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Report Card: Grizzlies’ road woes continue in Mile High City

The Memphis Grizzlies drop another road game in a pivotal Western Conference showdown against the Denver Nuggets

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Memphis Grizzlies v Denver Nuggets Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/Getty Images

The Memphis Grizzlies’ road woes and slow start plagued them once again last night, as they dropped to 6-9 on the road to lose their grip on the 1st seed in the Western Conference.

Not nice.

They only scored 14 points in the 1st quarter, a far cry from their standards. No matter how much they made a run to inch back, the Denver Nuggets continued to throw punches of their own.

While the Grizzlies did a fine job minimizing Nikola Jokic’s scoring impact, his playmaking was potent — dropping 13 assists and getting a plethora of role players on a roll.

The Mile High team held control all game, and the Grizzlies failed to make a statement against another Western Conference contender.

Anyways, grades.

Memphis Grizzlies v Denver Nuggets Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/Getty Images

Ja Morant: 35 points (12-26 shooting, 3-6 from 3, 8-10 from the free throw line), 10 assists, 7 turnovers (Grade: B+)

Ja Morant did everything he could do to help the Grizzlies claw back into the game. Taylor Jenkins recognized this too and kept him in the game a bit longer in the 2nd half.

Morant found his way downhill both in the halfcourt and in the open floor. He was also the only player to really get going from the outside, connecting on 3 of his 6 three-pointers — more on that in a bit.

Morant gets a bit of a dock here for forcing it a bit. The scoring aggression is fine, since the team around him couldn’t get going. He coughed up 7 turnovers, and it mainly came from forcing passes. He had a lot of jump passes, where he simply could’ve just gone up with it, and his teammates were prepared for a shot not a pass. His playmaking wasn’t totally abysmal, as he dished out 10 assists, but he can’t be turning the ball over that frequently.

Ja Morant did his job, and you hate seeing no one else rise to the occasion here.

Memphis Grizzlies v Denver Nuggets Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/Getty Images

Jaren Jackson Jr.: 8 points (3-6 shooting, 1-3 from 3, 1-2 from the line), 5 blocks, 3 steals, 2 rebounds (Grade: C-)

Oh, those damn fouls.

Let’s quickly get into the foul management discussion — both parties between Taylor Jenkins and Jackson are in the wrong.

Jenkins can’t afford to essentially foul out his 2nd-best player and the elite anchor of his defense in a game with an early mighty deficit. That strategy is fine, until it doesn’t matter anymore.

At the same time, Jaren Jackson might stay in the game if the calls didn’t visibly upset him. His body language changes when he racks up fouls as frequently as he racks up blocks. If he stayed locked in despite the foul trouble, and it didn’t affect the other aspects of his game, then he could probably get a little bit more leeway to stay in.

In the midst of his foul trouble, he did rack up 5 blocks and 3 steals, so the defensive impact was still there. It’s just about staying locked in and defending without fouling, so he could stay on the floor.

Jackson’s involvement on offense wasn’t enough, and it’s not due to his lack of contributions. Even playing 22 minutes, he needs more than 6 shot attempts. The Grizzlies emphasize pick-and-roll’s and drive-and-kick’s, but they need to sprinkle in some actions for Jaren Jackson Jr. They could run some drag or flare screens to get Jackson going from deep or to create a mismatch and advantage downhill. They could get some empty corner sets to give him a clear block to postup.

There just has to be more with Jaren Jackson Jr.’s offense. He’s their most dynamic offensive weapons.

Memphis Grizzlies v Denver Nuggets Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/Getty Images

The shooters: D

Aside from Ja Morant’s 3 triples, the Grizzlies combined for 2-19 from beyond the arc. You’re not winning in today’s NBA with 3-point shooting that poor.

John Konchar has to shoot more than 1 shot, especially in Desmond Bane’s absence.

Ziaire Williams has struggled to find his shot in his return, and it’s understandable that he’s getting his legs under him. However, he has to find his shot at some point, as it could serve as a needed confidence boost too.

Dillon Brooks’ shot wasn’t there, and his volume seemed to be more of a product of someone other than Ja having to shoot. However, he needs to continue to serve as a more effective weapon as a scorer and passer.

David Roddy and Tyus Jones’ shots weren’t falling, but they added value elsewhere. Jones contributed on the glass and as a playmaker — 5 rebounds and 4 assists. Roddy continues to show more poise getting to his spots in transition and off closeouts.

It didn't help either that the Grizzlies’ wing rotation got burned by their counterparts on the Denver side. Bruce Brown, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and Christian Braun all scored 12 or more points to combine for 41 points collectively. If the shooting isn’t going to be there, they need to contribute more defensively to make up for the offensive deficit.

The Grizzlies desperately need Desmond Bane back to provide a necessary shooting boost. It could be a cure to their road woes and their slow starts.

This 2-game stretch isn’t defining for the Grizzlies. They have to be better, and they will be better. We’ve seen this group rally back from poor stretches before it gets too long, and games against the Phoenix Suns and Golden State Warriors could help rekindle their momentum.

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