When you work in the content creation business, and especially for us bloggers fortunate enough to get some money for the work we do, you are expected to provide analysis of the team/game you are covering. For over eight years now, I’ve been doing just that at Grizzly Bear Blues. It’s crazy to say that - almost a decade for me writing about the Memphis Grizzlies. Lots of players, several coaches. Same ol’ MulliGrizz.
Point being, after doing this as long as I have, some times you watch a game and the reasons things went the way they did are fairly straight forward. The Portland Trail Blazers beat the Memphis Grizzlies 105-100 last night in Memphis, and it doesn’t take too much film review to understand what transpired. When Portland’s best player (and the best player from the game in general), Damian Lillard, was off the floor the Grizzlies did not take advantage as they did earlier in the week in Portland. And while Dillon Brooks played at a career-best level, Jaren Jackson Jr. and Desmond Bane were not their usual selves. With Ja Morant’s return imminent, but not happening Sunday evening, those two realities combined led to the Grizzlies demise.
Sometimes it really is that easy.
On to grades, starting with the aforementioned villain.
Dillon Brooks - 37 points (12-25 shots, 4-10 from three), 3 assists, 3 rebounds, 1 steal, +8 in 35 minutes played
Damian Lillard was the best player on the floor last night in the game...but that was overall based off of career accolades. In the individual contest, Dillon Brooks was the superior player on both ends of the floor. He took it upon himself to try to make up for the lack of production elsewhere (when Steven Adams is your second leading scorer, you’re likely losing) and did so in an efficient manner. The 9 for 9 from the free throw line is further evidence of that - he got to the charity stripe and took advantage.
All this was done while Brooks also flew around and fought through screens on the defensive end. He is so valuable to this Memphis Grizzlies team - he is capable of picking up the offensive slack when needed, while always bringing a competitive attitude and effort to the game. For a young squad that can struggle with that mentality at time, Brooks’ toughness and relentlessness matters even more than an individual elite offensive performance.
Those are still nice to have, though.
Steven Adams - 13 points (5-8 shooting, 3-3 from the free throw line), 9 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals, +6 in 36 minutes
For a player that was called washed for over a year, Steven Adams sure has come on strong the last month or so. He fits what the Grizzlies need him to be very well - he understands his role and executes it well. He’s a rebounder, and a screener, and a capable defender who plays primarily drop coverage but is versatile enough to do more. He provides a physical presence that the roster needs - the muscle behind Dillon Brooks’ mentality. The bruising stylings of Adams are a welcome part of the Memphis competitive puzzle.
As mentioned earlier, any time Adams is such a key scoring contributor the team’s gameplan has likely gone off the rails. And it did - more on that in a moment. But the Big Kiwi is most certainly not washed. Overpaid? Maybe - but that’s not the fault of the Grizzlies, and given their current economic status of Memphis his pay is irrelevant. His deal expires as Ja Morant’s almost certainly max rookie extension kicks in. If he wants to stick around, it’ll be for a lighter price tag.
Isn’t it crazy that’s even a relatively sane thing to think? “Grizzlies re-sign Steven Adams...” as a headline in the summer of 2023 isn’t as crazy to contemplate as it once was.
GRADE - A
- Jaren Jackson Jr. didn’t pass this test. Jaren’s game against Portland reminded me of him about a year and a half ago - flashes of brilliance, with a vast majority of the play being poorly executed. It was largely because of foul trouble that forced him to lose rhythm, which is bad considering his three point shot has left him for now. Over the last 8 games Jaren is 9-43 from beyond the arc - a nightmarish 21%. That can’t happen if Memphis wants to win beyond this current hot streak and in the postseason. GRADE - D
- Desmond Bane also missed the mark. 4-12 from the field, 1-8 from three. It was an uncharacteristic game for Bane, who had been one of the main reasons Memphis has been doing so well without Ja Morant. Bane didn’t get to the basket enough once realizing his three point markmanship was gone for the evening, and with 2 rebounds and 2 assists through 33 minutes played he didn’t impact winning elsewhere nearly enough. GRADE - D
- The bench bombed...offensively Beyond Bane and Jackson Jr.’s issues, the usually strong reserve unit for Memphis struggled mightily. The two best off the pine for the Grizzlies - Kyle Anderson and De’Anthony Melton - especially struggled. 8-24 combined shooting (2-6 from three), 9 rebounds, 5 assists...that just isn’t enough production, especially offensively, when so many of their minutes coincided with the 10 that Lillard was on the bench. They forced a combined 6 steals, which is why their collective grade is better than Bane’s and Jaren’s. But their defense isn’t enough with Morant out. GRADE - C-
The Grizzlies fortunately have another game tonight to shake this loss off - against a team they beat by 73 points the last time they met in the Oklahoma City Thunder.