The Memphis Grizzlies push to the playoffs continues as the New York Knicks came to our snowy town last night. The Grizzlies were looking to maintain their ground as the number 2 seed in the Western Conference, as they held a slim lead over the Golden State Warriors.
Meanwhile, there were some offseason implications ahead for this game too. The Knicks held a half-game lead over the Los Angeles Lakers in the lottery rankings, as New York is currently 10th in those odds.
Pretty massive for those watching those pick odds right now. And shoutout to the Lakers for winning a game!
The Grizzlies came out of the gate quite well — not exactly at their full gear, but good enough to hold a lead through the 1st half. They had a lackadaisical 3rd quarter, where the Knicks outscored the Grizzlies by 14 in the 3rd quarter. However, they flipped a switch in the 4th quarter to secure the win, locking the Knicks down to just 18 points in that period.
Though there was that rough patch in the game, it was great to see this team lock in and finish the game poised throughout the final minutes.
Let’s get to some grades.
Jaren Jackson Jr.: 13 points (4-9 shooting, 2-4 from 3, 3-3 from the line), 5 blocks, 4 rebounds, +/- of +4 in 27 minutes (Grade: A-)
Jaren Jackson didn’t have a transcendent offense game. That’s tough to gauge, because I don’t know if it was the lack of shot opportunities, or not. He made timely 3s, and he didn’t really rush anything offensively.
Jackson also got himself into foul trouble, as Julius Randle applied a lot of pressure and force into his downhill attack. So that foul trouble, 4 fouls through the 1st 3 quarters, forced him to sit the entire 3rd period — which is when the Knicks coincidentally went on that massive run.
Nonetheless though, Jackson gets these high marks because of his defensive presence. He came away with 5 blocks, which is league-leading 8th game with that many swats.
He imposed his will on that end early in the game before his foul trouble, but he hit a new gear in that fourth quarter.
Jaren Jackson’s defense is paramount for this team, which is why keeping him out of foul trouble is crucial — as well as not being too conservative when he does rack up fouls. Last night was a great example of that, especially given what happened when he was on and off the floor.
Ja Morant: 37 points (14-33 shooting, 1-4 from 3, 8-10 from the FT line), 8 assists, 4 rebounds, 3 stocks, +/- of -3 in 37 minutes (Grade: B+, “The 12 Curve”)
We’re truly spoiled with Ja Morant and the performances he puts up on a nightly basis. He’s a superstar talent, and he delivers such outings each night. It creates a tricky thing when making grades, because he puts up performances that set up a higher standard than anyone else.
With that said, Morant did have his times of struggle. The Knicks posed some troubles early on. They have a big primary lineup — everyone in the starting 5 is 6’6” or taller — and that size, when packed inside the arc, clogs the paint. That was a preview of potential problems that could occur in the playoffs.
And another “with that said,” Ja Morant flipped a switch in the 4th quarter, totaling 15 points in the final period. He came in the game in the 4th and turned it upside down with his relentless downhill attack. Because of the Grizzlies defense, they were able to get into transition and create easy scoring opportunities to cut the Knicks lead and build one of their own.
When there’s a deficit, it’s nice to have a talent that can create offense to cut it and generate momentum. Morant is that guy for Memphis, and it’s fun to see when he turns the game around.
Brandon Clarke: 10 points (5-8 shooting), 8 rebounds, 4 blocks, 2 steals, +/- of +10 in 25 minutes (Grade: A)
Brandon Clarke’s activity was on display in this game.
In the first half, he put his stamp on the game with his offensive activity. He was finishing lobs and getting second-chance opportunities with bounce on the offensive glass.
Where Clarke’s activity stood out was defensively. He finished with 6 stocks, and his defense really stood out with his individual defense on Julius Randle. The Knicks All-Star shot 1/6 from the field with Clarke as the primary defender, while getting swatted twice. Though Randle finished with 36 points, 12 rebounds, and 6 assists, his 40.7% (11/26) shooting was pretty big in Grizzlies defensive momentum, and how Memphis corralled the win.
Brandon Clarke’s game is built on active and energy, which could drive serious momentum towards runs. His activity was paramount tonight, and it’s just more evidence towards his bounce-back season.
- Desmond Bane (C-): It wasn’t a great shooting night for Bane, as he connected on 4 of his 15 shot attempts, while also missing crucial free throws towards the end of the game. He also had 5 fouls, which forced him out of the game for a good bit. He was a bit bothered by the size of the Knicks defense, but this was his first rough game in awhile, so all good.
- Ziaire Williams (B-): Ziaire Williams was on the receiving end of a bad run in the 3rd quarter, which resulted in him finishing with a team-low plus/minus of -23. However, he did show some things in the 3rd quarter and tried to get the offense going there with corner 3’s as well.
- Tyus Jones (B): Tyus Jones didn’t have a game that stood out, as he finished with 11 points and 4 assists. However, he finished with a plus/minus of +22, and he showed the value of having another strong playmaker down the stretch next to Ja Morant.