I’d like to think that win from the Memphis Grizzlies last night was a statement win.
They battled against a star-studded Los Angeles Lakers team, while also missing two of their 3 best players in Ja Morant and Dillon Brooks. They were coming off a loss the night prior for the second game of a back-to-back.
In response, the Grizzlies swarmed the Lakers with a suffocating defense that generated a lot of turnovers — 22 of those, 18 steals. Everyone from 1-10 came to play, and they played with force and with aggression. They sought every 50/50 ball, put pressure on the Lakers’ defense, and they remained poised in these big minutes.
From a player standpoint, Jaren Jackson Jr. looked like the best player on the floor tonight — and that’s a huge honor, considering the amount of Hall-of-Fame talent on the other side. Desmond Bane also emphatically added another awesome performance to place in his “Most Improved Player” resumé.
Anyway, a Laker win is awesome, let’s highlight some good games.
Jaren Jackson Jr.: 25 points (9-18 shooting from the field, 2-8 from 3), 5 rebounds, 3 steals, +/- of +7 in 29 minutes (Grade: A)
Like I said above, Jaren Jackson was the best player on the floor last night. It’s not a stretch to say that.
He played with a lot of force on both sides of the ball. He navigated through foul trouble really well, only finishing with 3 fouls. He also maintained good defensive positioning to make plays defensively. Unfortunately, his streak of games with at least 1 block has ended, but he did come away with 3 steals. So it’s all good.
Offensively, Jackson’s continuing to show more comfort inside the arc. He was attacking off the bounce regardless of who was on him — Carmelo Anthony, Talen Horton-Tucker, Anthony Davis. He stayed aggressive and attacked ruthlessly downhill, using his physicality, size, and speed to get wherever he wants.
This is the Jaren Jackson that got the extension, and it’s worth every penny.
Desmond Bane: 23 points (9-20 shooting, 5-11 from 3), 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, 1 block, +/- of +4 in 31 minutes (Grade: A)
Desmond Bane, man.
The improvements he’s made have been awesome, and it’s giving him a much-needed platform to make a run at the Most Improved Player award. His comfort when handling the ball is just night and day compared to last season. He’s popping off for more shots off the dribble or at the rim, without any hesitation. He’s taken on tougher assignments defensively and is holding his own in that regard.
Bane illustrated all of those aspects of his game last night. He let it fly from 3 with confidence — off movement, off the dribble, and in spot-up situations. He had some great drives, including this awesome one on LeBron James.
Bane has really stepped up in his game to start this season, and has kicked it into another gear with Ja Morant.
Jarrett Culver: 8 points (4-6 shooting, 0-1 from 3), 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, 1 block, +/- of +13 in 16 minutes (Grade: A)
Jarrett Culver was last night’s next man up for Grizz Next Gen. It might have been a surprise that he got minutes over Santi Aldama, but also not really. Kyle Anderson being back changes things, and they weren’t going to roll out four 6’9”+ forwards off the bench.
Culver was the beneficiary of this decision, and he made the most of it.
I mean, look at his activity here from the first half of the second quarter.
Culver was patient but aggressive looking for his offense. His defensive attentiveness was there as well, picking up his man full-court and putting himself in position to make plays on that side of the ball.
It was honestly really cool to see that sort of performance from Culver last night, especially given his journey here. I’m not sure how he builds upon it, especially given the crunch for playing time, and that opportunity may not be here fully.
- Tyus Jones and De’Anthony Melton, table setters. These two are lumped together for this one, since they had similar outputs. Neither player got going offensively, shooting a collective 9-23 (39%), but they did a great job facilitating the offense (6 assists). In addition, they played a big role in making key steals and slowing down Russell Westbrook, who only finished with 9 points on 3-9 shooting. Grade: B
- He’s here, he’s there, he’s every-[bleep noise]-where! Kon-char! Kon-char! John Konchar was all over the place last night. He made his presence felt for 50/50 balls — finding creases where he could corral a knock-away or an interception, and crashing the offensive glass. He also played within the flow of the offense to generate some assists. A very jitty statline for Konchar, as he finished with 7 points, 6 rebounds (3 offensive), 3 assists, 3 steals. Grade: B+
- Steven Adams, brute force. Adams didn’t shoot much or anything, and he didn’t drop as many dimes as we’ve seen recently. He was such a force inside though. He played well within the team’s defensive coverages. More importantly, he dominated the glass, finishing with yet another game of 8+ offensive rebounds. Grade: B
Tune in Saturday, as the Memphis Grizzlies take on the streaking Houston Rockets.