The Memphis Grizzlies found a way to survive in a second night in a back to back and push past a wounded Golden State Warriors team. Here’s what you need to know about this contest that, at times, had the energy of an elementary school spelling bee.
Jonesing for Jonas
Another game, another double double for the Lithuanian leviathan. Like Zach Randolph before him, Grizzlies fans have come to expect double digit scoring and rebounding from Jonas Valanciunas. He is a stable force for Memphis when nights like tonight, when the team shoots poorly as a whole, needs offensive fire power. However, like Zach Randolph before him his pick and roll and perimeter defense leaves a lot to be desired. When that is paired with the rough showings defensively this season by Ja Morant (more on that in a moment) it really hurts what the Grizzlies want to do on that end of the floor.
On this night, the strengths of Jonas negated the weaknesses. That more often than not is the case, but as we saw in the loss Friday night against this same Warriors squad when Valanciunas isn’t able to cancel out defensive concerns with offensive brilliance the team has issues (that again, aren’t entirely his fault). Valanciunas is unique on this Grizzlies team - losing him (via injury or trade) would likely make Memphis much worse in the short term...yet allowing the likes of Brandon Clarke (who played quite well in this game) and Xavier Tillman get more minutes at the 5 may make the most long-term sense for the franchise.
Moving on from Jonas right now probably isn’t a smart move, unless someone makes an offer Memphis cannot refuse. But with the trade deadline approaching his availability (or lack thereof) would be a theoretical window in to how this front office views the current state of the Grizzlies.
Ja is Jonesing for Joy
Ja Morant struggled in this contest scoring the basketball, and his defensive woes (mentioned above as well as here) have become more and more acknowledged. Those things will happen with a young point guard. But at times this weekend against Golden State Ja seemed off in terms of his body language. It wasn’t a steady issue - Morant getting his own rebound late and scoring while making some help defensive plays in spots showed he was connected, and he remains a key facilitator and creator of offense for others. But the offensive energy for himself in terms of finishing at the rim was off in this contest especially (5-20 from the floor!)
There will be days like these. Morant is on a higher tier of tolerance than, say, Jonas, when it comes to his defensive woes and working through them. Ja is his own harshest critic and will learn and grow from the poor shooting and becoming more viable defensively. But Morant’s game is so based on energy and a raw joy to be on the floor. The team lacked energy in spots this weekend, and Ja is a catalyst for bringing that to the squad.
It is a long season. He will find his footing. Just hold on to that smile, Big 12. It makes the team brighter.
Desmond Bane showed flashes of a complete game. Grayson Allen grabbed rebounds (8) on a night where his shot wasn’t falling. There were reasons for optimism that were desperately needed coming out of a poor performance against Golden State the night before. The Grizzlies needed to even this back to back series, and got the job done.
Memphis is back in action Monday night against the Boston Celtics as the Grizzlies close out their home stand.