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Quick Recap: Grizzlies couldn’t stop Thunder in 102-99 loss

The Grizzlies couldn’t get the dub in Ja’s return.

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Oklahoma City Thunder v Memphis Grizzlies Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

Ja Morant is back, ladies and gentlemen.

After a 12-game absence due to a sprained knee and “health and safety protocols,” the Memphis Grizzlies’ All-Star talent is back in the fold, ready to impact a young squad that’s been absolutely rolling. They were also looking to avenge last night’s loss, as they were taking on the Oklahoma City Thunder — who were having Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Josh Giddey back, who weren’t in the fold for the thrashing between these two earlier this month.

The Memphis Grizzlies got out to a phenomenal start. Their defensive energy was up levels, as they were swarming the Thunder and getting a lot of deflections that turned into transition opportunities. Desmond Bane and Dillon Brooks blitzed the Grizzlies with a great scoring attack, as “DB Squared” combined for 21 of the team’s 28 points in the 1st quarter.

Ja Morant reintroduced himself with a sick layup through contact. And then, he dusted off the goggles to fire a laser bounce-pass to Xavier Tillman for the fast break jam. The Thunder closed the gap a little bit, trimming the lead down to 5, and later tying the game. The Grizzlies ultimately went into halftime with a slim lead.

The offense continued to stall out early in the half, as Oklahoma City ended up taking a lead. The Grizzlies got it together, after being down 10, and found a rhythm through good pace and transition offense. Some 3’s from Desmond Bane and John Konchar surely helped, as the Grizzlies trimmed the deficit to 2 going into the 4th quarter.

The Grizzlies reclaimed the lead with 9 and a half minutes left in the game, after Desmond Bane scored off a Ja Morant interception. The Grizzlies continued to get offense humming through a lot of looks from outside the arc. Unfortunately, Oklahoma City got on a run late, due to an offensive surge from Gilgeous-Alexander and Giddey. They took advantage of defensive lapses and came away with a 102-99 win.

Quick Takeaways

  • The urgency levels were the difference. The Grizzlies jumped out to a massive lead, and then they let the foot off the gas. Oklahoma City played like a team that was triggered by the early 1st-quarter deficit — not wanting to experience the same fate as last time — and they started to rev up the activity and the energy. It was predictable that the Thunder were going to look to throw haymakers tonight, but you’d expect the Grizzlies to at least match their intensity.
  • The 2nd and 3rd guys just didn’t have it. Ja Morant played quite well in his first game, especially for someone coming off a knee injury and COVID. Desmond Bane shot the lights out from 3. Dillon Brooks and Jaren Jackson Jr. didn’t have it in this one. Though his defensive pressure on Gilgeous-Alexander was great, Brooks’ offense was pretty brutal. Jackson got visibly frustrated with lack of calls, or calls against him, and it messed with his mojo. No one is perfect, but these 2 not playing up to their capable levels was subject to the loss here.

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