Nine games into the Grizzlies season, there has clearly been more positives than negatives as the Grizzlies now stand 5-4 despite playing one of the tougher opening schedules in the league. Yet, as encouraging as the Grizzlies offense has been at times, their defense has been just as disappointing. Over the past 12 days, for as good as Memphis has looked in defeating Golden State and Denver twice, they have looked just as bad losing by 74 combined points to Portland, Miami, and now Washington.
There simply have been too many instances where Memphis has suffered through significant stretches of not being able to stop anyone. In the case of last night’s game with Washington, it was Bradley Beal or another player having a career game. Memphis frankly had no answer for any offensive set the Wizards were running, regardless of who was executing the play. As a result, for the second straight weekend, the Grizzlies have another forgettable loss to bounce back from next week.
Let’s reluctantly hand out a few grades from Friday Night.
Grizzlies Interior Defense- F
Coming into tonight’s game, it was Memphis who theoretically was supposed to have the size advantage and take care of business in the paint on offense against the Wizards. However, the exact opposite occurred. The Wizards converted 26-39 shots at the rim, despite the fact they finished with only 13 foul shots compared to their league leading 25 per game coming into the contest.
Memphis now ranks last in the NBA in opponent’s FGM within five feet of the basket per game, and is 27th in opponent’s FG% within 5 feet of the basket (the Wizards are 28th.) They also have been outscored by 32 points in the paint over the past two games. While the Grizzlies’ ability to shoot and defend the three have improved at times this year, they must figure out how to play better collectively to protect the paint. Even when Dillon Brooks gets back, any benefit he will provide will be lessened if teams can continue scoring at will at the rim against Memphis.
Grizzlies Ball Movement- F
Before this season, there had only been 14 games under Taylor Jenkins in which the Grizzlies had produced 20 or less assists in a game, with Memphis producing a 4-10 record in those games. Memphis has now produced 20 or less assists in two of their last three games. Self-Creation saved Memphis against Denver this past Monday; however, no offensive success was present Friday night.
The Grizzlies shot just over 35% from the field and were held to 6-31 from beyond the arc against the Wizards. The Grizzlies have been paying tougher defenses as of late, defenses who have effectively limited the production of Ja Morant. When that happens, the rest of the Grizzlies must step up and figure out how to move the ball to create open looks. Otherwise, the Grizzlies offense will suffer significant stretches of stagnant offensive production. And with their current defensive struggles, that is simply not something the Grizzlies can afford to let happen too often.
Ziaire Williams- B+
While it is hard to find a reason to give an A to any player after last night’s performance, Ziaire Williams certainly comes close. For the second straight game, Williams made three threes in a game. He is only the fifth Grizzlies player to have multiple games with 3 or more threes in the first 10 games of his career, joining Shane Battier, Juan Carlos Navarro, OJ Mayo, and Desmond Bane.
While the rest of Williams’s game is certainly a work in progress, finding a groove with his shot is a wonderful development. He truly seems to have found his hot spot on the court from the corner, and Jenkins seems to be putting an emphasis on getting him looks when he is in the game. The reps are starting to pay off, and the shooting surges from Williams over the past two games have been a big boost off the bench for the Grizzlies.
Jaren Jackson Jr. - C
Yes, Jaren Jackson Jr.’s shot once again struggled last night. However, to be fair, so did the shot of every Grizzlies player. Last night was also a positive development for Jaren Jackson Jr. on multiple fronts. He committed zero fouls in over 24 minutes of play, the first time in his career he has played more than half of the minutes in a single game without committing a foul. Furthermore, for only the seventh time in his career, he grabbed nine or more rebounds in a game.
While we all certainly want Jackson Jr. to have games like he did Wednesday as often as possible, he continues to trend in the right direction when it comes to his rebounds and staying on the court.