Without Ja Morant, it will rarely be “easy” for the Memphis Grizzlies. Tuesday night’s game against the Toronto Raptors was more along the lines of what can be expected without the audaciously gifted young point guard for the bears of Beale Street. Offensively Memphis had some issues with being able to convert shot attempts consistently regardless of area of the floor. Defensively, while things seem to have improved some with more consistent Dillon Brooks minutes there are still untimely lapses. The team still has a long ways to go in a lot of areas - but such is life in the NBA when you have one of the league’s youngest rosters. When they needed it most, they were able to step up and execute.
Another W without Morant - keep em’ coming.
Quick takeaways from a night of redemption north of the border after last week’s collapse at home against this same team.
Jaren Jackson Jr. is a monster in the best way
Jaren Jackson Jr.’s uniqueness is like an onion - it has layers. He can shoot threes, sure. But it is his defensive potential in terms of switchability and rim protection paired with his growing ability to create for himself off the dribble that could make him that much more of a “unicorn” level of player. He’s a walking match-up nightmare. If a player is too slow on screens or showing in the two-man game, he can hit the shot beyond the arc. If they misread an angle or miss a rotation, he is more than able to drive to the basket,
But given his seven foot frame, when the opportunity presents itself and he takes advantage of his remarkable size to finish at the rim it is a welcome sight. He scored over 20 points in this contest, with roughly half of them from range, but the variety in his offensive game remains a pleasant surprise compared to expectations coming out of college. It is what makes Jaren so potentially terrifying as a basketball player - he can theoretically do it all. And in this game he just about did. 6 rebounds, 5 blocks, 4 made threes...the NBA should be afraid. Very afraid.
Desmond Bane remains invaluable
He is so, so good offensively right now. He is getting his looks from three and converting. His handle is remarkably improved and forcing teams to respect him in that manner more than most expected at this stage of his career. The Memphis Grizzlies need any and all offensive production they can manage with Ja Morant out, and the fact that Desmond Bane seems more than capable to pick up the weight and carry it makes these upcoming games and weeks seem not so heavy to carry. His clutch timing on key makes is especially nice to see evolve - the moment is not too big for him.
Bane attacked the glass and snagged multiple boards from the perimeter. He held his own defensively as opposing teams continue to cool off from three against Memphis. The attention to detail in Desmond’s game is truly noticeable and appreciated. So much was made of his wingspan and what he can’t do at this level. Many lost sight of what he can do - and you can’t measure the desire and heart it takes to succeed when you’re like Desmond Bane in the NBA.
He fits Memphis like a glove.
- Controlling what you can control...The effort has been much better of late. Offensive rebounding (18) when your shots aren’t falling is evidence of that. Chasing down breakaways for blocks (shoutout Jaren Jackson Jr.) or steals (shoutout Dillon Brooks) is evidence of that. The Grizzlies were far from perfect from the floor in this game. Their willingness to compete helped negate that some.
- Speaking of offensive woes...Both Toronto and Memphis shot roughly 40% from the floor in this game and worse than 30% from three. Hope you took the under - Dillon Brooks, De’Anthony Melton, and Tyus Jones all shot 10 or more shots and all shot roughly 30% or worse on those attempts. Usually the Grizzlies will lose games when in that spot. It worked out in this game...fortunately.
- Santi Aldama? Santi Aldama! When it was announced that Ziaire Williams would miss this game due to injury, many assumed larger roles for John Konchar and minutes for Xavier Tillman were on the horizon. Part of that was right - Konchar was a rotation fixture. But instead of Xavier Tillman, rookie Santi Aldama saw his most meaningful playing time of his young NBA career. Is Tillman that far gone? Did the team want to see what Aldama would do with an opportunity considering how his game, despite his size, is similar to Williams (especially in terms of corner three shooting)? Time will tell. But first quarter Santi minutes were surprising to say the least.
The Memphis Grizzlies are back in action Thursday night at 7:00 PM CT against the Oklahoma City Thunder.