The hype was real for tonight’s matchup between the Memphis Grizzlies and the New Orleans Pelicans. Not only did this game pit two young, exciting Western Conference contenders against each other on national television, but tonight also marked the return of the “Block Panther:” Jaren Jackson Jr.
However, the return of JJJ was muted by news of Desmond Bane’s injury that will keep him out for 2-3 weeks. Bane’s value to the Grizzlies cannot be overstated. He provides valuable spacing on offense giving Ja room in the paint to destroy opposing defenses. But perhaps more importantly, Des is the 3-point sniper that helps Memphis keep up with opponents and provide separation as well.
Without Desmond, Memphis couldn’t stay with New Orleans offensively as the Pelicans outscored Memphis 24-15 in the 4th. The Grizzlies’ defense didn’t do them any favors either. Though Jaren didn’t have it shooting the ball, he was still great defensively and should’ve been in the game down the stretch. Unfortunately for Memphis, New Orleans pulled away with the victory 113-102. Time to grade the Grizzlies.
Ja Morant (A-): 36 Points (13-27 FG), 6 Rebounds, 3 Steals, 3 Assists
What else can I say about this guy? He’s phenomenal. After sitting Sunday against the Wizards, Ja came back with a vengeance against the Pelicans. He was a one-man wrecking crew and kept the Grizzlies in the game basically by himself. At 2:08 in the 3rd quarter, Ja Morant sat. He didn’t come back until 8:18 left in the 4th. While Ja was out, the Grizzlies scored 5 points. The Pelicans scored 15. Friends, that’s the ball game right there. Ja only gets an “A-” though, because though he finished with 36, Ja left meat on the bone. He could’ve had 45+ if he finished at the rim better and hit a couple of open 3’s.
Jaren Jackson Jr. (C-): 7 Points (0-7 3pt), 5 Blocks, 6 Rebounds
Triple J came back from the Ancestral Plane ready to defend the Memphis Grizzlies, and defend he did. He was heroic with 5 blocks in 25 minutes in his first game of the season after a foot injury. But for as good he was on defense, he was the opposite on offense. Jaren couldn’t buy a 3 if he sold all the vibranium in the world. He went 0-7, and many of those attempts were open looks. But it’s his first game back, y’all. Memphis getting its defensive anchor back will only help going forward.
Dillon Brooks (D+): 19 Points (6-18 FG), 1 Steal, 2 Rebounds
D is for Dillon. He wasn’t good enough in this one. Sure, DB hit some important buckets to keep Memphis in the game in the 3rd. Yes, DB played solid defense on Brandon Ingram. But Dillon was typical Dillon on offense: inefficient and unwilling to pass. The only reason he gets a “D+” and nothing lower is because of his defense on Ingram. He made the All-Star wing earn his 19 points and guarded well all night. The offense was just too inefficient. Stop me if you’ve heard that before.
Brandon Clarke (A): 15 Points, 13 Rebounds, 4 Blocks
Though BC didn’t have a good 2nd half, he hit a corner 3, which means he automatically gets an A. But in all seriousness, this is the Brandon Clarke we need on a more consistent basis. Of course, he won’t average a double-double, but his energy, rebounding, and defense will be needed, especially as Jaren gets back to full strength. More Jaren and BC lineups, please.
Overall Grade: C+
Through 3 quarters, Memphis did enough to stay in the game against New Orleans. Ja Morant was electric. Brandon Clarke provided energy. Jaren Jackson Jr. defended like he always does. Dillon Brooks even hit key shots. But that changed when Ja got his rest to end the 3rd and start the 4th. Once Ja came back, nobody was there to support him on offense and for whatever reason, Jaren wasn’t there to help on defense.
Both teams missed key players — Zion was out for the Pelicans. The difference was New Orleans got help from its supporting cast to push CJ McCollum, Brandon Ingram, and the Pelicans over the edge.
Memphis will look to bounce back against OKC Friday night.