation decisions and the lack of any real offensive scheme, Jenkins coached a dud last night.
It was a bad loss by the Grizzlies against a depleted Cavs team, but not a totally surprising one. With the show of unity by locking arms and kneeling on the sideline with the Cavs at tipoff, I would imagine basketball wasn’t the only thing on the minds of the players last night. That would help explain how both teams didn’t look completely focused or locked in. It was still a bad loss, but bad losses happen in the NBA and the Grizzlies will likely learn from it and will move forward starting tonight against the Brooklyn Nets.