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Report Card: Morant and Bane lead Grizzlies, put on a show in Brooklyn

Welcome to the dark.

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Memphis Grizzlies v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

The Memphis Grizzlies are road warriors.

Ask the Warriors, Suns, Jazz, and now the Nets.

The Grizzlies’ brilliant stretch of play continues, as they kicked off 2022 with a resounding win over the Brooklyn Nets. Though there was a stretch in the 4th quarter where the Nets bench cut the lead down from 23, the Grizzlies were very much in control the entire game.

There was never a genuine doubt about the outcome after that third quarter run.

And that’s just a part of the organization’s evolution into a playoff (not play-in) team that’s a top-10 team in the league. They’re playing with a sense of urgency on both sides of the ball, making proper halftime adjustments, and they’re flipping a switch to just obliterate teams.

That’s a testament to the culture Taylor Jenkins and Zach Kleiman are setting, and the improvements and readiness from the players on the roster. Oh, and it’s also because of Ja Morant taking a massive leap into becoming one of the 2 or so best point guards in basketball.

Welcome to the dark. Time for grades.

Memphis Grizzlies v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Ja Morant: 36 points (14-22 shooting, 2-4 from 3, 6-10 from the FT line), 8 assists, 6 rebounds, +/- of +24 in 34 minutes (Grade: A+)

Ja Morant was the best player on the floor, and that’s really saying something with James Harden and Kevin Durant — two future Hall-of-Famers, with the latter arguably being the best player in the world. And we shouldn’t be surprised by this at all, given his recent performances against guys like LeBron James, Chris Paul, or Devin Booker either.

Morant just delivered an absolute show for the Brooklyn crowd, and we really should’ve seen that coming when he drilled a 3 from the “B” in the Barclays Center logo. He sliced through the Nets defense with insane drive navigation and manipulation, getting to the rim with great cadence and poise. He also delivered an emphatic statement jam that sent the Barclays Center into a frenzy.

He also garnered some “MVP” chants from the opposing crowd, something that hasn't happened to a Grizzly in franchise history.

This is some special stuff we’re seeing with Ja Morant. Don’t take it for granted. We haven’t seen this in Memphis before.

Memphis Grizzlies v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Desmond Bane: 29 points, (12-23 shooting, 5-11 from 3), 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, +/- of +5 in 37 minutes (Grade: A)

Desmond Bane continues to build on his Most Improved Player campaign. He delivered another stellar performance powered by a blistering offensive showing.

He looked comfortable from 3, after a relevantly off shooting stretch in the prior 2 games. He also moved so well with his movements. Off the dribble, he was navigating the defense to hit some tough shots. He also moved so well off the ball, as his connection with Steven Adams is just absolutely sensational.

Bane also played a role in the Grizzlies dominant rebounding outing, as he hauled in 8 boards.

Bane served as a great co-pilot to Ja Morant’s stellar showing, as he’s done time and time again this season. He deserves this recognition as a Most Improved Player candidate, one of the best shooters in the league, and a piece in one of the league’s best backcourts. This game was just another example of the hard work that he’s put in to make this remarkable leap in his sophomore year.

Memphis Grizzlies v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

Jarrett Culver: 12 points (5-11 shooting, 2-5 from 3), 3 rebounds, 3 steals, +/- of +17 in 30 minutes (Grade: A)

Welcome back, Jarrett Culver!

The former lottery pick made his return to the lineup, after missing time due to being in health and safety protocols, and he had his best showing of the season.

He gave the Grizzlies a surprising offensive jolt, knocking down a few triples and showing some sauce off the dribble that were reminiscent of his Texas Tech days. More importantly, he was a big-time playmaker defensively. He was a good catalyst in slowing down Durant and Harden, as he tallied 3 steals, including 1 steal on Durant.

Culver was also quite audacious going for a dunk on Kevin Durant, as the superstar swatted him 3 different times.

Nights like last night put Culver’s promise and potential on display, and though he may not deliver on that pre-draft upside, he’s showing that he belongs in this league. With his attentiveness on defense and the offensive substance — even in small doses — he can last in this league as a rotation wing off the bench.

And that’s pretty encouraging.

Quick Grades

  • Brandon Clarke (A-): Clarke continues to show that last season was an injury-riddled year, and that he could return to being a valuable role player. His roll gravity and his activity on the glass were huge.
  • Jaren Jackson Jr. (D+): Last night was probably Jackson’s worst offensive performance I’ve seen. His shot wasn’t falling, he was off-balance on drives, and it looked like he was in his head. However, he managed to be a net positive on the floor (+10), and he made an impact defensively with 3 blocks. Nothing to be worried about long-term, he’s too talented of a player for any cause of concern.
  • Steven Adams (B+): Steven Adams continues to be a great connective piece for this team. He continued his tear on the offensive glass, corralling 7 offensive rebounds. He’s battling down low defensively as well. He also played with great unselfishness, tallying 5 assists. His renaissance with the Grizzlies has been quite cool.
  • Tyus Jones (A): Jones played with such confidence and energy. When his activity is how it was last night (12 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists), the Grizzlies’ bench is extremely good.

The Memphis Grizzlies are back at it tonight, as they take on the Cleveland Cavaliers on the road.

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