The Memphis Grizzlies found themselves in yet another battle against yet another Eastern Conference squads on Monday night. This time it was the Chicago Bulls that the bears of Beale Street went toe to toe with - a Bulls team that looked quite different than they did the last time Memphis welcomed Chicago to town. Nikola Vucevic alongside Zach LaVine is a threat to make the playoffs in the east - on this night they didn’t threaten the Grizzlies enough to win.
Some quick takeaways from a much needed Memphis victory.
Holy hell, Ja Morant!
Words don’t do this one justice.
Sometimes, you need to just stop and appreciate what Memphis has in this young man. Sure, he’s regressed defensively this season. He is an imperfect offensive weapon as a shooter especially. But he is already a top-10 assist man in the NBA. He is already the leader of this franchise at the age of 21. He is phenomenally athletic, and electric, and is capable of doing things like the video above on an almost nightly basis. He is must see TV and has his team firmly in the playoff mix despite being without multiple key players for long stretches of the season.
Did I mention he is only 21-years old?
It’s important to be unbiased when analyzing the team. It’s also important to recognize the awesome basketball powers of Ja Morant.
The efficient Jonas Valanciunas
A lot has been made recently on Grizzlies Twitter about my thoughts on Jonas Valanciunas’ defensive woes. The takes about me are irrelevant - I am merely a simple blogger - but my stance on Jonas has remained consistent. He is a remarkably gifted rebounder and an offensive force of nature who used his body as a weapon in and around the paint. But his defensive limitations make his approach on that end of the floor predictable, and if/when his problems stopping opposing bigs negate or overwhelm the areas of his game where he thrives he cannot be a featured player for Memphis. A reserve role would be best in those situations.
Except for stretches of the third quarter, this was not one of those nights.
Jonas was remarkably effective, converting 12 of 15 shots for 26 points while extending his double double streak to 15 (a new Grizzlies record). But perhaps more importantly, he outplayed the similarly gifted Vucevic (aside from part of the third quarter) over the course of the entire game and was not exposed on the defensive side of things as the game closed and Memphis went on a run to end the contest. He was dunking, he was blocking, he was impacting the game in winning ways - ways that were not as present the previous night against the Indiana Pacers.
Credit to Jonas. Despite the Vucevic scoring stretch early in the second half, he won the match-up. And he was a major reason why the Grizzlies won the game (as was Taylor Jenkins’ decision to have Jonas defend Thad Young more as the game ended, with Kyle Anderson on Vucevic).
The Grizzlies have snapped their mini-losing streak and will be back in action against the Dallas Mavericks Wednesday night in Memphis.