Let’s get this out of the way: the Memphis Grizzlies did not play their standard of basketball. Outside of Desmond Bane’s 5-9 outing from 3, the rest of the team shot a ridiculous 1-21 from 3. That’s 4.8 percent! The bench only scored 15 points. They also were 67.9% from the free throw line, missing 9 foul shots — several in crunch-time.
Most of the time, you’re going to lose a game in the modern NBA when that happens, usually by a lot. That could even apply to a Philadelphia 76ers team without Joel Embiid.
(Slight writer’s tangent: The Sixers have won 15 of their past 18 games. They’ve been good. The Grizzlies were also doing this to teams without Ja Morant. It happens).
However, because the Grizzlies have a legitimate MVP candidate and a backcourt running mate that’s probably a top-10 shooter in the world, it went to the final possession of overtime.
It’s an 82-game season, losses happen. As the saying goes, it’s on to the next one. Anyways, grades.
Ja Morant: 37 points (15-30 shooting, 0-5 from 3, 7-10 from the FT line), 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 9 turnovers, 1 steal, +/- of -7 in 42 minutes (Grade: A-)
Ja Morant is sensational. He’s making an incredibly strong case to be considered a MVP finalist before they officially announce the award.
In that 3rd quarter in particular, he got to the rim at will. The Sixers had zero answers for him in that range. It wasn’t even just finishing in the paint with a singular, or basic, move. He was finishing shots with variety and difficulty. Contested, sideways, left-hand. It did not matter.
Probably the absolute most impressive part of his performance was the and-1 in the final moments of the 4th quarter. The Grizzlies had the ball on the other side of the court, and the Sixers placed Matisse Thybulle — one of the league’s best perimeter defensive stoppers — and burst past him like he was in quicksand.
JA MORANT WITH THE GAME ON THE LINE pic.twitter.com/7HCJPBIn6a— Rob Perez (@WorldWideWob) February 1, 2022
So with saying that, the “minus” part of the grade comes with the turnovers and the free throw shooting. He was his harshest critic in postgame about in turnovers, in relation to Ziaire Williams’ missed 3 at the end of overtime. In addition, the foul shots missed in crunch time were tough to watch.
Nonetheless, the Grizzlies needed a jolt in this sluggish game, and once again, Ja Morant highlighted a few of the many perks of having a superstar.
Desmond Bane: 34 points (12-21 shooting, 5-9 from 3, 5-5 from the FT line), 7 rebounds, 1 assist, 3 steals, 1 turnover, +/- of +1 in 39 minutes (Grade: A)
Desmond Bane, alongside Ja Morant, stepped up in this game where they needed an energizer.
Bane paced the team in scoring in the 1st half, scoring 18 points before halftime. He also showcased the full bag in this game. He was the only reliable source of outside shooting in a cold 3-point night for the Grizzlies. He was more aggressive attacking the rim and getting to the line in the 1st half as well. He also found success inside the arc as well.
It was another shining example of his growth as a scorer, as he tallied a career-high 34 points.
Bane also added value in other areas of the game. Community rebounding is important when going up against a team with a big of Andre Drummond’s caliber. Getting 7 rebounds from your shooting guard is pretty solid. He also tallied 3 steals, important to generate transition offense when your halfcourt offense is in the mud.
Desmond Bane’s leap this year has been awesome, and he’s shown upside to be Ja Morant’s backcourt running mate down the road. Even in a loss, his performance validates that case even more.
Jaren Jackson Jr.: 18 points (7-17 shooting, 1-5 from 3, 3-6 from the FT line), 7 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal, 2 blocks, +/- of 0 in 35 minutes (Grade: C)
Jaren Jackson Jr.’s game was a mixed bag.
Jackson was feasting in the 1st half, getting good positioning into the low post seemingly at will. With primary matchups of Tobias Harris and Georges Niang, it looked like one of those nights Trip could’ve taken over.
However, in the second half, he just disappeared. He only tallied 1 field goal and 3 free throws in the second half and regulation combined. There wasn’t a concerted effort to get him going either. Foul trouble didn’t help, but he was simply just there offensively.
Jackson has arguably been the league’s best big man defender over the past month. He’s 22 years old, and he’s going to have a couple nights that he’s not going to look like that guy. However, it’s still fair to acknowledge. He got baited into fouls, and he wasn’t as forceful protecting the rim as usual.
This night from 3-point shooting highlights the need for Jackson to find his rhythm from outside. Outside of Bane, he’s the only player that can also be a volume 3-point threat. If the Grizzlies want to fare better from the outside in the next couple months and into the postseason, it starts with Jackson’s return to being a premier 3-point marksman.
The Bench: 15 points (7-20 shooting), 8 rebounds, 7 assists, 7 steals, 1 block (Grade: D)
The Grizzlies did not get really any scoring production.
De’Anthony Melton continued his inconsistency from the field. Brandon Clarke didn’t get enough time on the floor — 13 minutes in the midst of the ball he’s been playing since re-entering the rotation is not good management — but he also struggled against Andre Drummond, who played 43 of the available 53 minutes. Kyle Anderson and Tyus Jones didn’t get anything going offensively, but they made plays defensively.
However, the low grade comes in the fact that it was a night where it felt sluggish, and they lacked energy. It doesn’t change any sort of feelings about the bench. They still have a really solid bench with a lot of good pieces that impact winning basketball, and last night, they didn’t have it.
It happens. It is what it is. On to the next. And that next is the New York Knicks. Bing Bong.