The Memphis Grizzlies were looking to avenge last weekend’s series sweep against the Utah Jazz. Without Donovan Mitchell, it theoretically makes things “easier.” However, this game shows that they are a well-oiled machine.
The Grizzlies did play well in this one, putting together good runs behind Ja Morant, Jonas Valanciunas, and Kyle Anderson. In the end though, the Grizzlies experienced one of the toughest scenes for any longtime fan:
Death by Mike Conley.
I guess this is how the other teams have felt for years.
The former Grizzly guard finished with 26 points, 7 assists, and 4 steals — including 13 fourth-quarter points. It was just tough to see, but hey there were some bright spots (and some question marks).
Let’s talk about them.
Ja Morant: 36 points (11-18 shooting, 2-4 from 3, 12-15 from the line), 7 assists, 3 steals, 36 minutes, +4 (Grade: A)
Ja Morant went all gas, no brakes, in last night’s game.
He turned it up in the second half, scoring 29 points over that stretch — 3rd-highest mark in franchise history. He got wherever he wanted on the basketball court. He showed sheer aggression looking for his opportunities at the rim, or chances to get to the free throw line. He didn’t remotely care if Rudy Gobert was in the way either.
Ja also sent the tone for transition offense by staying active defensively and corralling 3 steals. When he’s getting out on the break, good things typically happen.
The only thing stopping him from an “A+” was the two missed free throws at the end and the pick-and-roll defense on Mike Conley (more on that). However, this phenomenal outing from Ja Morant is just another reminder that the Grizzlies guard is one of the rising stars of the league.
Jonas Valanciunas: 16 points (6-17 shooting), 14 rebounds, 5 assists, 32 minutes, +1 (Grade: C+)
I really don’t know what to make out of this Jonas Valanciunas performance. There’s just a lot of indifference going through here.
He did show moments of having his way with Rudy Gobert, including a sequence he just bullied him to the floor. He also finished with a season-high 5 assists, and he continued his streak of double-digit rebounding.
On the other hand, he was uncharacteristically inefficient, as it took him 17 shots to get to 16 points. Defensively, he got torched in the pick-and-roll. He gets into drop coverage, and teams typically make him pay for it. It’s a pick-your-poison deal with him: stick with what he’s doing and live with mid-range jumpers, take a few steps up and risk getting blown past for an easier shot, or do just that and open up an opportunity for his man to get a bucket.
There’s a lot of great with Jonas Valanciunas — post play, efficient scoring, and elite rebounding. However, his defensive struggles are glaring.
- Kyle Anderson (A): Anderson looked like the version of himself we saw before the All-Star break. He made a bunch of smooth plays off the dribble and made an impact defensively with 3 blocks.
- Dillon Brooks (C): Brooks played good individual defense and forced his opponents into uncharacteristic shooting nights, but he made careless fouls and fell in crucial moments.
- Desmond Bane (C): Good news — Bane was aggressive looking for his shot. Bad news — Only 1 of his 10 shots was a 3. That’s not ideal an ideal shot portfolio for one of the most accurate 3-point shooters in the NBA.
- De’Anthony Melton (B-): There were clamors that Melton needed to be closing, and that might have been right. He wasn’t exactly cooking though, as he finished with more turnovers (3) than assists (1) and shot 2-6 from the field.
- Killian Tillie (B): Tillie made a good impression in the most minutes he’s received all year. He showed good mobility defensively, including a great sequence on Jordan Clarkson. He also didn’t force anything offensively. Looking forward to seeing how he builds on this.
Tune back in tomorrow, as the Memphis Grizzlies battle the Minnesota Timberwolves.