The Memphis Grizzlies were in desperate need of a victory. While their spot in the play-in tournament overall appears to be secure (barring a collapse of epic proportions), their seed is very much up in the air. It behooves the Grizzlies to try to stay in the 8 or 9 seed conversation, as it gives them two bites at the proverbial postseason apple. Worst case, if Memphis loses a 7-8 game against, say, LeBron James and the Lakers, at least they get another crack at it. As the 9 or 10 seed? One loss and it is over.
So when the Grizzlies drop games against inferior competition, it tends to especially sting. Which is what made this game against the Raptors, who were not putting their best foot forward with regard to winning as they rested key players, matter so much. And it is why it was so good to see them get the job done.
Some quick thoughts on a big W over the Toronto “Tampa” Raptors.
Desmond Bane: Complete basketball player
Bane’s exploits as a three point shooter are well-documented. Those held true in this contest, as Desmond made multiple threes against the Raptors. But as the season progresses, the former TCU Horned Frog continues to show he is much more than just a marksman beyond the arc. Bane blocked multiple shots in this game, made multiple passes that led to buckets, and played with remarkable energy and focus for a vast majority of the run he got on the floor. He helped pace the reserves when things got especially slow, and as the Grizzlies took off he was a key cog in their machine on both ends.
Is Bane a better reserve or starter? For now, he is plenty important to the bench. And on “the next great Grizzlies team” he’s probably a rotation player...but in a smaller role. That’s OK though - to have a wing like Bane on a 30th overall rookie contract three more seasons is a massive win for this front office. Bane can ball.
Jaren started, and played well!
Jaren Jackson Jr. made his much anticipated return to the starting lineup for the Memphis Grizzlies in Tampa against the Raptors, and it was as if he never left. He had more pep in his step, attacking both on the glass and as a rim protector, while still displaying his ability to shoot the three (although he took too many, especially early in the game) and create for himself off the dribble depending on match-ups. He turned the ball over in tough spots, and his five fouls show that he still has a ways to go to get up to speed as a defender who can influence shots while not making unnecessary contact.
But that will come with reps and time - things that he both needs a lot of and must continue to receive.
- De’Anthony Melton caught fire in the 4th! You can argue he played a major role in saving this game for Memphis. The Grizzlies were only up one when Melton started heating up and made multiple threes in a rom for Memphis. De’Anthony, who finished with five made threes, has been special more often than not for the Grizzlies this season. But he had been struggling of late. His awakening in this one was wonderful to see.
- Jonas Valanciunas is unfair. Poor Toronto was without Aron Baynes and other bigs that could have bodied the Lithuanian Leviathan more consistently. Because of this Jonas was fairly dominant on the glass to the tune of over 20 rebounds. Valanciunas also blocked four shots and was 9-15 from the floor. No, he can’t defend on the perimeter well in terms of lateral movement. But when he is playing this well? It really does not matter.
- A tough night for Brandon Clarke. After appearing to be “back” upon his return to the rotation, Clarke put up an offensive dud - he did not convert a single field goal. Two points on free throws and a team-worst -17 +/- in 17 minutes played tell the story. While single game +/- can be a fool’s errand to follow, the number backs up your eyes in this particular case. Not Brandon’s best showing.
Memphis returns to FedExForum Monday evening as the Grizzlies take on the New Orleans Pelicans, who may very well be without Zion Williamson. If that’s the case, while NOLA is a tough match-up for Memphis, they have to find a way to make the most of their opportunity to knock off a weakened Pelicans squad.