People will knock the competition on the other side. The Houston Rockets are a NBA team — though on a vastly varying talent level — and anything could happen any night. After all, the Memphis Grizzlies did drop a game to a franchise with a singular win total this past weekend.
Nonetheless, the Grizzlies showed up into this game with more urgency and with more attention to detail on both sides of the ball. Regardless of what you think of the team on the other side, it’s important to see Memphis locked in and taking care of business.
This game doesn’t put any of those previous concerns to rest, as the only thing that’ll do that is sustainability. It does, though, help set an example of the kind of basketball they want to play going forward — while giving them reps on how to execute that style.
Great wins mean good grades, so let’s go.
Jaren Jackson Jr.: 18 points (7-14 shooting from the field, 2-6 from 3), 7 rebounds, 2 steals, 2 blocks, +/- of +34 (Grade: A)
Jaren Jackson had one of his better all-around games of the season in last night’s win. He didn’t necessarily torch the nets for the heaters that we’ve seen from him. Instead he was more methodical in his approach.
Taylor Jenkins praised Jackson’s greatness in defending the pick-and-roll — maintaining good discipline, protecting the rim, staying on his man. It showed in his defense against Christian Wood and Alperen Sengun, as both players didn’t register a bucket on him when he was the primary defender. In addition, his impact on that side of the ball was evident through his defensive playmaking. Here, he displays good communication and positioning to create a tough look for Kevin Porter Jr.
Offensively, he still had spots that weren’t clean, particularly off drives and a few 3’s. He made the defense pay with 2-6 shooting from 3. More enticingly, he capitalized on mismatches (and MOST enticingly, his teammates found him on these post looks as well). It showed great instincts and basketball IQ, and it should help set a tone for generating these looks more often.
It wasn’t the flashiest Jaren Jackson Jr. game, but seeing him build on these little aspects — defending the pick-and-roll, anchoring a defense, and capitalizing on mismatches — will go a long way in building consistency towards being the best version of himself.
Ja Morant: 22 points (9-15 shooting, 4-6 from 3), 6 rebounds, 6 assists, 1 steal, 1 block, +/- of +25 (Grade: A)
Ja Morant made things look really easy in this game. He got to the basket at rim, straight toying with the Rockets defense on drives. He made slick reads while also taking care of the ball, possessing a 6:1 assist-to-turnover ratio.
What really stood out in this game was his 3-point shooting. Ja Morant has done a great job in transforming himself into a more potent 3-point weapon — shooting 38.2% from 3 on 4.9 attempts. Last night though, all 4 of his triples came off the dribble.
That should be a frightening development to the rest of the league.
Kyle Anderson, Brandon Clarke, Tyus Jones: (combined) 35 points (15-19 shooting), 8 assists (Grade: A)
I’m going to cheat and lump these 3 into the same group here, because these 3 were imperative in the Grizzlies win last night. The bench has struggled keeping up in lineups without Ja on the floor here lately. Last night was a different narrative, thanks in large part to these 3.
Kyle Anderson, the team’s highest scorer off the bench, played good team defense and sought his offense well. His primary offensive contributions came from hitting catch-and-shoot 3’s in the corner.
Brandon Clarke was efficient scoring the basketball (5-5 from the field), and he made great defensive plays (3 blocks). However, his playmaking stood out as he found his teammates off cuts and off the short roll. That’s a positive micro-development for his game, as he’s now dished out multiple assists in each of his past 4 games.
An aggressive Tyus Jones is a good, impactful NBA player; I’ll scream that to the rooftops. Jones did a great job of changing gears when going downhill, as he destroyed the Houston’s point-of-attack defense.
If the Grizzlies bench is going to make an impact on winning each night, these 3 players will have a major say in that.
Other quick grades.
- Desmond Bane doing some stuff. Bane started out nicely with a quick 7 points and 3 assists stat line in the 1st quarter. He was relatively quiet the rest of the game, and he also struggled knocking down his outside shot (1-5 from 3). Wasn’t his worst performance though. (Grade: C)
- Steven Adams doing his job. Adams only took 1 shot, and it was by design. His low shooting volume opened up opportunities for Morant, Brooks, and Jackson. That’s not his job. His job is to set hard screens, find his teammates, and play good defenses off switches. He needs work on his drop coverage, but it didn’t absolutely kill the team. (Grade: B-)
- Dillon Brooks staying consistent. Dillon Brooks maintained a great dose of defensive energy and swagger tonight, making life difficult for Kevin Porter Jr. and Jalen Green. He wasn’t remarkably efficient offensively, but he didn’t necessarily force anything. Getting another good scorer that can attack downhill, hit 3’s, and create his own shot is a nice wrinkle for this offense that has been reeling. (Grade: B)
- De’Anthony Melton: yay for defense! De’Anthony Melton looked more in his element off the bench — serving as the primary stopper less, and finding defensive success through jumping into passing lanes more. His offense was pretty meh, but given the success of the players mentioned above, it wasn’t as imperative. (Grade: C+)
Tune in on Thursday as the Memphis Grizzlies take on Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday.