Last night was full of plenty of fantastic fun and frustrations. The narrative that the Grizzlies once again exceeded expectations against one of the Western Conference’s better teams without Jonas Valanciunas and Dillon Brooks is certainly encouraging. However, it also is a bit frustrating the Grizzlies did not take advantage of multiple chances to end the game. Though there were some missed opportunities and questionable decisions from Taylor Jenkins, both he and the roster proved they certainly belong on the court with anyone with how they are currently playing.
With this in mind, its time to hand out some grades. Based off effort alone, we are going to implement a curve despite the loss. There were a few Grizzlies in particular who stepped up and showed out tonight, and every bit of it was needed.
Xavier Tillman- A
Tonight, Xavier Tillman set a career high in literally everything. That happens when you play 41 minutes in a game and your previous career high was 28. However, his production was not just based on quantity as there was plenty of quality in his effort as well. Tillman became the first Grizzlies rookie during the franchise’s time in Memphis to record 18 or more points, 14 or more rebounds, and two or more steals.
He also did a respectable job for much of the game against Nikola Jokic, who just simply showed why he is the MVP and took over the game late. Tillman’s role on the Grizzlies has been among the more variable ones on the roster, but he has been respectable or better each and every time he steps on the court. In his most significant opportunity to date, he delivered better than hardly anyone could have anticipated.
De’Anthony Melton- A
The ways in which De’Anthony Melton can impress folks are becoming too numerous to count. After missing eight straight games due to injury, all Melton does is deliver one of the most productive halves that a reserve has produced in the past quarter century in the NBA in his first half of action. In fact, Melton’s final line of 25 points, six assists, six threes, eight rebounds, and four steals is a threshold no other reserve has reached in NBA history. That is how impressive he was tonight.
While Mr. Do Something has been incredible with his shot as of late when he has played, he truly lived up to his nickname tonight. Melton is quickly becoming one of the more improved players in the NBA this season - and his contract is quickly becoming one of the best bargains in basketball.
Ja Morant- A
Fourth Quarter Ja was on full display. While the end result was not what he had hoped it would be, it was truly a historical night for Morant. He became the first Grizzlies player in franchise history with three 30 + point, 10 + assist performances in his career. Morant became the sixth active player to have three or more such games before the age of 22, a list that includes the names LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, Trae Young, Luka Doncic, and Steph Curry.
He once again took over when the Grizzlies needed him too. Though he could not deliver a game winning shot tonight, he once again was trusted in that moment to get the win. The more experiences like that he has, the better he will become. When the game is on the line, the Grizzlies want the ball in the hands of their best player. Time and time again, Morant has shown that is what he expects as well, and he is ready to take on any task that is needed to get the victory.