In a game that looked to be an early blowout in the first half, The Miami Heat kept fighting to come back after being down as many as 11 points when Memphis took a 24-13 lead in the opening period. From the opening tip off, Ziaire Williams and Desmond Bane came to play, as they were the first two Grizzlies players to score points this game, and they both finished as two of the team’s top scorers with 19 and 16 points respectfully.
The Grizzlies truly allowed the Heat to steal this game, even down to the game winning bucket. In the sudden death period, John “Jitty” Konchar somehow lost Max Strus, who slipped outside and nailed the game winning three-pointer from the tip of the arch. Never the less, Jitty had another great game in which he stuffed the stats, if nothing else, for a double-double (12 points, 11 rebounds) that was only four assists away from a triple-double.
In the end, Memphis allowed the Heat to drain too many burners from deep, especially late in the game. Max Strus went 7/17 from downtown on his own, and he finished with 32 points and nine rebounds to lead all scorers. The Heat had four double-digit scorers, with three of the four Heat scorers being wings and guards, so the lack of perimeter and rim defense was subpar to say the least. The Grizzlies gave up 46 points to the Heat in the paint, while only countering with 32 points of their own inside. The Grizzlies also gave up 10 burners from deep, although they did knock down 15 buckets from deep.
All Eyez On The Rooks
The rookies gave us some positive notes to take away from this game if nothing else. Ziaire Williams was tied with Sean McDermott for leading Memphis in scoring with 19 points, while also chipping in two rebounds and two steals. Ziaire had a damn good game, despite the team loss, of which he contributed to by splitting a free throw trip in the last seconds of the game. Ziaire was aggressive from start to finish, and he made some dazzling layups. A few of his finishes at the rim required Ziaire to change finishing hands and reverse the angle of his attempts, which put his immense shot creation on full display. This game drew quite a few comparisons of Brandon Ingram for the rookie from Stanford known by a few now as “Stanford Slim.”
Ziaire also picked up 6 fouls, but I like the effort and aggression he displayed to pick up those foul calls against him. He was active in the paint fighting for rebounds, and he really gave a good effort on defense, even if he was matched up at times with Strus — the game’s leading scorer, who nearly doubled the rook’s very good production. This also lead to Ziaire having the team low in terms of plus-minus with a -14.
He proved himself to be very acrobatic in creating his shots with his array of skill-finishing around the basket from floaters, layups, dunks, and pull up baskets. He also excelled off-ball, as he knocked down shot after shot behind the arc of which mostly came from assisted baskets. Not to mention, the fact he had his “DEADEYE” badge was fully activated, as he knocked down very well contested shots all over the court. This was the perfect response to his last game in which he played fairly decent but was still an adjustment of sorts.
Santi Aldama had some positive plays that a basketball mind can build on. Yes he missed all but one of his shot attempts (including all of his long-range attempts). However, even when he missed badly on fadeaway attempts from mid range, one can see that the confidence in which he took those shots versus a sign of panic showed he is used to taking such shots, and simply needs to adjust to the timing and flow of the NBA game. Folks who question if he can play at this speed or with top-tier competition should be mindful that Santi dominated in Spain and was the MVP of the U-18 team that faced very good competition all over, including top-tier American prep players.
Aldama also made some nice passes, which a couple resulted in assists and at least one more was a pass-to-assist. He also showed effort to bang inside the few moments he did drift inside, which also resulted in a couple of rebounds. I’ve also noticed the disparity in the level of strength and conditioning at Loyola versus more professional level programs most American prospects come from. Santi was fatigued earlier than one would hope, but that can also be due to the time delay in between now and his last regulated action.
I’m still very high on the Spaniard, and so should you. Some say he shouldn't be doing Dirk or Kevin Durant things when he’s not them. My response is that it’s far too early to put such a ceiling on the head of a guy with the reputation he has for producing scoring, passing and rebounding even if you think he needs to vastly improve. If you’re old enough to remember, Dirk Nowitzki himself had a very rough start to his career before becoming a Hall of ame player.
The Rest of the pack
Desmond Bane was less ball-dominant this game, as guys like John Konchar and Sam Merrill got a few more looks on the ball and they made well use of their time. John Konchar got “Jitty wit it” to say the least, as he scored 12 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and dripped sauce all over the court as he dished out six assists. He gave up some crucial baskets that cost the team ultimately, but his good far outweighed the bad, if you ask Ed Memphis.
Bane was still third on the team in scoring, as he chipped in 16 points along with 5 rebounds and four assists — though he had some sloppy moments that resulted in four turnovers. Most importantly Bane was still dominant when asked to be, but clearly he wasn’t asked to do enough this game. He was still star-like as he created shots off the dribble and pulled up for silky smooth jump shots made.
Xavier Tillman has improved so much that if we get this version of Tillman to show up this upcoming season, then the Grizzlies will be forced to make some plot-twisting decisions in terms of roles and minutes. Tillman scored 14 points, grabbed four rebounds, and dished out a whopping seven assists today — looking a lot more like his big homie Draymond Green, but a much better scoring version with less defense of course but still solid in his own right. Like Ziaire, Tillman activated his deadeye badge, as he drilled shots right in the eye balls of his defenders from deep.
Sean McDermott had maybe his best game this summer, as he was tied for the team-high scorer along with Ziaire. Both guys went off for 19 points in efficient fashion, even if the team lost. Sean was as aggressive as Ziaire and confident as Bane at times, as he looked to get active offensively all game, and he found what he was looking for today as he went 7-9 from the field for just under a 80% conversion rate!
Killian “Kill Till” Tillie had another solid performance despite converting only 3/7 attempts from the field and only 1/4 from three-point territory. “KT” scored nine points and grabbed five rebounds, as well as getting three assists. Tillie made several of good plays and played better than his box score would indicate. I must say he can use some improvement protecting the rim as the Heat fired up a layup drill in the minutes “Kill Till” played center. He must do a better job of contesting shots even if he can't always block them.
Sam Merrill was active if nothing else in his 15 minutes of play. Sam grabbed a quick four rebounds nailed only one of his five attempts from the field, of which four attempts came from downtown where he drained his only shot made. Merrill also had two assists, one steal and the team high in plus-minus with a +10 — despite being on the losing team. He made smart plays and didn't get torched in his ticks. Sam showed ball skill, hoops IQ and sound defense potential.
I’m curious to see if the Grizzlies start Sam Merrill, Ziaire Williams, and Santi Aldama together while sitting Bane, Tillman and Jitty to allow the new guys to truly display their ability as the focal points of the team’s offensive game plan. I wanna see Sam in Konchar’s summer league role, while Ziaire takes on more of Bane’s role for the past week, while Aldama plays more of Xavier Tillman’s role as the playmaking stretch big.
Maybe the team is developing Bane, Tillman and Konchar, while also utilizing their play to establish dominance in Summer League play and thus building the profile of the team’s farm system. This also could drive up the stock of certain prospects. Pure speculation of course, if not satirical.