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Report Card: Grizzlies finally finish in victory over Trail Blazers

Ja & Jaren Shine in Big Win on the Road

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Memphis Grizzlies v Portland Trail Blazers Photo by Cameron Browne/NBAE via Getty Images

Closing time is winning time for the Memphis Grizzlies.

The Grizzlies were able to overcome something they’ve been struggling with for a while to get a huge win over Portland in the race for the playoffs – not being able to close out the game. And it couldn’t have come at a better time.

This game had a playoff feel to it – both teams started out slow, both once things picked up it didn’t stop. Neither team held a double-digit lead and similar to a heavyweight fight, they went blow for blow down the stretch.

In the end, the Grizzlies were standing tall, able to withstand a season-best performance from Jusuf Nurkic, a big 2nd half from Damian Lillard, and a nice effort from Carmelo Anthony off the bench.

There are a lot of things that you can take away from the game, and there’s a reason why I haven’t mentioned any Grizzlies players yet in this recap.

I’m saving that for my grades; so without further ado let’s get to the report card!

Ja Morant – 33 points (11-17 shooting, 1-3 3pt, 10-12 FT), 13 assists, 5 rebounds, 0 turnovers. Grade: A+

Ja Morant continues to dominate the Blazers, the only team he averages a double-double against, as Pete Pranica pointed out during the broadcast.

If this isn’t considered a perfect game from ‘12’, then it’s pretty dang close. Ja came out of the gates on fire, bringing energy on both ends of the floor. He was causing some early turnovers for Portland, and then doing what he does on the offensive end.

He was a maestro with the basketball, able to work and weave his way through the Blazers, either getting to the cup or setting up his teammates. You could tell that Ja was not going to let this game get away from them. It was evident the most in the third quarter, when the it looked like the Blazers might pull away. Instead, Ja took it upon himself to do what he could to score. When he wasn’t able to finish, he was getting to the foul line. He went perfect from the charity stripe, scoring 6 of his 15 that quarter from the free throw line.

It’s worth noting that according to Grizzlies PR, Ja Morant is the third player EVER to score 33+ points, shot 60% or better from the field, and get 13 or more assists without a turnover. The other two – Baron Davis and John Stockton.

Jaren Jackson Jr. – 23 points (10-14 shooting), 3 rebounds, 2 assists Grade: A-

Well, I think it’s safe to say that Jaren is back up to game speed. After playing 18 minutes in his season debut against the Clippers, his playing time increased to 25 minutes, including big minutes down the stretch.

As with pretty much everyone in this game, Jaren started off slow in the first quarter. But, in the second quarter, he really started settling in. JJJplaying the ‘5’ made all 10 of his buckets within 10 feet of the basket tonight, with 9 of his 23 coming in the second frame.

Seeing Jaren playing those important minutes at the end of the 4th shows me that Taylor Jenkins might be ready to insert him into the starting lineup on Sunday against this same Portland team.

Also big – Jaren knocked down both of his free throws in the final seconds to make it a two-possession game and guarantee the Grizzlies weren’t going to lose in heartbreaking fashion.

A few things Jaren didn’t do well – rebounding and shooting jumpers. I think those things will come around with time, and there’s no reason to let those overshadow what was a promising performance from Jaren.

Memphis Grizzlies v Portland Trail Blazers Photo by Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images

Xavier Tillman – 12 points (6-8 shooting), 6 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block Grade: B

I went back and forth on putting Tillman or Dillon in this third spot, Dillon was great, but I had to go with ‘X’. That’s because without his 2nd quarter, I don’t know if the Grizzlies would have been in position to win this game.

Tillman played arguably his best ball of the season in that 2nd quarter. He was knocking down floaters, as well as threes, and making things difficult on the perimeter for Lillard and McCollum when he had to switch.

It was nice to see that teams are respecting the outside shot of X, as he was able to pump fake a three and ended up driving in for an easy floater.

I don’t know what’s going to happen with Tillman’s playing time once Jonas returns, probably either Sunday or Monday. But, it wouldn’t surprise me if he hung around and still received some minutes, depending on the matchup.

A fantastic game from the Grizzlies – this young team showed confidence and resilience to finally win and close out a game in the final seconds. This is something this team can build on as the postseason approaches.

It’s also a big win because the Grizzlies still have to play the Blazers two more times in the next week, and they know they can beat them. Right now, the Grizz sit at the 8 spot, a game and a half behind Portland in the standings.

It will be interesting to see how the rotation shakes out over the next week or so, as we have seen Justise Winslow run the point with the second unit, and Tyus Jones received a DNP-CD. Also, when Jonas returns, for the first time, the Grizzlies will have a healthy roster. Will Jenkins go with a 10-man rotation like he did tonight, or stretch it to 11 or 12? Stay Tuned

Next Up: These same Blazers on Sunday at 3 PM

Final Grade: A

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