The Memphis Grizzlies experienced their first double-digit loss of the season, and everything happened so quickly. The Grizzlies went into halftime with a 6-point lead, and though how they got there wasn’t encouraging, it was still promising given a potential progression to the mean on the horizon.
Then, Portland just came out in a flurry.
They continued their trapping defense that led to turnovers and uncomfortable looks for points. In addition, Damian Lillard finally woke up from his slump. He played like the Dame Time we all know, and he erupted for a plethora of deep outside shots. In addition, the Blazers exposed the Grizzlies defense with sharp ball movement, rolls to the basket, and backdoor cuts.
It wasn’t pretty. Time for grades though.
Desmond Bane: 19 points (7-12 shooting, 4-7 from 3), 3 rebounds, 1 assists, 1 steal, 1 block, +/- of +1 in 23 minutes (Grade: A)
You know how people say “well, there’s good news and bad news?” Well, I’ve covered the bad news — and will have more here in a bit — but I wanted to highlight how good Desmond Bane looked in this game.
Bane seemed to be the only one out the gate with a jolt of offense. Early on, he was aggressive looking for his shots, while hitting on them. His play in the 1st half really helped elevate the team and keep them in the game while the rest of the offense was out to a sluggish start.
He also had some good defensive moments, primarily at the point-of-attack on CJ McCollum. His growth there recently has been nice.
Bane took an elbow to the head from Larry Nance Jr. on a boxout late in the 3rd quarter. Hopefully, he’s all good for tomorrow and doesn’t have a concussion. This team can’t afford to have him and Dillon Brooks out at the same time.
Ja Morant: 17 points (5-12 shooting, 3-6 from 3), 10 assists, 9 rebounds, 9 turnovers, +/- of -25 in 32 minutes (Grade: C)
Ja Morant had a mixed bag of a game. On one hand, his outside shot continued to fall, connecting on half of his triples — and more importantly, making Portland pay for leaving him open. He also did a good job at pick-and-roll navigation to get downhill.
Howeverr, he was the primary target of the Portland Trail Blazers’ swarming defense, and it led to a parade of turnovers. They did a great job at stopping him in a multitude of ways. They trapped him at that “imaginary” 4-point line, spacing to prevent him from going downhill. If he started driving, they collapsed on him quick, which forced him to make quick decisions that the Blazers defense was simply prepared for.
Some Other Grades / Thoughts
- Jaren Jackson Jr. couldn’t get it going. A tough game is an understatement for Jackson. He couldn’t buy a bucket, and the offensive aggression from Nurkic got him into foul trouble. I was fairly happy to see him get 4 assists, that’s a pretty cool single-game development. Hopefully, they can find ways to get him going soon. Grade: D
- Steven Adams couldn’t either. Adams had similar struggles as Jaren — though he couldn’t find himself in the assist column, after a strong start to the season in that regard. Grade: D
- De’Anthony Melton’s shot wasn’t going down either. Melton had a bad 0-fer in this game, after displaying incredible offensive efficiency to open the season. He had really good defensive moments, taking on primary stopper duties on Lillard. However, this was a rough one for “Mr. Do Something.” Grade: D
- Ziaire Williams had some moments. The rookie flashed some really good things. He hit a nice outside shot, he had a good hockey assist as well, but more importantly he had two really good defensive moments on Lillard. He tagged him all the way to the basket and alterered his shot without fouling. I wasn’t expecting to see those kinds of flashes early, but it was a positive development. Grade: B
- The rest of the bench, mixed results. I’m lumping the other bench players in together, because there was a similar pattern of mixed results. Tyus Jones had good offensive moments, but disappeared a bit at times. Brandon Clarke was found his groove rolling to the basket and fighting for 50/50 balls, though he got blitzed in the 3rd quarter as he was the 5 against Nurkic in that run (probably more of an indictment on the coaching decision than him, contrary to Twitter, but I digress). Xavier Tillman came into the game in the 3rd quarter and immediately gave them some good defensive sequences and a corner 3. On the other hand, he had a bad 3 spots in a 4-possession stretch on the glass and with turnovers. Grade: C-
- Santi Aldama! Hey, I do not care if it was garbage time. Santi Aldama had a really nice NBA debut. He showcased good fluidity and versatility — making reads out of the high post, putting the ball on the floor to create, and hitting outside shots. Not the ideal circumstances, but Aldama got a neat confidence boost to head into the Hustle regular season play.