How was your night on Sunday?
The Memphis Grizzlies enjoyed themselves mightily throughout their contest with the Sacramento Kings last night at FedExForum. Memphis rarely was tested - they never trailed and the closest Sacramento got to the Grizzlies was three points away a couple of times in the first quarter. Head Coach Taylor Jenkins’ squad was up by 20 with 3:45 left in the first half and his team never looked back. Five players in double figures. Eight players with at least five rebounds. Four with at least four assists. It was quite literally a team effort.
And through it all, Ja Morant was smiling, engaged and celebrating the exploits of his teammates.
It was a good Sunday in just about every way for Memphis and their Grizzlies. Here’s to hoping that good energy carries the team forward without Ja. Things will not get easier as he recovers from his sprained knee that will sideline him “a few weeks”, as Jenkins put it pregame.
Time for some grades.
Jaren Jackson Jr. - 17 points (6-13 shooting, 1-4 from three), 9 rebounds, 2 blocks, +24 +/- in 22 minutes
It’s an opportunity that Jaren hasn’t had often. The chance to be the de facto #1 option offensively while still being the primary defensive weapon for the team has to be attractive to him, while he surely wishes it hadn’t come the way it has with Morant out due to injury. But what makes a professional athlete truly unique - elite competitiveness - surely has to at least push Jaren to carry the team a little more than he may have looked to in the past. He did just that in this game. While he of course would want to be more of a threat from three than he was, the way he attacked in the paint and also impacted rotations and offensive sets for the Kings was noticeable. He showed continued growth as a rebounder (9 in just 22 minutes is fantastic work) and while his foul numbers were too high the team’s overall performance helped make that mean less than perhaps it normally would.
A continued work in progress. But the improvement is noticeable. And Jaren looks primed to help carry his end of the work with his teammate and friend Ja out.
GRADE - A
Dillon Brooks - 21 points (8-17 shooting, 1-6 from three), 6 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 assist, +16 in 21 minutes
Aggressive Dillon isn’t just on defense anymore!
So much of Brooks’ offensive attention in this game came at the rim. In fact, of Dillon’s 17 shots, roughly half of them (8) were in the paint. It isn’t a coincidence that Dillon was 7-11 on these attempts - they were in rhythm, and/or off of sets designed for him to put it on the floor off the dribble and attack. The Kings were not able to keep Memphis out of the paint in general (72 points in the paint suggest that) and Brooks took full advantage. Multiple dunks are not what we are accustomed to with Dillon - he has always tried to be a mid-range weapon. But whether it is in the past as a creator for others, or now as he seems to prioritize his shot selection, Dillon’s ability to be a student of the game has always meant he was going to be able to improve the tools of his skill set.
Dillon brings so much energy and intensity to this team. His continued evolution is welcome to see.
GRADE - A
- Steven Adams isn’t what we thought he’d be so far. Defensively there have been issues regardless of the coverage implemented at times. He has really struggled finishing at the rim in recent games. But his elite rebounding offensively (4 of his 12 total boards) and surprisingly crisp passing (4 assists) paired nicely with improved defensive counting stats (3 blocks, 1 steal) across 21 minutes of play. The Kings couldn’t stop him from impacting the game without scoring. Which is part of the reason he is still getting time. GRADE - B+
- Tyus Jones is elite at not making mistakes. A scoring night Tyus almost certainly would want to forget (2-8 from the field, 0-3 from beyond the arc) was partnered with a passing one that has become his calling card. 8 assists with no turnovers committed. That is so valuable for a Grizzlies offense that must value every single possession with their best offensive player out. Jones must shoot better, but like Adams on this night he did what he was supposed to do in terms of expectations. The shot will come. GRADE - B
- Kyle Anderson remains an enigma. His shot somehow seems slightly different every night out in terms of the various motions and potential hitches. He of course is working through it and the concerns about his shoulder issues returning, while not founded in current reporting, are creeping in to the thought processes of some on Grizzlies Twitter. It’s hard to say that is the case when Kyle and/or the team have not said it is. But beyond the questions about his shooting stroke (3-6, 1-2 from three says it was fine in this game) Kyle continues to put up numbers elsewhere. 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal...he impacts winning. Regardless of position. GRADE - B+
The Memphis Grizzlies return to action tomorrow night against the Toronto Raptors. The game in Toronto will tip off at 6:30 PM CT.