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Report Card: Grizzlies drop another game in Utah

The Memphis Grizzlies struggle on both sides of the ball in loss to Utah

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Memphis Grizzlies v Utah Jazz Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images

The Memphis Grizzlies suited up for their second game in three days against the Utah Jazz and left Salt Lake with a pair of losses. With the return of Ja Morant from an illness, Memphis looked to adjust and bounce back in the second game but former Grizzly Mike Conley had other plans.

The Jazz beat the Grizzlies at their own game, hustling and defending at a high level while continuing their hot shooting from three. Despite Morant rejoining the Grizzlies, they struggled to generate offense, especially in the first half scoring just 18 in the second quarter.

Ja may have returned but Desmond Bane was unavailable due to an ankle injury and as the game progressed, more and more Grizzlies joined the injury report. Let’s look at who survived the game and grade their performances.

Memphis Grizzlies v Utah Jazz Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

Ja Morant - 37 Points (12-18 FG), 4 Assists, 5 Rebounds

Grade: A-

In Morant’s return to action after missing Saturday’s matchup, he looked like himself scoring a team-high 37 points on an efficient 12-18 shooting and was able to score without the clock moving hitting 12 of his 15 free throw attempts. However, teams have found ways to make it harder for him to score at the rim and Utah did an excellent job, especially in the middle two quarters, limiting his transition opportunities and were able to turn him away at the rim several times.

Ja’s below-average assist total for the night was more of a testament to how poorly the Grizzlies shot the ball, especially from outside going 6-26 from three as a team. Despite the disappointing final score, the greatest silver lining was that Morant seemed to avoid serious injury despite an ankle roll in the fourth quarter with the game firmly out of reach. Memphis entered their Salt Lake City stay already short-handed and cannot afford to lose their MVP candidate for any more time.

Memphis Grizzlies v Utah Jazz Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

Dillon Brooks - 16 Points (6-16 FG), 1 Assist, 4 Rebounds

Grade: B

Despite another inefficient shooting night from Brooks, he gets a grading bump for me for igniting the Grizzlies’ only real run at closing the halftime deficit. As he is accustomed, the Villian was spurred on by the showering of boos from the Jazz faithful and Dillon was more than happy to jaw back. After an uninspired, clunky second quarter Brooks got his guys back into the game by making a few tough shots, drawing fouls, and yes, getting whistled for another tech.

I don’t always love the antics Brooks provides in tough environments but last night it was necessary. The Grizzlies looked sluggish, frustrated, and frankly weak to close out the first half and in those moments Brooks has to step forward as the emotional leader to rally the troops. I could even live with some of the forced shots tonight given the absence of Desmond Bane. His defense is still not at his elite level yet this season, however, and the Grizzlies as a whole have not defended well. Brooks needs to regain his defensive prowess if Memphis hopes to have another top-of-the-league defensive season.

Memphis Grizzlies v Utah Jazz Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

Santi Aldama - 3 Points (1-7 FG), 1 Assist, 8 Rebounds

Grade: C

The book is now out on Santi Aldama. He struggles defensively in the pick-and-roll and has yet to see a pump fake he wouldn’t bite on. His defensive inability has been exposed in the last three games as Keegan Murray and Lauri Markkanen feasted on his slow feet and lack of awareness. It also doesn’t help that he has also gone those three games without a three-point make. His shooting ability through the first four games and in the preseason looked to be a promising weapon to add to the Grizzlies’ offense and we may be witnessing a regression to closer to the player he was last season than the one we saw dominating the offseason.

Despite his struggles, I believe the real problem is the role he has been thrust into in place of Jaren Jackson Jr., and once he takes his place back on the bench he can thrive in the second unit. The biggest positive of Santi rejoining the bench in the future will be when he replaces Xavier Tillman and the spacing he can provide playing with Brandon Clarke.

Memphis Grizzlies v Utah Jazz Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

David Roddy - 2 Points (0-8 FG), 6 Rebounds

Grade: D

During the summer league and preseason, many Memphis fans looked at Roddy as the leading candidate for the best rookie of the 2022 class. His shooting however has not translated thus far into the regular season shooting just 16% on 3.6 three-point attempts per game. But shooting can come and go, and especially for a young player getting comfortable can take some time. Rebounding and defense should not take as long to get comfortable with and with his frame he should have a leg up but through seven games Jake LaRavia has better acquitted himself on both ends of the floor.

One of the biggest reasons I believe Roddy has struggled so far offensively this season is during the Summer League and preseason where he flashed, he did much of his scoring in the transition offense. The problem is Memphis’ defense has not been good so far this season and is not generating the turnovers that ignite their run-and-gun style. Once the defense improves, I believe guys like Roddy, John Konchar, and obviously, Ja Morant will reap the benefits.

Bonus Grades

  • Steven Adams - 2 Points (1-4 FG), 1 Assist, 9 Rebounds

Grade: B

Steve-o posted another great rebounding night finishing with 9 boards in just 19 minutes. Why the low-minute total? Add Adams to the ever-lengthening list of injuries that Memphis has been facing after leaving with a jaw injury.

  • Brandon Clarke - 8 Points (4-7 FG), 1 Assist, 5 Rebounds

Grade: B

Did somebody say injuries? BC left the court with a towel covering his hand but was spotted for the post-game handshakes. He looked good getting to his spots and finishing offensively, but his minutes paired with Xavier Tillman continue to underwhelm.

Kennedy Chandler - 3 Points (1-3 FG), 3 Assists, 1 Rebound

Grade: B-

The Utah trip was our first real examination of Chandler, and I liked the flashes we saw last night. He showed his change-of-pace ability to get by defenders and made some really nice reads on his three assists.

Tyus Jones - 12 Points (5-9 FG), 2 Assists, 2 Rebounds

Grade: C

This was an extremely on-brand 2021 Tyus Jones game. A dozen points and throw in a few assists and rebounds, and most would be satisfied with that production from their backup point guard, but we have come to expect more from Jones this season.

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