Now that is how you get a four-game, eight-day West Coast road trip under way.
Some impressive play on the perimeter and timely contributions from multiple members of the Memphis Grizzlies led Ja Morant and company to a big victory in Los Angeles against the Clippers. Outside of a tough stretch at the end of the first quarter (more on that in a moment) and some Paul George heroics, there wasn’t much to complain about if you’re a Grizzlies fan considering Memphis is the 3rd youngest team in the NBA. The bench could’ve done more (only 13 points!) but the starters were so good that on this night, it did not matter. The defense was far more stout than it was in Wednesday’s opener, and while the offense wasn’t quite as explosive it was still impactful - especially in transition. And the dagger three late in the fourth quarter getting hit by Jaren Jackson Jr. after Ja Morant dribble penetration was a thing of beauty.
Can’t wait for that to happen in the 2024 NBA Finals - dream it, Memphis. Dream it.
Some takeaways from a good victory.
Ja enjoys playing basketball with Desmond Bane and De’Anthony Melton
And they also like playing with him.
All three players were massive parts of the Grizzlies win against the Clippers. Two of the three shot over 50% from the field (Morant and Melton). They all showed flashes of brilliance in transition (especially Morant, of course). They all made timely defensive plays despite being outmatched in terms of size. Paul George was extremely effective as a scorer in this game, in part because of the amount of time the smaller Melton spent defending him. But the three-guard lineup continues to be explosively effective on the offensive end especially.
Whichever of Bane or Melton goes to the bench (and yes, one of them should go to the bench - Memphis misses Dillon Brooks’ size defensively very much right now) will be a Sixth Man of the Year candidate this season. This may be an overreaction after just two games...but both Bane and Melton have been exceptional. De’Anthony has played better to this point, but neither he nor Desmond will lose playing time when Brooks returns. Just roles will shift.
Are we sure Steven Adams is washed?
Because we shouldn’t be.
An almost double-double (17 points, 9 rebounds) against a talented younger big in Ivica Zubac is another piece of evidence that the demise of Adams may have been greatly exaggerated. He is a revelation as a passer (five assists!) and he can more than hold his own as a roller to the basket off of various picks and screens. He does not have the offensive talent that his predecessor Jonas Valanciunas does. But Memphis no longer needs that level of skill from that position with the development of Bane and Melton and the return/expected leap by Jaren and Ja. They still need rebounding and solid screening, however, and between those things and improved defensive mobility Adams sure does look the part of a better current fit for the evolving Grizzlies.
Grayson Allen and Jonas were good Grizzlies, and they both deserve the extensions they just got. It makes sense, given what we have seen these first two games and in the preseason, that those extensions did not come in Memphis. Both statements can be true.
- Um...Kyle Anderson...are you OK? As much as anyone can “disappoint” right now, Kyle probably fits that bill for the Grizzlies two games in to this season. 1-9 shooting in 17 minutes played, beyond the 7 rebounds he gathered he just did not make too many winning plays for Memphis. He seems out of sorts - and that needs to shift fast. The strong starts of Bane, Melton, and others are likely to cool some...and the Grizzlies will need the veteran savvy of Slow-Mo to help soften that blow.
- Ziaire Williams looks the part. And by “the part”, I mean he looks like a rookie worthy of investment and patience. He made a couple big shots and a hustle play here or there in his 16 minutes on the floor. When Brooks returns, John Konchar should be the odd man out and Williams should become the 10th man in the rotation. Every outing is valuable in terms of experience.
- A rotation lesson. The first half for the Grizzlies was relatively sound...except for the last 2:30 of the 1st quarter. That was the run of time where neither Ja Morant nor Jaren Jackson Jr. were on the floor for Memphis...and the all-reserve unit struggled mightily. With Kyle’s issues there was no scoring threat, and the Clippers went on a 10-0 run to finish the frame because of it. It didn’t cost the Grizzlies the game, but it should be a correctable mistake for Taylor Jenkins. If the team fails when Jaren is out on the floor without Ja or vice versa, so be it - that’s valuable experience for two cornerstone pieces either way. But at this stage, especially with Dillon Brooks out? Either Ja or Jaren should be in at all times wherever the situation allows it.
Memphis is right back at work tomorrow night at Staples Center, this time taking on L.A.’s other NBA squad. You may have heard of them...LeBron James and the Lakers. Game tips off at 8:30 PM CT