A tough pill to swallow.
The Memphis Grizzlies looked to be well on their way to closing out a four-game Eastern Conference road trip undefeated. But then, a pair of familiar sights showed up down the stretch.
It seems as if you have Memphis across your chest, you can’t make free throws. The Grizzlies shot 62% from the charity stripe, including 10-of-17 in the 4th quarter and overtime. That allowed the Knicks to just hang around and eventually tie things up to push it into OT. Once there, the other problem --- the Knicks rained down threes, going a perfect 3-of-3 behind the arc.
I am a little disappointed, because I was planning on writing about the Grizzlies dominance over the last few weeks against teams not from Utah. For three and a half quarters, the Grizz were in control, and any player that touched the court provided quality minutes.
There weren’t really any ‘bad’ performances in the loss, the team just couldn’t close it out against a surprisingly good Knicks squad.
Now, it’s time to give out those grades.
Ja Morant – 26 points (9-18 shooting, 4-5 3pt, 4-8 FT), 6 assists, 4 rebounds, 1 block Grade: B
Ja is a couple of made free throws away from getting an A. There were also a few times in which Ja wasn’t able to recover up top on his man when a screen was set on him. Honestly, besides those two things, you couldn’t really ask for much more besides that from ‘12’ in the loss to the Knicks.
He was doing what he could to try and will the Grizz to victory – setting up teammates, driving to the basket, getting an impressive chase down block, and knocking down 3s. Speaking of that, the league could be in some trouble if Ja has indeed found his stroke from deep (4-5 tonight – 6-8 the last two games). It appears he now has the confidence in his shot and it looks a lot better than it did earlier in the season.
Jonas Valanciunas – 20 points (8-11 shooting), 14 rebounds, 3 blocks, 2 assists Grade: B+
JV rolled out of bed yesterday, so that means of course, he got a double-double. He extended his franchise record streak of DD with another solid outing.
The Big Lithuanian once again had the advantage down low against the smaller big men of New York. During the 3rd quarter, as the Knicks pulled close, the Grizzlies just fed JV and they were able to extend their lead.
My complaint is if Jonas has the edge in matchup, the Grizzlies HAVE to take advantage and just keep throwing it down low. Even if he can be a liability on defense at times against smaller lineups, he can more than make up for it on the offensive end.
Dillon Brooks – 23 points (9-18 shooting, 3-9 3pt), 5 assists, 3 rebounds Grade: B
‘The Villain’ has been so good the past month, but tonight, we got a little bit of that ‘trick-or-treat’ DB. He was fantastic in the first quarter, going 5-8 for 11 points to get the Grizzlies out to a nice lead. We also got the play-making Dillon, as he was very committed to getting the best shot on the offensive end, whether it was him or somebody else.
But, Dillon also shot 3-9 from deep, and some of those were not the best shot selection. And you got the full experience in the last two minutes of regulation --- a questionable step-back three, followed by a three-shot foul on the other end (terrible rule though), and then a very nice defensive stand against Julius Randle with under 20 seconds to go.
DB still had a pretty good game, and I expect him to keep his hot streak going.
The loss to the Knicks is disappointing, and as tight as things are in the West, it could return to bite them at the end of the season. The Grizzlies were just a made free throw or a stop away from going 4-0 on this road trip, which is still impressive.
It’s also important to note the Grizzlies are still not at full strength and were short De’Anthony Melton, Justise Winslow, and of course Jaren Jackson Jr. once again. The end of the bench guys have shown they can step up if called upon, and that makes them stronger as the season goes on.
Next Up: The Grizzlies return home on Sunday to take on Indiana. The Pacers took the first matchup of the season back in February, 134-116. That loss snapped the Grizzlies 7-game win streak. Hopefully the Grizz can return the favor and start a new win streak up on Sunday.
FINAL GRADE: B-