The Memphis Grizzlies were looking to bounce back after their home loss to the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday. Losing 4 of their past 5 games, the Grizzlies had a full plate dealing with the New Orleans Pelicans, who had won 5 of their past 6 outings prior to tonight.
The Grizzlies surged out of the gates to start the first quarter. Steven Adams really set the tone with his inside play to kickstart the game — generating 8 points and 6 rebounds, and having his way in the paint against former Grizzly Jonas Valanciunas. The Grizzlies also made it rain from 3, as they connected on 8 three-pointers in the opening quarter. Ja Morant repeatedly got to his left-hand for bunnies inside, bursting past the Pelicans’ perimeter defense. The Pelicans couldn’t get a full groove going, but Trey Murphy did score 10 points. The Grizzlies closed the first quarter with a 44-25 lead.
One interesting note: Taylor Jenkins issued an early challenge to move a foul call that was on Jaren Jackson Jr. to it being on Ja Morant.
Unfortunately, Jackson picked up his 3rd foul early in the 2nd quarter, which forced Jenkins to sit him for the remainder of the half to avoid a 4th foul. Tyus Jones and Dillon Brooks carried the load for the Grizzlies offensively to start the 2nd quarter, but otherwise it was a quiet quarter for them — only 24 points in the period. The Pelicans busted out a little bit of a run towards the end of the quarter, trimming the lead as low as 13. Zion Williamson fueled that run just by being an absolute freight train. Fortunately, the Grizzlies halted their momentum to close the half with a 20-point lead, as Ja Morant and John Konchar each hit triples prior to intermission.
The Grizzlies extended their lead past 30 points in the 3rd quarter — slicing the Pelicans by getting defensive stops and seamless offense. Ja Morant put together a playmaking clinic in the 3rd quarter, dropping 7 dimes in the quarter. He connected with Brandon Clarke a few times for emphatic dunks, and he also threw a thunderous alley oop to David Roddy to close the quarter. The Grizzlies led 106-77 at the end of the 3rd period.
Jaren Jackson Jr. got the 4th quarter rolling by flashing some really cool stuff — hitting a spin move out of a counter from the perimeter to get to the line, drilling a deep 3, and serving as an imposing rim protector. He continued to blitz (perhaps, stat-pad) the Pelicans in the 4th quarter. With roughly 4 minutes left in the 4th quarter, the fanbase finally got what they wanted: a Kenneth Lofton Jr. appearance. The Grind House erupted when he hit his first bucket.
- Steven Adams owned Jonas Valanciunas. Steven Adams has had his way with Jonas Valanciunas since the Grizzlies-Pelicans trade for each other last year. Adams set the tone for the Grizzlies early with his force inside with both his scoring and his rebounding. In the process, he rendered Valanciunas ineffective. This performance is just another example of Adams’ importance as the glue for the Grizzlies’ team, as he delivered early for a squad looking to right the ship.
- Dillon Brooks’ defensive versatility is becoming unmatched. This week, Dillon Brooks has guarded Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, De’Aaron Fox, and now Zion Williamson tonight. The power forward was 6-12 from the field and sported a game-low -32 +/-. Brooks did a good job of using his physicality and maintaining a good center of gravity to bother Williamson’s drives to the basket. It’s hard to find defenders with the amount of range Brooks possesses in his matchups.
- Good team win. The Grizzlies needed to find their mojo again, and they did so with an emphatic team win. They played to their standards from both execution and swagger standpoints. The defense looked composed — only giving up 10 three-pointers and 48 points in the paint. Offensively, they hit 18 three’s and scored 56 points in the paint, good for 110 of their 132 points. To compound on that, if you factor in the free throws, only 2 of their points came outside the restricted area and inside the arc. That’s the kind of basketball they want to play, and this will be a good film to reinforce their standards.
The Memphis Grizzlies will travel to New York to take on the Knicks on Sunday afternoon.