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Report Card: Welcoming Golden State to “The Dark” in Memphis

Grizzlies do well in “The Dark”

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NBA: Golden State Warriors at Memphis Grizzlies Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

Golden State wanted this win SO bad!!! Steve Kerr may be right in saying the Grizzlies-Warriors matchup has yet to reach rivalry status. That said, it’s becoming one. This was a game of runs & Memphis made sure to have the last on. In an air tight game like this, the last run was the winning run.

Memphis lost the last battle vs Golden State in The Bay. However after last night’s win on Beale Street, Memphis is now 8-2 versus the top 6 teams in the Western Conference this season.

Memphis has extended their winning streak to 10 games in a row. Looking like a 60 win season to me!

“12”: 36:56 minutes/ 29 points/8 assist/ 5 rebounds/ 2 blocks/ -1 +/

Ja Morant didn’t defend Stephen Curry but maybe a couple of possessions in the game but he did give up a couple of buckets to the off ball wings he was assigned to defensively. That said, his defense was still decent over all.

Now offensively is where Ja pays the bills. He paid the bills on time and left an over balance. I feel redundant talking about “12” electric highlights every game. So I’m gonna talk about how he looked to make others better this evening. When he got chances in transition Ja pushed & found guys like Ziaire Williams for heart stopping alley-oop connections high over the rim every time tonight! When Kerr played Gary Payton II on Ja more, Ja simply used the gravity pull to feed his teammates. When Golden State ran man to take shooters away from Ja he punished them more at the rim.

As the fourth quarter reached halfway Ja played off of the rhythm Tyus Jones & Jaren Jackson were developing for the team. Ja didn’t try to force himself in control & it paid off big time as they got the win in what was totally a playoff atmosphere game.

GRADE- A

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Cleveland Cavaliers David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

DESMOND BANE: 32:07 minutes/ 11 points/ 4 assists/ 3 rebounds/ +8 +/-

Bane struggled offensively. He still managed to knock down shots enough to finish with a double digit scoring performance. He did however serve well as a playmaker & an excellent team defender. Bane did an excellent job with his positioning defense, & shot contests, keeping Klay Thompson from getting his mojo back for the most part. He also didn’t let Jordan Poole or Andrew Wiggins do much damage either when defending them. He hustled up on a few rebounds as well & doesn’t get credited enough for his communication in between dead balls with his teammates, even if it’s simply high fives, he’s always engaged with his guys & Memphis certainly needed it.

GRADE- B+

ZIAIRE WILLIAMS: 30:26 minutes/ 17 points/ 2 assists/ 1 rebound/ +8

Kudos to the rookie for withstanding the storm of the greatest shooter in NBA history & arguably the league’s MVP this season in Wardell Stephen Curry. Ziaire was tasked with defending Steph virtually in all of his minutes played and he didn’t disappoint. Now of course Steph is gonna get his at some point no matter whose defending him. So when Steph got on a roll shooting in the third quarter, I certainly began to think it may be best if De’Anthony Melton is subbed back in to defend Steph - he was one of the ones who caused Steph to struggle in the first half to get his scoring going.

Ziaire played pretty solid defense overall, as evidenced by his 95.7 defensive rating & his 13.7 Net rating for the game. He used his length to frustrate Steph at times & if lot for some bail out foul calls in Wardell’s favor, he would not have scored as much as he did.

Offensively Ziaire was electric! He was high flying & three point riding his way to victory all game. When he wasn’t finishing multiple lob passes from “12” in SportsCenter fashion, he was knocking down catch & shoot opportunities from downtown. What’s most impressive is that quite a bit of Ziaire’s damage came in clutch moments when the game was closing but still undecided. The first-year Stanford alum thrived in what was absolutely a playoff environment. Good Game Young Bull

GRADE- A+

KYLE ANDERSON: 24 minutes/ 8 points/ 2 assists/ 4 rebounds/ 3 steals/ +3 +/-

Kyle didn’t do a lot of scoring with only 8 points, but I swear it seemed like he scored more than that while watching. I believe that’s because every bucket Kyle made was extremely crucial in either stopping runs from Golden State or helping Memphis establish runs of their own.

Anderson was the constant glue guy on both ends of the floor. He gave them defensive playmaking as evident with 3 steals & finished shots on the other end when need the most.

