A twisted tale of two halves.
The Memphis Grizzlies entered Friday night’s matchup against the Los Angeles Lakers with nine guys in total available to lace up sneakers. The odds weren’t in the Grizzlies favor before the ball was even tossed at Staples Center. Somehow, some way, the Grizzlies came out of the gates running. A 22-2 Grizzlies run in the first quarter had the Los Angeles Lakers scratching their heads.
Outscoring the Lakers 31-16 in the first quarter, and leading the Lakers 59-46 heading into the half, Memphis has to feel good. But being short handed, the team came out of the locker room with some inconsistency on offense. The Grizzlies had nine turnovers in the second half, the Lakers outscored the Grizzlies 41-23 in the third quarter. From there - the Grizzlies couldn’t recover.
Being short handed is never easy, and it felt like with each turnover the Grizzlies got more and more deflated. What felt like a Grizzlies loss before the ball was even tossed up in the air, between that first half, and then that second half collapse - what did we learn from these Grizzlies? Let’s get to these grades...
Ja Morant: 22 points, 10 assists, 7-18 FG in 35 minutes - B
Big 12 has done all he can since his return to the floor. With the lack of shooting surrounding Morant at times, Ja has done a really good job at getting the defender on his back hip off of screens going downhill. Grizzlies Head Coach Taylor Jenkins noticed Morant’s issue, and rolled out Kyle Anderon and Tyus Jones to put with Ja at times tonight.
Adding those two guys (given circumstances) gave Morant an opportunity to move off the ball and create offensively off ball. Morant did everything he could within his powers on Friday night for the Grizzlies to have a chance, and that’s all you can ask for.
Jonas Valanciunas: 22 points, 9-13 FG, 8 rebounds, and 5 assists - B
Valanciunas had such a hot start for the Grizzlies. Putting Anthony Davis and the Lakers defensive in situations they hadn’t prepared for isn’t easy. Jonas dropped 11 points and four rebounds in the first quarter, but after that first quarter, the Lakers defense keyed in on Valanciunas.
Jonas played surprisingly well in the pick and roll defense tonight for the Grizzlies, but also wasn’t targeted as much by the Lakers. Overall, not a bad night for the Grizzlies big man.
Taylor Jenkins - A
An ‘A’ to the losing Head Coach may be a first, but I’m ready to see Jenkins coach a semi-healthy Grizzlies team. Jenkins navigated nine guys (four bench player unit) against the world champions. Jenkins has done things differently this season, and has continued his growth as a new Head Coach.
Not a lot of Head Coaches run zone defenses consistently in the NBA, but Jenkins has when his team can’t slow the opposing offense down. Tonight, it slowed the Lakers freight train down a bit, and Jenkins had to work through Dillon Brooks picking up five fouls through a little more than three quarters. The Grizzlies are in excellent hands with Coach Jenkins, and it’ll be a show when coach has more depth off the bench.
The Grizzlies head off to Sacramento to face the Kings on Sunday night as they finish off their brief west coast road trip.