I hope all you faithful readers will forgive me, but I will only be putting forth slightly more effort than the Memphis Grizzlies did in Minnesota against the Timberwolves with this game recap. It was probably the worst loss of the season Saturday night, and while it does only count for one defeat in the win-loss column there are some concerning things that helped define the poor performance.
Three issues that have to be addressed, long-view or no long-view.
What do you do when Ja Morant is taken away?
Of course the absence of Dillon Brooks and De’Anthony Melton hurt. Those two being out forces Memphis to play Kyle Anderson at the three more, which Head Coach Taylor Jenkins purposely has tried to do less this season. It also meant more minutes in larger roles for John Konchar and Ziaire Williams than they are accustomed to having. That context matters.
The defense of the Timberwolves was able to limit Ja Morant to arguably his worst game of the season. There are reasons for that beyond scheme (see issue #3) but early in the game outside of Desmond Bane the Grizzlies did not have much of an answer for the trapping/aggressive schemes of Minnesota. There has to be more movement without the ball, more attempts to get Ja off ball and enable him to create new angles to get to the rim. The offense was without imagination in this one, and it showed.
Is anyone interested in playing perimeter defense?
The amount of over-helping and miscommunication in this game was remarkable. The TImberwolves were able to take advantage, and we’re still only 16 games in to the season. But a trend is developing of a lack of growth and ability to correct issues that should not be this prevalent. Shooters aren’t just hitting tough shots. They are either wide open or have open lines of sight with closers not getting out to their man fast enough.
Minnesota is a young team in transition with talent, especially on the perimeter. They took advantage of a Memphis defense that looked completely out of sorts almost the entire game. Whether the coaching staff isn’t getting the necessary adjustments communicated, the players aren’t able to put those coaching points to action, or some combination of both, it’s arguably the largest problem that there’s a mounting amount of minutes to say “hey...this could be who we are...we need to fix this.”
Was anyone (besides maybe Desmond Bane and Tyus Jones) ready to play in Minnesota Saturday night?
Bane started the game pretty well for the Grizzlies, making multiple threes in the first quarter to help keep the game close for a time. As the contest got out of hand Tyus Jones made several shots from range himself, showing an improved stroke from beyond the arc may be something that can stick around. Beyond those two players, it was a varying degrees of a miserable night for every other player that logged minutes.
Was it a lack of interest in playing? A willingness to lie down and take it when it was clear it wouldn’t be Memphis’ night? Would Dillon Brooks, one of the veteran leaders of this team, have allowed for such a situation to unfold? As more and more of these losses come in the form of blowouts (in half the Grizzlies losses this year the team never led, per Pete Pranica of the Grizzlies broadcast team), it becomes fair to question the willingness of this team to fight back against the in-game snowball effect. A lack of true veteran leadership (Steven Adams and Kyle Anderson are the elder statesmen of the team at the age of 28) seems to be hurting one of the youngest rosters in the NBA.
No, Jae Crowder wouldn’t fix things. But Minnesota has seemed to rally around the mentality of Patrick Beverley, a Grizzlies acquisition this past offseason that Memphis traded to the Timberwolves for essentially Jarrett Culver’s theoretical “potential”. Was that right or wrong? More minutes and moments are needed to make such a judgment. But within the confines of one night, and one game, the lack of veteran presence was noticeable. And the lack of effort/energy was as well for the Memphis Grizzlies.