If you had any concerns before this game about how the Memphis Grizzlies would respond in the wake of the news that Ja Morant will miss the next two weeks with “knee soreness”, you almost certainly are feeling better about that reality after the latest blowout victory for the Bears of Beale Street. The young Grizzlies superstar point guard clearly has no worries - he believes in his teammates, and time and again Memphis has shown that level of confidence is justified. The Grizzlies will be seeing an increase in the level of competition in the next couple of games that will test that 16-2 record without Ja that Memphis now boasts after this dismantling of the Indiana Pacers.
But for tonight - no ESPN hangover. No lack of execution because of Morant’s absence. No worries indeed.
Some thoughts on the contest.
De’Anthony Melton the heater
For a long time, some (myself included) have called for Dillon Brooks to be the sixth man for the best version of this Memphis Grizzlies team when the time comes for them to be “all-in”. The logic regarding this centers around the idea that with his usage rate, he could be a scoring “microwave” of sorts early in contests and still close games as a key defensive wing when the time comes. It is a solid idea in theory - perhaps not in practice, depending on Brooks’ view of the situation especially.
But maybe, at least for this year - when the Grizzlies are unlikely NBA Finals contenders, but contenders just the same - they already have a player that can get hot fast off the bench.
For the second time in two nights, De’Anthony Melton was red-hot from beyond the arc and active looking for his shot. Melton has always seemed to be a streaky offensive player, so it is risky to assume this level of offensive contribution will stick around. But there is no denying his confidence is soaring, especially from range. He made five threes in this game, and was active in being part of the scoring work the Grizzlies did as they built their insurmountable lead.
He is talented. And young (23 until May). And under-appreciated. He fits this Memphis team quite nicely.
The Memphis Grizzlies have a special passer they never expected
Steven Adams put on a passing clinic in this game, as he has multiple times this season. While he snagged a remarkable 17 rebounds, continuing his elite pace as one of the league’s best cleaning the glass, his six assists were even more remarkable. While the Big Kiwi is perhaps rebounding better than many expected him to this season - especially if they incorrectly thought he was “washed” - Adams’ most redeeming quality entering the season was his work on the boards. He was never supposed to be a key catalyst for this Memphis offense.
And yet, here we are. Third on the Memphis Grizzlies in assists Steven Adams.
His play this season has perhaps been the most underrated reason the Grizzlies have thrived. He gets his due here because his contributions to winning plays, and willingness to do the things necessary to help his teammates shine, matters immensely. The Memphis Grizzlies are the hardest working team in the NBA - and Adams may be their hardest worker.
- Desmond Bane is the real deal. 30 points on 15 shots. Remarkable vision on cross-court passes. He’s just tremendously gifted, and appears to be a future All-Star. The absence of Morant makes the offensive firepower of Bane that much more important. He is thriving at the right time.
- John Konchar continues to maximize his minutes. 18 points on 10 shots, 8 rebounds, 4 assists in 25 minutes played. To have a player like Konchar be an end of the rotation 11th man type is such a credit to both his work to be an NBA player and the Grizzlies front office for targeting him back in 2019. Ja Morant, Brandon Clarke, John Konchar. Memphis crushed that draft (Konchar was signed almost immediately after the draft ended).
- 20 points in 17 minutes for Jaren Jackson Jr. 5 fouls too. That trend continues to be one to keep an eye on - he was doing so well staying out of foul trouble earlier in the season. But the referee’s seem to be having a more active whistle since All-Star Weekend. Jaren has to adapt - or else his absence from the floor will have massive repercussions as the games get tougher, especially without Ja Morant.
The Grizzlies will be back in action Saturday night against the Milwaukee Bucks.