I didn’t really know what to expect going into this game. The Memphis Grizzlies were without 4 rotation players against a Miami Heat team that was an Eastern Conference finalist last season and is currently hitting their strides. They were also tasked with this challenge on the road.
And it did not phase them.
The Memphis Grizzlies’ offense was humming the entire game, creating looks that Head Coach Taylor Jenkins’ system seeks (41 3-point attempts). They also got strong contributions from their supporting cast to make up for the newest absences in the rotation — De’Anthony Melton and Brandon Clarke.
It was a sensational win that just highlighted the impact of key role players, as well as the Grizzlies’ flowing system.
Dillon Brooks: 28 points (10-19 shooting, 5-9 from 3), 2 assists, 2 steals, +/- of -1, 31 minutes (Grade: A)
Dillon Brooks was a man possessed in the 3rd quarter. It looked like he was going to be another rotation player added to the growing list of injuries for the Grizzlies. However, it ended up being like the final infinity stone for him.
He attacked the defense from beyond the arc, off drives to the rim, and in the mid-range. All while primarily being defended by Jimmy Butler. That 23-point 3rd quarter trails only Jaren Jackson Jr. for the most points in a quarter in franchise history.
.@dillonbrooks24 scored 23 points in the third quarter tonight at Miami.— Grizzlies PR (@GrizzliesPR) April 7, 2021
It is the second-highest single-quarter scoring output in @memgrizz franchise history (@jarenjacksonjr, 26 points, 3Q, 12/13/19 vs. Milwaukee). pic.twitter.com/5YtQYW6cja
Dillon Brooks showed off his 3-level scoring arsenal, but this game also highlights how his hot shooting can get them a victory. Granted, the Grizzlies controlled things for the majority of the game, but it was that 3rd-quarter run from Brooks that generated the second-half momentum that led to victory.
Jonas Valanciunas: 20 points (7-9 from the field, 1-1 from 3), 10 rebounds, +/- of +6, 27 minutes (Grade: A)
If Brooks was the mid-game momentum boost, then Valanciunas was the tone-setter.
To start the game, the Grizzlies made it a priority to get Valanciunas the ball inside to get the offense rolling. It paid off in a massive way, as he finished with 15 points in the 1st quarter alone. He did a tremendous job of using his size to create space against Bam Adebayo — one of the most versatile defenders from the big man spot.
Granted, he probably didn’t get as many touches or field goal attempts as many would like. The defense collapsing on him and Adebayo’s length hindered his shot volume a bit. Nonetheless though, Valanciunas put in his nightly double-double. Like clockwork.
When the Grizzlies can get Valanciunas going early, he’s a rock that the team can rely on for easy buckets and to lead the charge to victory.
The Bench: A+
It really is a “next man up” mentality for the Memphis Grizzlies. De’Anthony Melton and Brandon Clarke — the Grizzlies’ two most productive bench players who are also crucial closers — joined Justise Winslow and Jaren Jackson Jr. last night on the injury report, opening up minutes for guys like Killian Tillie and John Konchar.
The bench did not miss a beat.
Tyus Jones does such a good job of quarterbacking the second unit and keeping them afloat. Xavier Tillman filled in for Clarke as the highly-efficient big man that picks and chooses his scoring spots. Bane made up for Melton’s scoring efforts, while he and Konchar chipped on the do-something actions of Melton — playmaking and defense. Even Killian Tillie gave some great minutes (tied for highest +/- at +13).
The Grizzlies system is a bit Spurs-y, as they’ve developed a plug-and-play style that maximizes the skillsets of its players. That’s a huge credit to Taylor Jenkins for instilling this confidence and designing a system that hums regardless of who’s on the floor, as well as Zach Kleiman for finding the right players to fit this structure.
Tune in tonight as the Memphis Grizzlies take on the Atlanta Hawks at 7:00 PM CST.