On paper, this seemed to be an good opportunity for the Grizzlies to end the first half of the season winning 10 out of 11 games and being 24 games above .500 at the All-Star break.
However, a lack of energy early and defensive lapses late were too much to overcome despite an outstanding offensive night from Ja Morant and Desmond Bane. In general, though this loss may not seem logical, it also should not be that surprising. On the second night of a back-to-back and their last game before a needed break, the Grizzlies just did not have the same crisp effort on offense or defense as they usually do. In addition, Anfernee Simons and company hit many tough shots to the get the win. Losses happen, and for tonight at least, Portland was a better team.
However, that does not mean this night progressed without plenty of positives. History was made by the Grizzlies backcourt, and individual grades should certainly reflect that:
Ja Morant- A
To be honest, Ja Morant would probably not agree with this grade. However, his play Wednesday night was simply outstanding. A career high of 20 points in a quarter to begin the game, 44 total points overall to match his second highest scoring total in his career, and 11 assists to help his teammates and the offense go. Overall, Ja by himself created nearly seven points of offense for the Grizzlies. His aggressiveness was on full display all night long, and his 4th 40 point game of the season was the end result.
Though a win would have certainly helped, there were not many ways in which Ja could have ended his first half of the season in better fashion.
Desmond Bane- A
Again, Desmond Bane himself probably would not agree with this grade. However, Bane became just the sixth Grizzlies player to ever produce 30 points and 7 threes in a single game. He set a new career high for threes in the process. Bane has certainly regained his amazing shooting form over the past two games after a bit of a tough stretch. However, setting a new career high for threes in a game is a pretty nice way to end the first of the season before participating in the 3-point shootout.
Morant and Bane combined for 74 points, the most points by a pair of Grizzlies in one game in franchise history. The best game to date for Bane and Ja as a duo could not have come at a better time to clearly prove they are one of the best backcourts in the league, with a chance to take center stage this weekend in Cleveland at the All-Star Game.
On the night, Clarke’s scoring efficiency actually regressed a bit as he was only 6-14 from the field. However, 10 rebounds, two steals, and two blocks also helped the Grizzlies claw their way back into the game. The key for Clarke this season has certainly been regaining his overall scoring ability. Even without the ability to shoot the three, Clarke’s consistency when it comes to scoring quality and shot selection is eye opening. However, the major progression in Clarke’s game this year continues to be the overall improvement when it comes to activity across the board.
Team Defense - D
Coming into the game, the Grizzlies ability to create an advantage via the offensive boards was likely to be limited, as the Trail Blazers were among the best in the league at limiting offensive rebounds. That is exactly what happened, so the importance of a good defensive night increased. Unfortunately, the Grizzlies struggled for much of the night. As good as the Memphis Grizzlies have been as of late defending the three, Portland shot over 40% from three and 50% from the field. Sure, teams struggle on one end of the court every now and then. However, the big key is that last night illustrates how important it is for the Grizzlies to defend the three well.