The Memphis Grizzlies were embarrassed on Tuesday night against the New Orleans Pelicans. While a back to back usually isn’t exactly what NBA players look forward to during snow storms especially, Ja Morant and company were probably excited to get right back to business Wednesday against the Oklahoma City Thunder. You’re only as good as your last performance, and Memphis knows they aren’t as icy as their defensive impact was against NOLA. They wanted another opportunity to show that.
So a showdown with an undermanned Thunder squad did indeed seem to be just what the doctor ordered. The Grizzlies pulled away late against OKC, much like the Pelicans did the night before. Memphis got a much needed win to get the taste of Tuesday’s defeat out of their collective mouths.
Some quick thoughts on a good win.
Kyle Anderson is a revelation
The man affectionately known as Slo-Mo is playing the best basketball of his career. In this game, Kyle impacted the game on both ends of the floor. It isn’t just his efficient 20 points on 11 shots. It isn’t the fact he facilitates so well (5 assists) or rebounds at a strong clip (5 boards). It is a combination of all he is physically capable of. Despite his lack of foot speed, he can get by many a perimeter defender and finish at the rim. Even without elite athleticism, he can use his frame to deflect and detain possessions (5 steals!) from opponents and get out in transition, where Memphis thrives.
There was a time where Anderson barely cracked the rotation and couldn’t shoot threes at any consistent level for these Grizzlies. Now? You can argue he is a key part of what makes this Grizzlies team good when they play well. What a difference a year can make.
Ja Morant’s Book got Thicker
No, Morant was not the offensive force that he was in the Pelicans game as a scorer. But a Ja triple-double (13 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists) further shows that just as you think you have found the answers to the Grizzlies star guard, he can change the questions. It was not his best shooting effort (4-15 from the field) yet Morant’s finger prints are all over this one in his activity running and getting the ball in to the hands of open players off his dribble penetration. Even when tired, or sore, or not his best, Ja finds ways to impact winning for his team.
The next chapter of Ja’s NBA book is going to be a heck of a read.
- Ho hum, another Jonas Valanciunas double double. 22 and 12 for the big man. He makes the Grizzlies offense that much better. Because of his touch and strength, opposing defenses are forced to make tough calls when it comes to limiting Morant’s offensive impact off of Jonas pick and rolls. There are no right answers.
- The bench bigs were quite efficient. 19 points on 12 shots? Constructive evidence of growth on both ends of the floor? That should be enough for two young big men who are learning to play together. Gorgui Dieng perhaps would make the Memphis roster a bit better alongside Clarke in the short-term given his size and range, but Gorgui likely isn’t in the long-term plans. Tillman is. And because of that, Tillman getting run with Dieng out is a reminder that Memphis is more concerned about development than minimal improvement in the here and now if it doesn’t directly benefit the future.
- Grayson Allen had 22 points? Desmond Bane is an elite three point shooter, and when he comes back to the roster he should still be in the rotation mix. But even the president of the Desmond Bane Fan Club has to tip his cap to the play of Allen, who can both create off the dribble and defend his position without fouling, all while launching threes at a red-hot 67% clip currently. Jenkins is going to let Allen eat - and at this point, there is a lot of evidence to suggest he is right.
Memphis gets a rare day off Thursday as they prepare for another back to back this weekend. The Grizzlies will next face off with the Detroit Pistons Friday night at FedExForum.