However, despite the aforementioned Knicks rally, the Grizzlies improved to 12-8 on the season with a 127-123 win behind the brilliance of Ja Morant (more into that later). More importantly, his performance was supplemented by big games from Dillon Brooks and Jaren Jackson Jr, who’s been on fire since returning from injury.
Let’s get into some grades, and break down how the current Big 3 for Memphis took care of business last night.
Ja Morant- 27 points, 10 rebounds, 14 assists, 9-20 FG, +/- +7
Since returning from injury on November 22nd, Ja’s demonstrated the playmaking ability to keep opposing defenses honest while also making other players around him better. He’s averaging 10 assists per game in his last 4 contests, including 14 last night in New York. However, Morant simply was masterful yesterday, putting up the 5th triple-double of his career and making Knicks defenders look silly the entire night.
The only real issue with Ja’s performance was that he shot 9-20 from the field, including 0-3 from the 3 point-line. However, the Grizzlies will certainly take the missed shots if Morant continues to be the playmaking maestro he’s been so far this season. At this point, it’s simply about letting Ja be Ja, and the Grizzlies have let him do that.
Dillon Brooks- 23 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 8-16 FG, 3-7 3PT, +/- -6
While Brooks’s reputation in the NBA centers around his prowess on the defensive end of the floor, his offensive output increased immediately after the injury to Desmond Bane. Dillon has proven to be more than capable of handling the workload, as his 23 points last night illustrate.
However, two things that stood out to me most about Brooks’s performance last night-his efficiency and playmaking ability.
Three 3-pointers were included in his field goal total, and New York couldn’t find a solution to stopping him from getting to the rim or in the mid-range area.
In addition, the 4 assists show his ability to find teammates, an area that sorely needed improvement entering the season. Despite not being known as a great playmaker, there were multiple instances against New York that Brooks just made the right play and it either resulted in a score or was a pass or two away from a bucket on the offensive end.
Matched up against Knicks forward R.J. Barrett, Brooks had a somewhat tough night, but he made every shot attempt from his fellow Canadian difficult. However, I won’t be too harsh on Dillon because while his defensive prowess wasn’t on display like normal, without his contributions there’s no way Memphis ekkes out a victory.
Jaren Jackson Jr.- 21 points, 5 rebounds, 1 steal, 8-19 FG, 3-8 3PT, +/- 0
The stat sheet may not indicate it fully, but Jaren Jackson’s presence was felt on both ends of the floor last night.
While Knicks point guard Jalen Brunson poured in 30 points, a big factor in that performance was JJJ’s defense on Julius Randle, who shot the ball just 9 times last night. Yes, it was Brunson’s night in terms of offensive production for the Knicks, but don’t tell me that JJJ’s menacing figure didn’t play a role in Randle taking under 10 shot attempts.
JJ also performed solidly on the offensive end, hitting 3 three-pointers and grabbing five rebounds on the night. One could ask (me in particular) with him basically being a seven-footer why the rebounding production isn’t higher. However, with two teammates in Morant and Steven Adams each grabbing double-digit rebounds, I won’t fault Jaren for doing his job, and his production led to a Grizzlies win.
That’s the ultimate goal.