First and foremost, Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there. We love you.
We also love watching the Memphis Grizzlies play the way they are capable of. I am one of the loudest beaters of the “long view” drum, and my agnostic perception of this season can oftentimes get me in hot water. But there’s no denying that the sun shines a bit brighter after this Memphis team gets a win. Food tastes a little better. Jokes are funnier. The world is a better place...at least for followers of the Grizzlies.
The play-in is of course important. But in the grand scheme, the way Memphis brought Jaren Jackson Jr. along to ensure total health matters more. Their process of building up and developing players matters more. As the Grizzlies continue to walk the line between competing for their play-in lives and maintaining their “long view”, balance will be key. Last night was a good example and reminder of that.
On to grades!
Jonas Valanciunas - 18 points on 15 shots, 21 rebounds, 4 blocks, 1 steal, 1 assist, +19 in 36 minutes played
When this dude is eating the glass like he did in this one, his lack of lateral quickness is not that significant.
Toronto was without anyone who could actually defend Jonas Valanciunas, or at least keep him out of the paint and off the boards. But that isn’t the problem of the Memphis Grizzlies, and Jonas was able to dominate just about every matchup he faced individually in this game. He was tuned in defending the rim as well, blocking four shots and impacting looks on other Toronto attempts. Being alongside Jaren Jackson Jr. as a starter doesn’t really hurt Jonas’ rebounding capacity because he is more than capable of keeping up his workload since JJJ is not an elite glass cleaner in any way. Jonas can play his game.
And in this one he did just that. Quite well.
Jaren Jackson Jr. - 20 points on 17 shots (3-10 from three), 4 rebounds, 3 steals, 2 assists, 1 block, 5 fouls, +2 in 26 minutes played
Let’s lead off with the bad.
- Five fouls in 26 minutes is entirely too many
- He shot far too much from three considering who was defending him. He had size/length advantages throughout the game, and has the handle to take advantage more often.
Cool? OK, now for the good.
- Jaren Jackson Jr. played 26 minutes and scored the ball well.
- Jaren was active defensively and while he reached too much his energy was valuable.
- Jaren was once again a starter for the Memphis Grizzlies
While the last point has been overblown while connecting his reserve role to the team’s overall struggles, there is no question seeing Jaren back out there with Ja Morant and arguably the three other best players right now on the Grizzlies (Jonas, Kyle Anderson, and Dillon Brooks) felt good. Finally, the starting five many had hoped to see all along was together. One game isn’t a large enough sample to make a determination, but Jaren produced and and did so in a major way.
Now, all eyes are on this evening’s injury report as the Grizzlies enter their first of two back to backs this final week of the regular season. Will he sit? Will he play?
GRADE - B+
De’Anthony Melton - 15 points on 10 shots (5-10 from three), 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 turnovers, -8 in 19 minutes of play
This grade probably should be separated in to “Melton’s first three quarters” and “Melton’s fourth quarter. Before the final frame, Melton was scoreless and seemed primed to be benched at some point for more Desmond Bane minutes, who was pretty stout on both ends of the floor. However, Melton caught fire from range in the fourth and hit five threes, scoring all 15 of his points in the last 12 minutes of the game. The Grizzlies needed his hot hand to help them put Toronto away, and they rode his scorching shooting to the finish line - rightfully so.
It isn’t how you start, it’s how you close. And De’Anthony Melton closed pretty damn well in this one.
GRADE - B (First 3 quarters C-, 4th quarter A+)
- Kyle Anderson can play basketball regardless of his position. 16 points on 9 shots, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, a team-best +27 +/-. Kyle remains a revelation. GRADE - A
- Tyus Jones struggled in this one. As the rotations tighten when the play-in begins, showings like this one may hurt Tyus’ chances at playing time. No assists in 11 minutes of play? 1-3 shooting? He’s on the floor for that facilitation purpose. More is needed. GRADE - D
- Ja’s bad nights are still pretty good sometimes. Only 12 points on 7 shot attempts, which...isn’t great. But he did take 8 free throws (making 6 of them) and dish out 6 assists while snatching 7 rebounds. 4 turnovers is too many, and Ja will tell you that himself more than likely. Still, an off-night for Morant is more often than not enough to help Memphis compete for wins. GRADE - C
Memphis returns to the hardwood Monday night for their first of five games this week as they end the regular season with a sprint. Monday’s contest is at home against a Pelicans squad that most likely will not have Zion Williamson in the fold. Another win or two should lock up the play-in for Memphis, but seeding dictates trying to find wins wherever possible. NOLA will be a test, Zion or no Zion.
Once again, Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there. You are appreciated for all you do to help us be safe and the best versions of ourselves we can be.