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Report Card: The Grizzlies fall short in their comeback attempt

Ja Morant’s heroics weren’t enough in the 4th quarter.

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NBA: Sacramento Kings at Memphis Grizzlies Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

Ja Morant made a surprisingly early return for the Memphis Grizzlies last night versus the Sacramento Kings but his heroic effort wasn’t enough as the Grizzlies lost the 4th of their last 5 games.

The Grizzlies started the first quarter hot, making five 3-pointers with incredible ball movement that led to a 31-28 lead at the end of the quarter. The Grizzlies assisted on 17 of their first 19 shots spanning the 1st and 2nd quarters. The next two quarte were the complete opposite as turnovers led to easy points for the Kings and the Grizzlies consistently left the Kings shooters open for three.

The Kings led by as many as 14 points with around 6 minutes remaining in the 4th quarter before “4th quarter Ja” returned to put the Grizzlies on his back cutting the lead down to one with a couple of seconds remaining. Ja Morant was then fouled on a game-tying 3-point attempt but couldn’t convert all 3 free throws, missing the first, and the Grizzlies fell short in their comeback attempt.

Now let’s get into some grades:

NBA: Sacramento Kings at Memphis Grizzlies Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

Ja Morant - 32 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals, 5 turnovers, +1 +/-

Grade: B+

Ja struggled with his shot early (shot 1-4 in the 1st quarter) in his quick return from the ankle sprain he suffered in the win Friday against the Oklahoma City Thunder. He made up for his early struggles with 4 assists and made his teammates better, word to Charles Barkley.

Turnovers started to creep up in the 3rd, which led to transition opportunities for the Kings and put the Grizzlies in a double-digit deficit but Ja would lead a furious rally in the 4th quarter.

With the Grizzlies down by 12 points with 3:19 remaining, Ja Morant hit a logo 3-pointer while the shot clock was expiring to start a rally that fell just short. Ja was especially key during that stretch scoring 20 points in the 4th quarter with 16 of those points coming in that final stretch but four missed free throws including missing two of the three (the last one being lane violation) game-tying free throws would end their comeback efforts.

NBA: Sacramento Kings at Memphis Grizzlies Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

Jaren Jackson Jr. - 22 points, 5 blocks, 3 rebounds, 2 steals, +15 +/-

Grade: A

Jaren got going early inside and took advantage of mismatches throughout the game as the Kings had no answer for him. This was probably one of Jaren’s better games as a Grizzly on both sides of the court as he finished with 5 blocks as well, including 3 in the first half to set the tone.

In some aspects, the game got away from the Grizzlies because of his minutes’ restriction, and the Grizzlies not getting him involved nearly enough. The Kings constantly switched defenders on him, and he kept making them pay throughout, especially in the paint.

The Grizzlies will need the Jaren Jackson Jr. that showed up in this game more consistently going forward, and this game was a really good sign of things to come.

NBA: Sacramento Kings at Memphis Grizzlies Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

Dillon Brooks - 14 points, 5 assists, 5 rebounds, 1 steal, 3 turnovers, +13 +/-

Grade: B

Dillon had his usual bad fouls in the first half of the game that cost the Grizzlies dearly as he was 2nd on the team in +/-. His defensive intensity got cleaned up in the 2nd half as he put on an excellent display defending De’Aaron Fox in the Grizzlies’ 4th quarter comeback attempt.

As I said before in my last report card two weeks ago after the loss to the Boston Celtics, I expect Dillon to clean up the foul trouble and he did in the 2nd half of this game. Offensively, he continued to play within the flow for the most part minus a couple of crazy shot attempts at the rim that comes with the Dillon Brooks experience.

Overall, Dillon showed his value to this team throughout the 2nd half of the game with his defense and will need to provide a little more on offense until Desmond Bane returns from his injury.

NBA: Sacramento Kings at Memphis Grizzlies Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

Overall Team Grade:

Overall, the Grizzlies are doing the same things that have lost them each of four of their last five games. Consistently leaving shooters open from three and missing free throws. The Grizzlies rank dead last in the NBA in free throw percentage (69%). Also, their 3-point shooting has taken a hit since Desmond Bane went down due to injury. The season is still early and the Grizzlies still have some players out with injuries but their point-of-attack defense, free throw shooting, and 3-point shooting will have to improve consistently for them to separate themselves from the jam-packed Western Conference.

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