Didn’t you miss that? The anxiousness within every play down the stretch as you’re watching a late road game on your TV screens while scrolling on Twitter with your fanbase. The roller-coaster feeling of your team battling air-tight against one of the league’s elite team, especially one with LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Russell Westbrook. The excitement of watching your best player just take over and look like the best player on the floor.
Though the Memphis Grizzlies came away with a tough loss, there were good takeaways from this game. More importantly, there were two statements made — 1) the Memphis Grizzlies are going to be a tough squad to beat, and 2) Ja Morant is a bonafide star.
Ja Morant: 40 points (13-21 shooting, 5-7 from 3), 10 assists, 3 steals (Grade: A)
Ja Morant continues to dazzle in this early part of the season.
In the 1st quarter, he did force the issue a bit. He was leaving his feet on too many passes in the trenches of the Lakers’ massive frontcourt, which led to turnovers in the early going.
He started to turn up in the 2nd quarter, punishing the Lakers when they would go under screens by splashing triples. In the 3rd quarter though, my Lord. Ja Morant got exactly what he wanted out there to open the 2nd half. He sliced through the Lakers defense to put on an absolute show for Staples Center and to get the Grizzlies back on top in this ball game.
I mean, look at this tread!
Morant continued to put the team on his back in the 4th quarter. However, he couldn’t capitalize at the end of the game at the free throw line. From watching Morant play over the past 3 seasons now, you know he’s going to use that as motivation and as a point of improvement.
Nonetheless, it was one hell of a game for Ja Morant. It’s not an easy task to be the best player on the floor with guys like LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Russell Westbrook. Ja did just that; he took complete control of the game.
Last night’s game was an emphatic statement for the tone Ja Morant wants to set in year 3. The league should be taking notice, if they haven’t already.
Perimeter Defense: Lakers - 16-30 (53.3%) from 3 (Grade: D)
The Memphis Grizzlies perimeter defense was spotty in this one. The Lakers aren’t the standard of 3-point shooting marksmanship. Though they did add a bit more offensive firepower in that regard, they didn’t necessarily unlock a new gear to boost them to elite levels from the 3-point line.
It sure wasn’t the case last night though.
The Lakers made it rain from deep, led by Carmelo Anthony who turned back the clock to hit 6 triples off the bench. They also just got a lot of clean looks through poor rotations and soft closeouts.
- Steven Adams continues to do as expected. Adams did a great job setting the tone with his sturdy work on the glass. As the Grizzlies corralled 18 offensive rebounds and outrebounded the Lakers by 13, Adams was the head of the snake in that regard. He maintained good physicality and positioning on the glass against the Lakers gigantic frontcourt, turning second chance opportunities into buckets (8 offensive rebounds). He also continued his passing revelations from the top of the key, dropping 6 dimes — primarily operating off dribble hand-off’s. He won’t be tasked with too much on offense — as seen through a few late shot-clock attempts — but he’s shown the ability to be efficient regardless of his touches. Grade: B.
- Working Jaren Jackson Jr. in the mix. Jackson struggled getting into a flow in this game. Like we saw in the season opener when he was matched up with Evan Mobley, he had difficulty working against someone with as much — or more — size than him with Anthony Davis’ challenge. He wasn’t super aggressive looking for his shots, coming in at tied for 4th for shot attempts on the team. However, it goes hand in hand. There could be some more designed sets for him within the flow of the offense. With a couple days rest, look for him to bounce back. Grade: C-.
- Desmond Bane and De’Anthony Melton continuing to produce in more featured roles. Bane and Melton continued their great play in these new starting roles. They both look more confident and poised off the dribble and on 3-point attempts. There are times they kind of push the boundaries there with certain shots and off the bounce. That’s a part of the growth process though. I liked Bane getting more reps guarding LeBron James, who had a tough night shooting the ball. Then, Melton did a great job jumping into passing lanes to generate transition offense. Grades: B
- Xavier Tillman back! Xavier Tillman made his regular season debut, after two DNP-CD’s to kick off the season. He played within himself in the flow of the offense. I was particular impressed with his defensive activity. He maintained good discipline on defense — zero fouls in 22 minutes is impressive when battling this Lakers frontcourt. I was impressed with how he was breaking up passes to the dunker spot to force turnovers. Look for him to play more going forward.
Tune in Wednesday as the Memphis Grizzlies take on the Portland Trail Blazers.