Well, it was fun while it lasted.
For the first 24 minutes, it looked like the fun and win streak may extend to a dozen. But in the second half, the Grizzlies looked every bit of a team that has played 8 games in 12 days, and were on the second game of a back-to-back. Not to mention that they were a team where the majority has been in health and safety protocols sometime over the last three weeks.
None of that is to take away from the way the Dallas Mavericks forced the Grizzlies to play at their pace in the second half. The Grizzlies, who lead the league in points in the paint, were outscored by 22 by Dallas, who was the much more physical team as well. The Grizzlies were able to build a lead in the first half by getting in the paint and grabbing offensive rebounds — something they had a lot more trouble doing in the second half. It also didn’t help things that the outside shots weren’t falling and it felt like many of the guys were forcing shots, just hoping to get one to fall. Luka Doncic was the best player on the court in this game, notching his fourth triple-double of the season.
We did get a glimpse of the potential future with Jaren and Brandon Clarke starting in the front court. It looked promising out the gate, but it became clear that Clarke’s athleticism was missed with the bench unit. It remains to be seen if the move is permanent, or if Adams will rejoin the starters, but I imagine if this is the lineup going forward some tweaks will be made when it comes to the rotation to keep some scoring punch on the floor at all times.
Now, let’s hand out some grades:
Jaren Jackson Jr. — 8 points (4-14 FG, 0-6 3PT), 8 rebounds, 1 block, 1 steal — C
Jaren has thrived as the starting five with Adams out these past few games, but he just didn’t have it on the offensive end in this one. He still was able to be to be effective on the defensive end though, making things tough early on for Dallas.
It seemed as though Jaren spent a good amount of time on the offensive end around the perimeter. Jaren had plenty of clean looks, they just weren’t falling from three. When he tried to work back inside, it just didn’t work out.
A good sign though is that Jaren continued to crash the glass, grabbing 8 boards, as they was one knock against him on why some analysts suggested he shouldn’t play the 5.
Ja Morant — 19 points (8-15 FG, 1-4 3 PT), 8 assists, 5 rebounds, 8 turnovers — B-
It’s hard to be too critical of ‘Big 12’ because of how incredible he has been this season. After 2 straight weeks of being the Western Conference Player of the Week, Ja finally had a “down game.”
In the first half, Ja did what he does and let the game come to him. He did a good job of waiting for the play to develop and was able to take what was given to him and making the Mavs pay.
In the second half, the Mavs made sure that Ja wasn’t going to beat them. Coming into the game, Ja led the NBA in 3rd quarter scoring — he only was able to get up 5 shots in the entire second half. It was a combination of both Dallas’ defense and the lack of movement on the offensive end for the Grizzlies. It became apparent that fatigue had set in for the Grizzlies as they just didn’t have the legs in the second half.
Grizzlies Bench — 26 points (9-31 FG, 2-7 3PT), 18 rebounds, 8 assists — D+
A strength of the Grizzlies this season has been their depth and the bench play, but that wasn’t the case tonight. Besides Kyle Anderson, no reserve could be looked to to provide some scoring. Dallas stretched their lead from 6 to 18 in the 4 minute stretch from when Ja exited at the end of the third and when he went back in around the ten minute mark in the 4th. It was a majority of bench unit guys in at the time.
De’Anthony Melton, who we have seen score a bunch of points in a short time is in a bit of a slump right now. John Konchar, one night removed from a career night, seemed to lose a bit of his energy after he got popped in the mouth in the second quarter. Tyus Jones, who has been great during the win streak, had an off night as well. While Steven Adams was fine, the Grizzlies didn’t take advantage when he had mismatches down low.
Final Grade: C-
It was an ugly loss for sure, but it was one that was bound to happen. Over the previous 11 games, the Grizzlies got the whole city and the national media believing this team is a contender and this game won’t change that. Call it what it is — a dud. If the players are going to have an off night, there’s nothing better than it all being on the same night.
Sure, you want to get the win over a team that’s right behind you in the standings, but the Grizzlies built themselves a nice cushion during that 11 game win streak.
The good news, they have 2 days off before the annual MLK Day game on Monday.
Next Up: Monday 2:30 PM vs. Chicago Bulls at FedExForum