After the Grizzlies rested several players Saturday night versus the Suns, many had hoped the Grizzlies would be refreshed and ready to go tonight in Dallas. Unfortunately, that was simply not in the cards. A horrible first quarter, in which Memphis scored its fewest points in a quarter since March 10th, 2018, simply created too deep of a hole for Memphis to climb out of. Though the Grizzlies defensive effort certainly improved as the game progressed, they simply could not find the offensive consistency to get back into the game until it was too late. The end result was a 102-92 loss to Dallas.
Overall, there were plenty of disappointing performances. However, there were also a few encouraging performances that offer hope the Grizzlies will get back to their winning ways soon.
Let’s have some “fun” handing out some grades.
STARTING LINEUP’S PLAYMAKING- F
Last night was a milestone for Taylor Jenkins, as it was his 100th official game (play-in game still not counting is bizarre) as the head coach of the Memphis Grizzlies. Unfortunately, Memphis decided to produce one of the more forgettable games of his career so far. This is especially true considering how uncharacteristically bad the Grizzlies were in terms of playmaking.
Since Jenkins became head coach at the start of last year, Memphis leads the NBA in games with 27 or more team assists. Last night, the Grizzlies only produced 17 assists. It was only the second time Memphis had produced that low of an assist number under Jenkins, tying their output in a game against the Pelicans from January of 2020. Besides Ja Morant, no other starter produced an assist on the night. If the Grizzlies are going to struggle passing the ball and have only a few players adding value through playmaking on a given night, their chances of winning significantly decrease.
JONAS VALANCIUNAS- D
Ever since he returned from health and safety protocols, Jonas Valanciunas has truly played like one of the best centers in basketball, with very good scoring efficiency and consistency. He also has become one of the best locks to get a double-double on a nightly basis in the NBA, a feat that he accomplished once again tonight. However, despite his consistency and positive play as of late, the Valanciunas we saw last night was similar to the player who struggled to find his shot to start the season. This certainly was a surprise due to his recent play and the fact that he had such a favorable matchup.
Valanciunas not only went 5-18 from the field, but he also committed four turnovers. Yes, some of the shots simply did not fall, but Jonas seemed to be off from the start of the game. When Valanciunas does not have his shot falling, it takes away one of the more reliable parts of the Grizzlies’ offense, and also limits their strength of producing in the paint. As a result, the Grizzlies had no answer for the Mavericks shooting until it was too late, and Valanciunas failed to take advantage of a matchup the Grizzlies needed him to be successful against to win.
Tyus Jones- B+
On a night where no Grizzlies unit or player deserves an A, I think Tyus Jones certainly deserves the best grade of the night. Without a doubt, Jones has certainly regressed during his second season in Memphis when it comes to his scoring and shooting. Yes, he has continued to amaze with his decision making at times through his AST/TO ratio, but he simply has been a non-factor at times when it comes to producing points.
Tonight, though he did not have a three, he looked decisive and confident weaving his way through traffic to feature his floater. That has certainly remained a strength of his game, and was the only bright spot of the Grizzlies’ first half. The Grizzlies bench unit clearly is one of the best in the league, but its claim to be the absolute best really improves when Jones is providing 8-12 points a night to compliment with his playmaking. After back to back games making four or more field goals, the hope is that Jones has turned a corner to become more consistent.
RETURN OF THE ROOKIES- B
Over the past three weeks, Xavier Tillman has settled into a reserve role in which he plays around 20 minutes a night. Though he has not produced any stand-out statistical performances, he has remained reliable in producing valuable minutes off the bench. Last night, his added value was through a needed secondary rebounding presence, as he grabbed 10 boards. He also did not commit a turnover for the first time in five games. Though Tillman will likely continue in his role as a the team’s fourth big moving forward, finding different ways to add positive value to the Grizzlies reserve lineups will be a big boost.
Desmond Bane seemed to find his groove once again after returning from a personal absence last week. He made two threes, created his own shot multiple times, had a few good defensive sequences, and was the only Grizzlies’ player to finish with a positive +/- mark on the evening at +2. Bane has obviously shown fantastic production from beyond the arc; however, his continued development as an overall scorer continues to show as well. If Bane can compliment his reliable shooting with also being a resourceful scorer, he will also add a big boost to a reserve unit the Grizzlies must feature as an advantage on a nightly basis.