GRADE- B

NBA: Golden State Warriors at Memphis Grizzlies Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

JAREN JACKSON JR. “TRIP”: 22:23 minutes/ 13 points/ 11 rebounds/ 3 blocks/ 2 steals/ +16 +/-

Jaren didn’t get to play as much as he would like do to early foul trouble. So he sat large chunks of the second half. No coincidence that is exactly when Golden State came from behind & took the lead. This alone speaks volumes in terms of Jaren’s defense. When he was on the court Memphis was a different team. Guys knew they could be aggressive & go for steals with Trip at the rim backing them up.

He was an absolute MONSTER on defense, and the biggest difference maker on the floor overall when you factor his defense & how much Curry can offset Morant’s production.

He managed to carve out another double digit scoring game despite his shooting struggles. I will say I love the way he has become so much more assertive & decisive taking what the defense gives him at the rim. Even Dennis Scott talked about it early on when Jaren took a defender from 25 feet in & converted.

GRADE- A+

TYUS JONES: 23:21 minutes/ 17 points/ 8 assists/ 6 rebounds/ 1 steal / +20 +/-

Tyus was THE player of the game. He carried the second unit when Ja & Jaren were on the bench & Golden State made its run. All game Tyus made excellent plays on both ends. When he wasn’t sealing off zones of the floor with his sound safety-like positioning on defense, he was making every three point shot he attempted. When he wasn’t perfect with the burner, he was dishing out a kitchen full of assists. When he wasn’t being a wizard level laser he was grabbing rebounds amongst the trees like a young Rajon Rondo. Tyus looked like he had no business being a reserve point guard and that’s why he finished the game with the starters & shined the brightest of everyone on the court in the end.

When Tyus is confident & aggressive, he is one of the better point guards in the entire league. Memphis has the luxury of bringing him off the bench. It was the deciding factor in Memphis securing the win. Kudos to “Stones”.

GRADE- A++

BRANDON CLARKE: 25:46 minutes/ 14 points/ 9 rebounds/ 2 blocks/ 1 assists/ -6 +/-

Brandon Clarke was highly productive overall, especially scoring & rebounding. Defense was another story. Defensively Clarke failed to provide much of any rim protection when he was tasked with filling in for Jaren who was on the bench with foul trouble. Filling Jaren’s shoes are nearly impossible for 99% of the league. This game was no exception for Clarke. He wasn’t too bad, as he was able to make some stops at the rim when other guys got beat & he had to help. That said he was also often a step behind when protecting the rim.

GRADE- B-

NBA: Golden State Warriors at Memphis Grizzlies Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

Rest of the guys- De’Anthony Melton played really good defense on Steph in the first half. However Acting Coach Darko Rajakovic decided to stick with the rookie Ziaire on Steph defensively and even though Steph got rolling in the third period when defended by Williams, the rook came up huge on both ends & truly helped close this game. So Melton finished with another inconsistent game offensively as a result. John Konchar got beat at times on defense at the rim and outside. He seemed lost again tonight in his 17 minutes of what was essentially cardio time. Konchar really struggles at times with mental focus knowing where to be defensively. He did Knock down a crucial long range shot with his only shot attempt. Xavier Tillman offered some solid minutes but ultimately didn’t serve enough as a rim protector to get more minutes especially with Jaren in foul trouble. He also has to be more reliable with that catch and shoot action from deep when he gets those chances. GRADE- C

COACHING

If we’re gonna be honest in the player grades, then we must keep that same energy regrading the coaching. Accountability can not be spared on any level & especially at the head. Memphis won in spite of the NBA head coaching performance of Darko Rajakovic. He had not one, not two, but THREE calls that certainly should have been challenged if nothing else. Him opting to do so nearly costed Memphis the game. When the ball went off of Klay Thompson in the last seconds of the opening half, even a blind man could see that call would easily have been overturned if challenged. He opted not to do so. You have to know as a coach that you do anything possible to limit the possessions of the splash brothers. So being shy with the challenges on such calls against Golden State is the last thing you want to do, and hopefully he learned that.

As a result of no challenge, Klay Thompson got the ball back with seven seconds left and quickly knocked down a three point bucket that cut the lead to five to close the first half and steal nearly all of the momentum Memphis built up until those last few moments. When the second half came around Golden State used that momentum building play that closed the half to unleash the Splash Brothers to go on their run. They did just that and took the lead for what seemed like the first time in the game.

When Golden State saw the Memphis Grizzlies go on any runs they slowed them down with timeouts and Memphis didn’t do so on the other end. So when Golden State went on runs the guys on the court just had to figure it out. Luckily the team is loaded with talent headed by Ja Morant, along with strong co-stars tonight like Tyus Jones, Jaren Jackson Jr. and Desmond Bane. The coaching grade may even be a bit generous.

GRADE- D+

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