The Memphis Grizzlies matched up with the Charlotte Hornets for the first of their three-game home stand. From the opening buzzer, the Grizzlies made it clear they wanted to handle their business early by burying the Hornets, opening up 17 point lead in the first quarter. The Grizzlies never took their foot off the gas and cruised to the 130-99 victory in the first matchup of the season between these two interconference foes.
Despite the wide margin of victory, it was two role players who really stepped up in the matchup and were keys to the Grizzlies' huge win. Let’s look at their performances and those of their teammates in the grades.
Steven Adams - 13 Points (6-10 FG), 4 Assists, 19 Rebounds
Adams looked at the Charlotte frontcourt lacking in size and physicality and played his best game in a Grizzlies uniform. Stevo finished with 19 rebounds, his second most since being acquired by Memphis in 2021, 11 of which were offensive. He created a ton of second-chance opportunities and finished a few himself inside. As always, Adams’ greatest addition to this offense is his ability to create second-chance points, but his screening ability goes under-appreciated. His power to move guys inside has been a big reason Morant and company get so many looks inside without weak-side help.
Adams really played a perfect game, and the thing I came away most impressed by was his interior defense. Against Charlotte was the first time he looked like a formidable rim protector in some time adding two blocks to his stat line. If tonight was an indication of his defensive ceiling, it could be trouble for opposing offenses once paired with Jaren Jackson Jr. In Memphis’ next game against Washington on Sunday Adams could have a tougher night guarding Kristaps Porzingis, who is more perimeter-oriented. Keep an eye on that matchup Sunday to see if Adams continues his defensive focus.
Dillon Brooks - 23 Points (8-12 FG, 6-7 3P), 4 Assists, 4 Rebounds
Nights like these are why the property values on Brooks Island are so volatile. DB lead all scorers with 23 points and hit six threes, and the best part? Every single three came within the flow of the offense. This was the first game of the season where Brooks didn’t go rogue even once to force up a contested heat check, instead letting the game come to him and consistently knocking down open shots.
In a contract year, it’s easy for guys to try to stat pad to ensure a big payday, but if Brooks can just be the elite-level role player we saw tonight hitting open shots and defending at a high level, I have a feeling Memphis will take care of their villain. In Sunday’s matchup, he will have a much tougher defensive assignment than any he faced against Charlotte with Bradley Beal. I wouldn’t expect him to have another shooting night as he did against Charlotte, but it will be interesting to see if the tougher defensive workload affects him on the offensive end or if he will continue to play within the offense.
Desmond Bane - 19 Points (8-16 FG), 2 Assists, 6 Rebounds
Friday was an extremely pedestrian Desmond Bane game, especially with the shooting tear he had been on his previous four games where he averaged 32.5 points over that stretch. I think his quieter night had a lot to do with the two early fouls he picked up in the game and coach Taylor Jenkins yanking him immediately after the second. For a guy like Bane, his rhythm is so important, and getting him out of his normal rotation can throw off a volume shooter like that. He did eventually get going and did a lot of his work in the middle quarters.
The best thing I saw from Bane against Charlotte, however, was how well he was moving off the ball. When Bane has been clearly bothered by that early injury he hasn’t moved as well off the ball and his movement is so crucial, especially in this offense that can, at times, be a lot of standing around waiting for Ja to make a play. The way Bane cuts and is in constant motion makes him a threat to catch and shoot from anywhere and it puts a lot of pressure on opposing defenses. Having Bane back to full health is a welcome sight for this team already facing a slew of injuries.
Ja Morant - 12 Points (4-12 FG), 11 Assists, 4 Rebounds
For the second straight game, Morant struggled to score, shooting less than 40% from the floor including just four field goals against the Hornets and a low free throw total going 3-4 from the stripe. Defenses have committed to slowing Ja down by packing the paint, taking away his left-hand dribble, and showing him two off the pick and roll to get the ball out of his hands. Fortunately, 12 is more than happy to find the open man in those double-team situations and dropped a season-high 11 assists including a beautiful no-look to Brandon Clarke that electrified the Forum.
The shooting numbers will find their level, it’s hard for a player of Morant’s caliber to shoot sub-40%, especially when he does so much of his scoring in the paint. However, there is something to the way teams have been defending him vertically not committing to him at the apex of his jump and waiting for him to try and finish on the way back down as we have seen him do throughout his career. I think it’s also why we haven’t seen him have a poster dunk so far this season, teams are defending him much better at the rim, but as his jump shot has continued to improve, we’ll still be calling 12 all year long when we need a bucket.
John Konchar - 8 Points (3-4 FG, 2-3 3P), 1 Assist, 4 Rebounds
Jitty had some incredible highlights - a sky-high lob finish dunk shot, a great weakside block inside, and a couple of threes. That’s everything you want from Konchar in his expanded role this season.
BC had one job tonight: finish Ja’s behind-the-back dime, and he did that.
Tyus Jones - 11 Points (5-8 FG), 3 Assists, 1 Rebound
Jones had a solid bounce-back game after scoring just 2 points in Portland. Tyus has been a huge scoring help off the bench this season but is 0-4 from three in the last two games. I’d like to see him attempting around five three’s a game this season.
Weird Body Roddy is finally seeing some outside shots fall for him shooting 45% from three over the last two games, after shooting 15% over his first seven. I want to see a little more offensive aggressiveness from Roddy early in games though; it seems to me he doesn’t start looking for his shot until garbage time as he did against Charlotte with his fellow rookies.