I thought we were heading into a doozie of a game, to be honest. Both teams came out of the gate lethargic, with an eye on the All-Star break. It was like they were going through the motions to get this game out of the way.
However, both teams flipped a switch in the second half to give us an entertaining contest to end the first part of the season. Both teams had solid execution down the stretch, and each team’s star players showed out in this one.
Unfortunately, the Memphis Grizzlies didn’t get the win in this one, but there was still a lot to like from this game. Let’s give out some grades.
Dillon Brooks: 23 points (7-20 shooting, 1-6 from 3, 8-8 from the line), 7 assists, 4 rebounds, 3 blocks, 3 steals, 35 minutes, +/- of -5 (Grade: A-)
Why does Dillon Brooks get to go first, when Ja Morant had the more prolific game? Because Brooks was the one that set the tone for the Grizzlies first.
In that first half, he looked like the only player that wanted to be out there in the first half. He was aggressive looking for opportunities at the basket, or chances to get to the free throw line. He played with an edge and swagger that ultimately kept the Grizzlies in this game.
Yes, he was inefficient in this game — hence the minus. However, he draws a high grade from this game, because of how he impacted the game aside from scoring — one of the biggest criticisms from his game. While he was actively looking for his shot, he didn’t get sucked into the tunnel vision he can fall victim to, as he dished out 7 assists.
Defensively, he was all over the place. Obviously his activity stands out in the box score, as he tallied 3 blocks and 3 steals. However, where he was valuable was his individual defense on Giannis Antetokounmpo. Yes, it’s a tall task, and he still scored 26 points. Brooks used his physicality well, and managed to get inside Giannis’ head.
Grizzlies by 5 and the officials are telling both teams to go to their bench.— Drew Hill (@DrewHill_DM) March 5, 2021
Looks like some words were exchanged between Antetokounmpo and Dillon Brooks.
Dillon Brooks showed his value tonight. Every team needs a guy that’ll play his ass off all 48 minutes on any night.
Ja Morant - 35 points (11-25 shooting, 3-13 from 3, 10-11 from the line), 6 rebounds, 5 assists, 39 minutes, +/- of -3 (Grade: A-)
Ja Morant gets the same inefficient shooting night minus as Brooks, but also the high grade as well. There was a lot to like about Morant’s game tonight.
I’m going to get the negative out of the way. The 3-point shooting mark wasn’t pretty, and it’s a performance where his critics will pull up when critiquing his game. I do like though how he continued to shoot his way out of the slump and keep the defense honest. It worked to an extent, as he hit 3 three’s tonight.
His game within the arc was a masterpiece, further illustrating how he’s one of the best guards in the league at getting to the rim. He finished 8-12 on 2’s, slicing through the Milwaukee defense with tremendous poise. More impressively, he made some tough finishes with Giannis on him, an impressive feat for most players — yet alone a 6’3” point guard. Once again, he got rewarded for his attack mentality with trips to the charity stripe, as he accumulated double-digit free throw attempts for the second straight game.
Morant also showed that clutch factor that we saw from him all last season, scoring 28 of his 35 points in the second half. He ended the first half of the season on a high-note from an individual standpoint — Ja, himself, would probably disagree, since he cares more about the wins. However, it’s nice to see Ja Morant round back into the form we’re used to, as he’ll look to set the tone for his All-Star revenge tour.
The Other Grades
- Jonas Valanciunas (C): Though he notched another double-double, it was an oddly inefficient night for Valanciunas. He struggled against the Bucks’ length in the frontcourt on both sides of the ball, and they also took advantage of his slower feet defensively.
- Kyle Anderson (C): Anderson’s impact was not felt in this game all too much. He made some nice defensive plays, but he was off his game offensively. Expect him to turn it around though.
- Desmond Bane (C+): Bane wasn’t a huge factor offensively, but I did like how he managed to impact the game with his rebounding (6 rebounds). Like he usually does, he made that one play where you’re like whoa, did he really just pull that off with this slick kick to the corner.
your team’s shooter isn’t throwing passes like this pic.twitter.com/bAK4tbkDTP— Chip Williams (@chipwilliamsjr) March 5, 2021
- Justise Winslow (B-): He gets the same inefficiency knock as Morant and Brooks for his 3-11 shooting night. However, he made winning plays as a rebounder and as a defender. His individual defense on the Bucks’ core guys was really solid, though he got baited into 6 fouls.
- Brandon Clarke (A): I was a really big fan of what Clarke flashed in this game. He took on assignments on Giannis, but I was also impressed with how he guarded Khris Middleton as well. A nice development to watch going forward.
- De’Anthony Melton (A): He didn’t get enough minutes or touches, but 3 steals in 15 minutes is mightily impressive. I also loved his size-up dribbling into 3’s that he’s shown all season. He needs to play more.
That’s it for the first half of the season. Enjoy the break before the Memphis Grizzlies have 40 games in 71 nights!