The Memphis Grizzlies picked up right where they left off before the All-Star break. Full disclosure, I wondered if the break maybe came at the wrong time for the Grizz as it looked like they were playing their best basketball of the season in the win over the Wiz and the close loss to Milwaukee. They immediately put those fears to bed; they impressed once again, holding off a Russell Westbrook led push in the third quarter and then pulling away in the fourth for a 127-112 win.
A lot of notable performances for the Grizzlies in their win – both on the offensive and defensive ends, but I’m going to showcase three of the most notable performances and then touch on a few more at the end.
Without further delay, it’s time for the Report Card.
Dillon Brooks: 10 points (4-7 shooting, 1-2 from 3, 2 rebounds, 2 assists) – Grade: A
Bradley Beal has to hate playing the Grizzlies. The NBA’s leading scorer at 32.5 points per game has been held well below his average in both games (21 and 23 points on 14-40 from the field.) The reason – Dillon. Brooks.
Beal even acknowledged it after the first matchup last week, saying that he respects that DB studied film and prepared for him. DB is one of those guys that will get under your skin and totally take you off your game. You could tell that, as Beal only seemed comfortable when Dillon was out of the game. For example, in the fourth when the game was still within reach, Beal created space by initiating contact on Dillon and still didn’t knock down the jumper. To me, that shows that Dillon was all in Beal’s head.
I debated on who I should showcase first, but I don’t think we are talking about the other two if not for DB’s defensive performance on Beal.
Jonas Valanciunas: 29 points (12-21 shooting, 20 rebounds, 4 blocks, 3 assists) – Grade: A
Moe Wagner is going to have nightmares for the next month after Jonas dominated him in the second half.
If this JV shows up every night, the Western Conference is in *big* trouble. At times in the first half, Jonas seemed a tad out of sorts – missing bunnies, a tad passive on defense, and just not into the game.
Jonas came out on fire in the second half, cleaning up the misses with thunderous dunks. But, then Wagner tried to get physical with Jonas and JV flipped a switch and that was all she wrote.
JV got that Barbara Walters (20/20) I thought he would flirt with in the game against Houston.
Desmond Bane: 20 points (7-13 shooting, 5-8 from 3, 4 rebounds, 1 steal, 1 assist) – Grade: A-
I’m going to call him ‘Bookend Bane’ for his performance against the Wizards. The rookie got things going in the first for the Grizz by scoring the team’s first six points of the game. Then, in the fourth he slammed the door on the Wizards by knocking down three 3’s and scoring 9 of the Grizzlies final 13 points.
Bane made the most of his opportunity to start, and honestly it could be the last time for a while if Grayson Allen returns on Friday. He not only gave the Grizz a lift on offense, but he also helped out on defense to keep Beal in check.
While Bane may not be the starting 2 for long, he for sure earned himself more minutes when Allen comes back. I’m just glad I’m not Taylor Jenkins, who has to figure out what to do with so many guys playing well.
Other notable performances in the win over the Wiz – Ja Morant appears to be fully healthy, notching another double-double with 21 points and 10 assists. He also made a few highlight reel passes that are reminiscent of Magic Johnson and Jason Kidd. It’s also worth noting that he did get to the free throw line 12 times, which makes three games in a row he’s seen double-digit free throw attempts – now only if he could make more of them.
Justise Winslow continues to flash a little bit of everything. On offense we saw him bring the ball up a few possessions with Ja off-ball; knock down a floater; and score on a nice post up move. On defense, he was doing a good job filling the lanes and getting deflections.
The Grizzlies came out on fire, and held a comfortable lead before Washington took a lead for a short time in the third. The Grizzlies still need to work a little on their perimeter defense. Also, they have got to hit more free throws and convert more three-point plays when given the opportunities.
Next up for the Grizzlies – Denver on Friday night at 7 PM.
Team Grade: B