When a team loses their superstar player early in the first half, it typicallay signifies the beginning of a beatdown by the opposing team.
The Memphis Grizzlies seemed to ignite a fire after point guard Ja Morant’s ejection for engaging in friendly banter with a Grizzlies fan. This resulted in a 115-109 victory for the Thunder, who had been easily dominating the game until Ja’s dismissal, but that changed immediately.
That being said, let’s get into some grades, and break down how Memphis fell just short of making a comeback against a Thunder team playing without star guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
Tyus Jones: 15 points, 5-14 FG, 2-9 3PT, 2 assists, +/-, -2
Let’s start with Ja’s replacement.
Jones, who’s been playing at a high level of late, found a way to direct Memphis back into the game when things were on the verge of getting really out of hand. His impact wasn’t felt in the assist column, as he netted only two for the entire contest despite playing the second most minutes of any Memphis Grizzlies player.
While not distributing the ball at his typical rate, Jones did score 15 points, 4 more than his average on the season. The lift he provided for a Grizzlies squad in need of baskets in the second half gives him an increased grade because without his calmness down the stretch, Memphis has no chance in emerging victorious during this contest. The Grizzlies will live with Tyus’s less than efficient shooting on the night, considering he wasn’t even expected to attempt 14 shots on the night before the early departure of Ja.
Jaren Jackson Jr.: 16 points, 8 rebounds, 3-8 FG, 8-10 FT, +/-, -3
Facing a weak front line in OKC proved to be very beneficial for JJJ despite only converting 3 of 8 field goal attempts. He got to the free throw line as the Thunder were content with him just building up his total off free throws. While JJJ did convert 2 three-pointers, his biggest impact came from staying out of foul trouble, which further boosted Memphis’s chances of staging a comeback.
JJJ also crashed the boards a lot more often last night than I’ve seen for a large portion of the season so far. The criticisms of him not being a strong rebounder despite his season were quieted, as he did garner several key offensive rebounds that led to points for the Grizzlies.
While I would’ve liked to have seen JJJ attempt more shots from the field, he performed solidly and I’ll reward him for the things he did last night that won’t always show up in the box score.
Dillon Brooks: 32 points, 10-24 FG, 6-15 3FG, 4 rebounds, 1 block, +/- -10
In a previous report card, I briefly discussed how dangerous the Grizzlies could be if Dillon Brooks continued to play at a high level when Morant came back from injury.
That question was answered with an exclamatory “YES!” before the conclusion of last night’s contest. Along with putting up his 12th 30+point game of his career, Brooks also carried Memphis back into the contest. While him taking 15 threes isn’t conventional for the Grizzlies, someone needed to step up and hold the offensive mantle with Ja being out of the game.
Brooks undoubtedly proved to be the player willing to bear the task. He was definitely more energized in part due to him not being forced to guard SGA, and the Grizzlies reaped the benefits of that. DB took the same amount of shots as his jersey number (24) and I can honestly say I really don’t have a problem with it. His shot selection for the most part was adequate enough, and he connected on some big three-pointers that allowed Memphis to trim away at the deficit.
You can’t be a two-way menace every night, but as far as offensive brilliance goes, Brooks stepped up to the plate and delivered last night.