About three minutes into the second half of Wednesday night’s game, the Grizzlies allowed the Thunder to start off the half with an 8-2 run to extend their lead to 61-49. Memphis simply was not playing with the energy and effort that usually is needed for them to be competitive and find ways to win. However, over the last 20-22 minutes of the evening, the Grizzlies outscored the Thunder 66-46 to earn their third straight victory.
The big differences were made from a few 1-2 combinations on both the perimeter and the post. The significance of that is the simple fact that Memphis was able to find a way to win despite Ja Morant having one of his least productive games of the season. With that in mind, let’s hand out some grades that once again really showed how dominant the Grizzlies depth can be.
BRANDON CLARKE- A
In the first half of the game, the Grizzlies allowed Al Horford and Moses Brown to combine for 21 points and 16 rebounds, which really made things difficult on both ends of the court for Memphis in the paint. However, a big development for Memphis, beyond the adjustments made at halftime, was reclaiming dominance of the paint in the second half.
Brandon Clarke was a big reason for that. This is the first time that the Grizzlies have produced at least 55 rebounds and 10 blocks in the same game under Taylor Jenkins, and only the fifth time they have done it in franchise history. Clarke contributed with a career high five blocks and nine rebounds along with two steals. With his scoring getting back to where it was last year, Clarke being able to continue to contribute across the board is a huge development for the reserves.
Grayson Allen- A
GET ON THAT GRAYSON ALLEN POSTER, POKUUUUUUU pic.twitter.com/ubd2prkpCN— Chris Vernon (@ChrisVernonShow) March 25, 2021
I will be the first to admit my opinion of Grayson Allen is not always positive; however, there should be nothing but compliments going his way in terms of this game. He kept the Grizzlies in the game in the first half, and ended the night with 20 points, five rebounds and four threes. He also was a big reason as to why the Grizzlies defense was able to prevent the Thunder from making a late game run like they did 10 days ago to steal a victory.
Not only was his performance itself very good, but as seen above, Grayson also decided tonight was a good night to submit his candidacy for Grizzlies dunk of the year.
The +/- rating for NBA players has both its positives and negatives, and different individuals will have different ways of valuing certain stats. However, it seems relevant when a player is consistently putting up + or - numbers in the 20’s. For Brooks, he led the Grizzlies with a +25 tonight, which also matched his season high from March 2nd. In five of his last 11 games, Brooks has produced a +20 or better mark. He has really embraced his role as a primary defender and secondary scorer this month.
Even better, he is doing it in different ways. Earlier this month, he registered a +22 with only seven shots form the field. Tonight, he made a big difference leading the Grizzlies in scoring with 25 points. The main thing to takeaway from this is that Brooks is finding different ways to offer significant contributions on both ends of the court more consistently. That is really proving to be valuable during a stretch of games in which Morant has struggled.
His last time against the Thunder, Valanciunas produced 24 points and 17 rebounds in 27 minutes. Tonight, though he struggled a bit on both ends in the first half, he shined at times in the second half. In the end, Valanciunas tied a Grizzlies’ franchise record with his fourth straight game with 15 or more rebounds. And that was a huge boost in a game where the Grizzlies had to reclaim the paint. While Valanciunas has his flaws, he is becoming consistently elite at the things he does well, and it is making a difference for the Grizzlies at needed times.
With this victory, the Grizzlies are now ninth in the west, and have a three game cushion for a play-in spot in the Western Conference standings. That is a huge development for the Grizzlies with three our of their next four against the Jazz, and 15 of their next 20 on the road.