Sure, there were moments of brilliant offensive play. But more often than not, the points being put up were more the result of miserable defensive execution than an elite display of scoring. The Grizzlies were able to hang around despite giving up 45 points in the first quarter thanks to their own ability to attack the rim (aided in large part by the absence of Myles Turner for the Pacers). Yet every time Memphis got within a bucket or two, the Pacers put on the brakes and were able to keep the Grizzlies at bay.
Some quick takeaways from the least enjoyable shootout these eyes have ever seen.
Ja, Jonas, and the Pick and Roll: A tale of two sides of the ball
Ja Morant and Jonas Valanciunas played a very impressive offensive game in this one, especially early on. Through three quarters the duo was shooting a combined 19-33 from the floor and scored 45 points in the process. Jonas finished with 34 points and 22 rebounds, while Ja had 23 points and 6 assists. They were clicking nicely in the two man game, creating space for one another and finding ways to hurt the Pacers for their lack of sufficient defensive weapons to slow them down. Jonas especially impacted the game on the offensive glass, snagging 10 offensive boards through the first three quarters of the game.
The other end of the floor, however, highlighted the current state of things for the two as a pairing. For even with their high level of offensive production, they led Memphis throughout the night at various points in boasting the team’s worst +/- ratings (it evened out by the end of the game with the other starters as the team made their run back). For all their offensive might, the Pacers were able to do more than them scoring. Ja and Jonas have been targeted as defensive liabilities this season, and those concerns were not squashed in this game. Memphis had a franchise record 88 points in the paint, but Indiana had 70 and the Grizzlies could not stop Malcolm Brogdon, Caris LeVert, Domantas Sabonis, and the rest of the Pacers nearly enough.
When you give up 45 points in a quarter, everyone plays awful. Not just two guys. The effort and communication simply weren’t there enough as a team, and that in this particular instance mattered more than Ja and Jonas’ shortcomings. But those issues will remain beyond this game. And until Taylor Jenkins finds a way to better space out their minutes (likely with the return of Jaren Jackson Jr. at some point this month) it will continue to be a concern.
Credit the effort...kind of
The defensive failure was team wide, and had something to do with a lethargic start. But even with that poor beginning to the contest, the Grizzlies battled. They were down by 18 at one point in the second half, and instead of punting the game because they have another one tomorrow the Memphis Grizzlies fought back. It was the aforementioned Valanciunas battling for rebounds. It was consistently attacking the paint. It was diving to the floor for loose balls and fighting for every advantage they could find on the offensive end in particular.
Yes, they struggled to stop the Pacers at any point. Yes, the Grizzlies deserved to lose. But Memphis competed until the last possible moment. That culture matters more than any individual game’s result or performance. Especially in a season like this one, where the team is playing with house money in terms of expectations. The fight remained, even when things were their darkest. They’re on the right track.
The Grizzlies are right back in action tomorrow night at home in FedExForum against the Chicago Bulls. The game will tip at 8:00 PM CT.