Another game, another professional win for the Memphis Grizzlies.
As the playoffs approach, victories like these matter more and more. The postseason isn’t in question at this stage - Memphis is one of the best teams in the NBA in terms of record. They will be in the NBA playoffs. The goal now is to both play your very best basketball as Spring begins and also rack up wins against lesser teams to set yourself up for the best seeding possible. The Grizzlies are in a race with the Golden State Warriors for the #2 seed in the Western Conference, and that home court advantage in a potential semifinal matchup could make all the difference for Memphis.
This is why when the team performs this well, especially without All-NBA candidate Ja Morant (who got the night off to rest his back soreness), it is something to appreciate. Yes, they were “supposed to win” against a banged up and rebuilding Pacers team. But the way that they did - with sound defensive play and aggressive offensive execution in a blowout performance - matters. They’re reintegrating Dillon Brooks. They are looking to produce at a level higher than they have in this era of Grizzlies basketball. They appear to be well on their way.
Some thoughts on an impressive 135-102 Grizzlies victory.
Indiana’s own Desmond Bane balled out
Unsurprisingly, Bane went in to his home state of Indiana and put on quite the display. Desmond had over 200 family and friends on hand to watch him play in an NBA game close to where he grew up, and what they saw was a microcosm of what Bane has become for the Grizzlies. The idea that he could potentially be the Klay Thompson to Ja Morant’s Stephen Curry and Jaren Jackson Jr.’s Draymond Green in this new-look hopeful dynasty for Memphis is such an outlier in terms of NBA Draft historical precedent. Bane was the 30th overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. He should not be this impactful in terms of winning basketball.
And yet, here we are. Brandon Clarke was the best draft value pick of the Zach Kleiman Era...until Desmond Bane.
The good people of Richmond, Indiana should be proud of Bane. He represents them quite well, both on and off the floor. Good for Desmond that he was able to play well on this stage that surely meant a good bit to him.
Aggressive Jaren Jackson Jr. showed up
While Bane showed out, Jaren Jackson Jr. - who has his own Indiana ties, playing his high school basketball in Indianapolis - dominated on both ends of the floor. Offensively there was no one on the Indiana Pacers that could contain him. Multiple players tried, and multiple players failed. He got to the paint off the dribble at will, a promising development and reminder of what makes Jaren especially unique as a scorer. On defense, he was a menace. He altered shots even when not blocking them, helping pace a Memphis effort that stifled one of the better offenses in the NBA the last couple of weeks. Tyrese Haliburton had one of the worst games of his young career. Part of that is life in the NBA - you have bad games. Haliburton will bounce back.
But part of that was the energy the Grizzlies brought to the defensive end of the floor. Jaren Jackson Jr. is the straw that stirs that drink. He thrived like the two-way star he can be in this one.
- Dillon Brooks needs to let the game come to him. His 4-12 evening from the floor sticks out like a sore thumb. Tyus Jones was 3-11, but he at least had 10 assists (with 0 turnovers). Brooks is trying to find his rhythm offensively, understandably so. He cannot, at least when the games get closer, seek out his individual look this much. He likely saw this game as an opportunity to knock off more rust, which is fair. Dillon should be fine. But on a night where the offense was efficiently running on all cylinders, Dillon was stalling things at times.
- Steven Adams - still not washed. Another double-double for the Big Kiwi. He does so many things well for this Grizzlies team - saying he is only a rebounder and leaving it at that doesn’t do him justice. His passing is vastly underrated. He sets screens with such force they almost always result in space for teammates to create with, both on and off the ball. His defense is good enough to not strictly be an only drop defender (although in fairness that is his base look). He accentuates Memphis’ strengths while not impeding anyone’s development. Having such a player on the roster, regardless of what happens the rest of this season, has made a major difference for this team.
- Sharing the love. Memphis had 38 assists in this game. The Grizzlies reserves scored 64 points, and three bench players (De’Anthony Melton, Ziaire Williams, Brandon Clarke) scored in double figures. The Memphis starters had everyone score at least 8 points. In the absence of their elite offensive weapon, they replicated his impact in the aggregate quite nicely. Surely Taylor Jenkins enjoyed that ball movement and offensive distribution more than anyone else, as this is a major part of the Grizzlies “standard” he preaches consistently.
Memphis has a couple days off leading in to a marquee showdown as Ja Morant likely returns to the Grizzlies lineup to take on Trae Young and the Atlanta Hawks.