The Memphis Grizzlies had this game with the Minnesota Timberwolves sandwiched in between a slate of national TV games against a Western Conference power (Golden State Warriors), a division foe that’s also surging up the standings (Dallas Mavericks), and the breakout Eastern Conference contender (Chicago Bulls).
So people labeled this a trap game. It shouldn’t have been, to be honest — Anthony Edwards, Karl-Anthony Towns, and D’Angelo Russell is a heck of an offensive trio. They also have a lot of big, physical energy big men/wings around them, and they also have Patrick Beverley.
They reminded everyone that they’re also a potential playoff, or play-in, team in the West this year.
However, the Memphis Grizzlies gave out a reminder too: they’re a great team. Great teams often find ways to win — offensive explosion, defensive strangleholds, their star players going off, or their supporting cast rising to the occasion. Tonight, the other team keyed in on Ja Morant, and everyone else stepped up on both sides of the ball to deliver the win.
It’s neat to have a great team. Let’s dive into some grades on this jitty win.
John Konchar: 15 points on 6-7 shooting (3-4 from 3), 17 rebounds (3 offensive rebounds), 3 assists, +/- of +15 in 29 minutes (Grade: A+)
Have yourself a game, John Konchar.
In the game after receiving high praise and advocacy from Skip Bayless, Konchar had the best NBA game of his career. Before grade reasoning, let’s get to it:
Konchar was absolutely everywhere in this game. It’s never really a surprise to see his activity on the glass, as we’ve seen him live up to the “Tennis Rodman” moniker since his arrival to Memphis. His activity on the glass was massive against a large, swarming Minnesota frontcourt. His put-back slam with Karl-Anthony Towns in the vicinity about tore the roof off the Forum.
In addition, Konchar continues to just not miss from 3, and his growth as an accurate (and willing) 3-point shooting has been instrumental in his leap to become a legitimate NBA rotation player on a good team.
In a season where the “next man up” has been a big component to success, John Konchar gave the team a crucial spark in a game that needed some juice. Stay jitty, folks.
Jaren Jackson Jr.: 20 points on 6-10 shooting (2-3 from 3, 6-10 from the line), 5 rebounds, 5 blocks, 1 steal, 1 assist, +/- of +6 (Grade: A)
Jaren Jackson Jr.’s game offensively was quiet and efficient. He picked his spots quite well in the Timberwolves’ blitzing man-zone swarm, and it resulted in easy shots and trips to the line.
Defensively, Jackson remained really good. He finished with 5 blocks in this contest, now blocking 3 or more shots in 5 of the past 7 games. The fashion at which he blocked them was impressive. In all of them, he was really defending out at the perimeter then crashing in to either help or recover and just emphatically swat them away.
There’s no denying that Jaren Jackson Jr.’s impact recently has been quite outstanding. It really isn’t outlandish to say that he’s been one of the best defenders in basketball this season. He’s going to be a Defensive Player of the Year down the road — that’s not a prediction, it’s a spoiler. This year, he needs strong consideration for one of the All-Defense teams. It’d be criminal if he wasn’t on either one.
Desmond Bane: 21 points on 5-12 shooting (2-8 from 3, 9-9 from the FT line), 4 steals, 3 rebounds, 2 assists, +/- of +10 in 32 minutes (Grade: B)
I’m going to start with this: it’s a testament to Desmond Bane’s growth as a player that even in a relatively off shooting night — 2-8 from 3 — he’s still producing on offense. Having another perimeter weapon, especially one with Bane’s 3-point prowess, that’s nearly a guaranteed 15-20 points every single night is great.
Aside from shooting, Bane did seem a bit sped up in that first half, coughing up 3 of his 5 turnovers at that point. There were some actions and shots that he just forced. However, he did bounce back pretty well after halftime and made some really big plays down the stretch — more notably him getting the layup that made D’Angelo Russell flop into oblivion.
Two areas of growth that shined in this game were his defense and foul-drawing. He stayed aggressive to get his offense from the free throw line — and a sign of a great offensive player is doing such a thing when his shot isn’t necessarily on. He also made some big plays defensively, generating 4 steals. That’s a positive development to certainly monitor as he’s getting more experience in these high-stakes games coming up.
- People sold Brandon Clarke stock, and we’re taking BCoin to the MOON. The end of last season was a bit of a struggle for Clarke, and people sold stock. Smart people took it, and the dividends are being paid out. It was an impactful game for Clarke, who really gave the team a big jolt with how he was attacking off the pick-and-roll and in that floater zone. He also provided great defensive versatility, defending out both on the perimeter and around the paint. He finished with 14 points and 8 rebounds — which line up with his averages over the 8 games. He’s a difference-maker that needs to stay in the rotation (Grade: A)
- De’Anthony Melton, finding positive momentum. It hasn’t been a great year shooting the ball from De’Anthony Melton — who’s shooting below 40% from the field and from 3 this season. It’s been a bummer, especially given his dazzling performance in the October slate of preseason/regular season games. The first half, he wasn’t able to find a rhythm once more, and he seemed to press to do so (3-10 shooting, 1-4 from 3). However, in true “do something” fashion, he made two massive offensive rebounds and put-back layups in the 3rd quarter — one right before the horn. In addition, he did hit a nice 3 in the 4th quarter. So while he’s been struggling, that positive vibes could be something he could build on going forward. (Grade: C+)
- Ja Morant, beating blitzes. The Minnesota Timberwolves had the gameplan to slow down Ja Morant and take the ball out of his hands. When it comes to counting stats, it did work — 14 points, 9 assists, and 8 rebounds. However, they still took the L. For the Grizzlies, it put Morant in a position to get as far downhill as possible to find looks for his teammates — something he loves to do. Though it wasn’t the jaw-dropping scoring outing we’ve been accustomed to, Morant impacted the game with his playmaking and offensive aggressiveness. (Grade: B)