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Quick Recap: Jaren Jackson Jr., Grizzlies find groove in win over Thunder

Jaren Jackson Jr. has 25 points, 12 rebounds, 3 blocks, and 2 steals in the Memphis Grizzlies’ win over the Thunder. On the downside, Ja Morant tweaks his ankle

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Oklahoma City Thunder v Memphis Grizzlies Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

The Memphis Grizzlies came into tonight’s game looking to snap a 2-game losing streak. Coming into town was the Oklahoma City Thunder, who are off to a surprising start due to the sizzling play of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

The Memphis Grizzlies sprinted out the gates to a 14-2 start, due to early contributions from Jaren Jackson Jr. on both sides of the ball. Ja Morant and John Konchar also found a groove offensively, as the two connected on a drive-and-kick for a corner 3 — the ultimate dagger for that hot run. The Thunder went on a run of their own to trim the lead to as little as 3. The Grizzlies ended the 1st quarter with a 33-28 lead.

Jaren Jackson Jr. started the 2nd quarter on a mission — just abusing the Thunder with his physicality inside. He even had this monster dunk off the drive, illuiminating shades of Giannis Antetokounmpo with this move.

The Thunder managed to close the gap once again, taking advantage of the Grizzlies’ help defense to hoist clean 3’s. The Grizzlies entered halftime with a 63-59 lead.

The 3rd quarter was pretty mellow. To start the half, no team really went on a run to expand, shorten, or take over a lead. The Grizzlies started to gather more momentum towards teh end of the period, attacking the Thunder’s defense with outside shooting. The Thunder had been packing the paint, and Morant leveraged that into drive-and-kick action to generate open 3’s. The Grizzlies led 92-83 to end the 3rd period.

Jaren Jackson Jr. continued his strong play to start the 4th quarter, scoring 7 points and swatting 2 monster blocks before reaching his 25-minute restrictions. The Thunder shortly trimmed the defict, but the Grizzlies quickly came up with more momentum to build upon the lead. Unfortunately, Ja Morant rolled his ankle late in the 4th quarter, needing 2 people to carry him off the court. Results are pending at the moment, but Taylor Jenkins described it as a “tweak.”

After the break, John Konchar came to save the day — hitting a 3, then had a wild save for a loose ball into the hands of Dillon Brooks for a layup. Brooks put the icing on the cake by hitting the most wild, contested mid-range shot I’ve seen — even by his standards.

Plays that stood out

So I usually post clips on Twitter, so I want to try posting them on here sometimes instead. These may not be highlight plays, but there will be actions that stood out to me in relation to the flow of the game.

John Konchar navigates the screens for Josh Giddey, catching up to him to attach to his hip and funnel him to Jaren Jackson Jr. Jackson positions himself well in drop coverage — shielding a passing window to the roller, while also not giving him too much daylight for the layup. In the midst of physicality from both Konchar and Jackson, the “Block Panther” sets the tone for “Block Panther” night with the nice rejection.

Ja Morant made some awesome reads in transition, and really bended the Thunder’s defense to create clean looks for his teammates from 3. It was no different here, as he knows Giddey is focused on the contest, but Jalen Williams is there for the extra body — leading to a split-second kick-out to Santi Aldama for an easy 3. Take that, Charles Barkley.

Quick Takeaways

  • This felt like a different version of Jaren Jackson Jr. In his second game back from injury, Jackson easily had one of his best games in awhile. Jackson’s physicality stood out in this game. He out-muscled a smaller Oklahoma City Thunder team, corralling 12 rebounds and tallying 5 stocks. His aggressiveness on the offensive glass stood out again, as it did in his debut game — an encouraging sign for this stage of his recovery. It wasn’t all ground-and-pound for Jackson, as he found his touch from deep after a rough shooting night in the first game (3-6 from 3). We’ll wait and see if the production sustains, but there will be more nights like this one if he maintains this mentality.
  • No fireworks from the star players. The matchup between Ja Morant and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was highly-touted due to the offensive pop from both superstar guards. However, both teams forumalted good defensive schemes to prevent them from scoring explosions. The Grizzlies threw a lot of different coverages at Gilgeous-Alexander to get the ball out of his hands — though it led to supporting casts to go off, it still paid off. The Thunder packed the paint on Morant, seeking to shrink the finishing windows inside the paint. The opportunity cost for the Thunder was a flurry of 3’s from John Konchar and Santi Aldama, who combined for 8 three’s.
  • Jitty and Santi, stepping up and letting it fly. Piggybacking off the previous point, the Grizzlies needed secondary firepower — given the coverages on Morant, and the absence of Bane. John Konchar and Santi Aldama stepped up in a huge manner, showing little hesitancy when it comes to letting it fly. The two players combined for 14 three’s attempted. It’s a positive development for the “next man up” mantra to see role players willingly let it fly in the absence of their premier marksman.

The Memphis Grizzlies travel to Brooklyn to take on the Nets on Sunday at 5PM CST.

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