On to the next.
Friday night’s game against the Hawks is one that most likely both the players and fans would like to forget.
The Grizz struggled out of the gate - which is rare - scoring just six points in the game’s first five minutes. They did pick up the tempo and ended the first frame with 27 — it’s only the second time in 22 games in which they did not score 30 in the first quarter.
The second quarter is when things went downhill and fast. It looked at times as if the Grizzlies were just going through the motions and sleepwalking. The Hawks pushed their seven-point lead to as many as 21.
The Beale Street Bears tried to mount a few comebacks in the second half, including a fast start by Ja Morant out of the half, and a strong Jaren Jackson performance in the fourth. But other issues plagued the Grizzlies in the loss, as they weren’t able to cut the deficit to anything less than 10 before dropping this one 120-105.
Oh, and by the way, the Hawks were able to be in control the entire game missing their two best players in Trae Young and John Collins.
Now, it’s time to take a closer look at some of the performances by handing out some grades:
Jaren Jackson Jr. — 15 points (5-10 FG, 1-4 3-PT), 6 rebounds, 2 blocks, 4 turnovers, 5 fouls — C-
The majority of the game was a struggle for Trip. For the third time in six games, Jaren finished with 5 fouls. His foul trouble not only caused Taylor Jenkins to take him out of the game physically, but it also seemed to take him out mentally. His body language was pretty bad at times. A couple of the fouls were also just bad fouls, 25-30 feet away from the basket.
When Jaren gets into foul trouble, he also dials back the intensity at times, both on offense and defense. At times he was settling for outside shots instead of taking it inside. He did show up in the fourth quarter as the Grizzlies tried to mount a comeback, scoring more than half his points. But it was a little too late. The Grizzlies need a fully engaged Jaren that stays out of foul trouble if they are going to make a deep run.
Ja Morant — 29 points (11-23 FG, 7-9 FT), 4 assists, 3 rebounds, 6 turnovers — C
Speaking of engaged, Ja had his quietest 29 point performance that I can remember. It seemed at times that he was saving his energy at times to go off in short scoring bursts. Ja was returning after a night off in the Grizzlies blowout win over Indiana.
The Hawks did a good job of making Ja work for his buckets in the paint, but he was still about to go on runs himself, most notably scoring the team’s first nine points out of the half. The game was also an example of Ja trying to do too much at times because he wasn’t getting much help, which led to some of his six turnovers.
It’s fair to question if he could’ve used another one in Atlanta. He’s been nothing short of phenomenal this season, so its understandable for him to be worn down. Let’s hope the injury that led to his fourth quarter exit is nothing serious.
Grizz Bench — 23 points (9-18 FG), 16 rebounds, 6 assists* — C
The * is because I only graded bench players that played more than 10 minutes in the loss.
What usually is one of their strengths, the bench did not provide the spark that was needed for the Grizzlies in this one. Tyus Jones, who has been great all season, was nonexistent in this one — he finished with zero points, one rebound, and one assist in almost 12 minutes of action.
Brandon Clarke was a bright spot for the bench though as he did bring big time energy on the defensive end, collecting five blocks and six rebounds.
Final Grade: C-
The common theme in this report card is energy, or lack thereof. Sure, it was there at times, but more times than not throughout the 48 minutes it seemed as if the Grizzlies wanted no part of the Hawks.
This isn’t all on the Grizzlies though, as I do have to give the Hawks credit, because anytime it looked like the Grizzlies were going to make a run, Atlanta would make big shots and clamp down on defense to extend their lead.
It’s also worth mentioning that the Hawks did a great job of neutralizing Steven Adams and not really allowing him to get involved in the flow of the offense. When the Grizzlies offense is humming, he is a big part of that. The Grizzlies are also still adjusting to the return of Dillon Brooks to the lineup. I think it will be a couple of more games before everything is clicking on all cylinders.
It was just frustrating because it was an opportunity for the Grizzlies to increase their cushion in both the conference and division as Golden State lost Wednesday and Dallas lost Friday night. It’s also a game the Grizzlies had no business losing with the underachieving Hawks also missing Trae Young and John Collins.
Every NBA team is going to have a handful of bad losses throughout the season, and this is one of them for the Grizzlies.
Hopefully Ja is OK, and the Grizz can get revenge in Houston on Sunday afternoon — tip time is 2:30.