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The Long View: The ripple effects of a dominant bench

This bench is built different.

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Minnesota Timberwolves v Memphis Grizzlies Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

The Memphis Grizzlies bench has been a constant force for them dating back to last season, and last night was just another example of how they can drive this team to victory each night. Between the 3rd and 4th quarters, the Grizzlies bench put together a monstrous 35-9 run that sealed the game.

All in all, they finished with 56 points, 11 assists, and 7 steals. They did a magnificent job of stringing together stops and turning their defense in to quick offensive possessions in transition.

It was just another example of how deep this young Grizzlies team is, and how what it does to the game when they’re firing on all cylinders.

“We have a lot of depth on this team,” Tyus Jones said after the game. “We have a team that has a lot of ball players. Guy who can do a lot of different things out there on the court. We got a lot of guys that bring a lot to the table.”

The Grizzlies do have a lot of depth, as we saw tonight. On the flip side, the depth has also created the problem where it pushes good players out of the rotation. We’ve seen it with De’Anthony Melton, Grayson Allen, and recently Xavier Tillman. To counteract it, each player has maintained a “next man up” mentality that’s allowed them to not miss a beat when their numbers are called. And it’s going to bode well in the long run.

“It’s been huge,” Tillman said. “over the last couple weeks, that’s what I’ve been doing with the play groups. Making sure that I’m pushing myself, working hard each and every day and then learning, also. If I’m not playing, I don’t want to just sit there and do nothing. I’m cheering on my teammates. I’m seeing stuff on defense where I could make an impact when I get my opportunities, and seeing stuff where I can tell my teammate, ‘Hey, shift there’ or ‘Be a mig [most important guy] over here’, stuff like that. Just learning on the go.”

It paid off for Tillman tonight, as he was a steady 2-way presence that made the most of his looks (even hitting a 3!) and playing hard-nosed post defense on Karl-Anthony Towns and Naz Reid. Performances like tonight are going to aid him and his bench crew, because extended minutes in a massive run is a confidence-booster and a key for development — as Coach Jenkins stated in postgame.

The greatest thing we’ve seen with these contributions is how a different player can seemingly step up each night. That’s important, since Jaren Jackson Jr., Justise Winslow, and a revolving door of rotation layers have missed significant time. In addition, on nights like tonight, it’s going to allow the heavy-minute starters to get extended rest — a valuable thing to have every now and then during this playoff push.

Ultimately, it’s going to aid well in the development of these young players, as they will build confidence and grow in these moments. All while continually adding to their games.

“Depth is something that you definitely want to have in this league,” Tyus Jones said, and depth is playing a massive part in their playoff push. Now, we wait to see how the dividends will pay down this stretch, and how this system will continue to flow regardless of who has to step up.

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