The Memphis Grizzlies came into Thursday night getting a bit of a better test than they did Monday, as the Los Angeles Clippers were their next opponent. Though they were a bit depleted (missing Marcus Morris, Serge Ibaka, and Nicolas Batum), they still had most of their rotation players — including potential All-NBA 1st-team player Paul George. In addition, they were going up against a potent 3-point attack that was in the top-10 in 3-point make’s, attempts, and percentage. So it was a good test for their struggling perimeter defense.
The Grizzlies rose to the challenge though, taking control of the entire game. The Clippers did cook from 3, drilling 16 three’s at a 41% clip, but the Grizzlies were rock-solid at locking down the paint — only allowing 36 points. So the concerns with perimeter defense still existed, and great 3-point shooting teams exploit that, but their prowess defending the paint (an emphasis of theirs) is a step in the right direction.
This was a good team win. Grades should be good.
Ja Morant: 28 points (13-21 shooting, 2-5 from 3), 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 steal, +/- of +3 in 31 minutes (Grade: A)
Ja Morant did a great job of managing the game through the 1st half, and he turned it up to another level in the 3rd quarter. He was aggressive making plays and attacking the basket, finishing with 17 points and 4 assists just in the third period. In a night where a potential MVP candidate was on the other end, Morant rose above to show that he should be in that discussion as well.
It shouldn’t be hyperbolic. He’s more than booked a trip to Cleveland for this year’s All-Star game, but his banking account may see more M’s, because his play is warranting that super-max that’s eligible once he makes an All-NBA team.
Jaren Jackson Jr.: 18 points (7-16 shooting, 3-7 from 3), 6 rebounds, 4 blocks, +/- of +17 in 29 minutes (Grade: A)
Jaren Jackson was such a stabilizing presence in this game. His offensive activity was nice, actively seeking shots while diversifying his shot diet as well. He was a focal point of the offense, only trailing Morant in total shot attempts. His defensive impact boosts his grade up a lot. His activity, communication, and his defense within the coverage were just awesome last night. That stretch he had in the 4th quarter was just absolutely dominant — poor Brandon Boston.
Jackson’s two-way impact on the game can’t be understated much longer. What he’s doing defensively has been phenomenal, and the offense is starting to hit its stride. Don’t sell your stock on Jaren.
Dillon Brooks: 18 points (7-14 shooting, 2-5 from 3), 2 assists, 1 steal, +/- of +22 (Grade: A)
There’s quite a bit to say about Dillon Brooks’ game last night. He’s staying physical off-ball and at the point-of-attack. He’s demonstrated more poise when making offensive decisions — hitting snake dribbles to veer the defender where he wants them to go, getting to his spots better, and generate slip passes.
His energy and moxie really stand out in this game though. When he was hurt, there wasn’t really many people that play with his sort of edge, physicality, or swagger. And you could tell it lifts the team up and gives them energy.
- Desmond Bane showing the bag. Desmond Bane’s offseason/Summer League work was really on display in this game, getting more of his looks off the dribble in the mid-range or at the rim. He looked extremely comfortable doing so as well. He also did a good job at crashing the glass for positional rebounding. (Grade: B+)
- Steven Adams adding flair and doing the dirty work. He missed a few bunnies, and he had some defensive struggles against Ivica Zubac. Once again though, Adams did most of his damage crashing the glass and generating open looks for his teammates. (Grade: B)
- Kyle Anderson on bad ends of runs. Anderson was 1 of 2 rotation players with a negative +/-, as he was a -12. He was just on the floor in big runs, it happens. However, he didn’t do a whole lot on either side of the ball. (Grade: C-)
- Brandon Clarke is back. Brandon Clarke had a monstrous 4th quarter, scoring a quick 10 points off his energy and athleticism. His bounce is back, the team is doing good when he’s on the floor, and it’s a wonderful development to see. (Grade: A)
Tune in on Saturday, as the Memphis Grizzlies take on the Minnesota Timberwolves on the road.