After a disappointing game 1 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Memphis Grizzlies bounced back with a 126-94 win on Tuesday night. After being outrebounded and outplayed in the first game, the Grizzlies intensity level was much improved in game 2 as they dominated on both ends of the floor.
The story of the first quarter was the officiating. By the end of the quarter, Jaren Jackson Jr., Steven Adams, Dillon Brooks, Karl Anthony Towns, and Jaden McDaniels all had picked up 2 fouls. This would be a story of the game as the officials called the game much too closely for a playoff setting. Grizzlies Head Coach Taylor Jenkins made the decision to not play Adams after his two early fouls, a move that proved to be the right one.
The pace of the game started to pick up in the 2nd quarter and the Grizzlies began to take over. Xavier Tillman came off the bench and gave the Grizzlies a great spark on both ends of the court and a 60-49 halftime lead. Ja Morant scored 12 points in the third quarter and the Grizzlies as a whole continued their defensive dominance. The Grizzlies opened up a 30-point lead and Jaren Jackson Jr. hit some threes in the fourth quarter that really put the game away.
Now for the Grades:
Ja Morant—A: 23 PTS, 9-16 FG (2-4 3-PT), 10 AST, 9 REB
The Grizzlies needed a bounce-back win and Ja Morant did everything you could ask of him to get it. Morant started the game by getting his teammates involved and had a lot of nice assists in the first half, including a lob the Ziaire Williams that got the crowd into the game. After the break, Ja focused more on the scoring aspect of his game with 12 points in the third quarter. His overall intensity and leadership was also on display as the entire team fed off of his energy. After posting a video of Michael Jordan after game one, Ja definitely did his best to channel that energy.
Xavier Tillman—A+: 13 PTS, 6-7 FG, 7 REB
The Grizzlies needed someone to step up on the inside with Jaren Jackson Jr., Steven Adams, and Brandon Clarke all in foul trouble and Xavier Tillman was there to do it. Tillman’s foot speed IQ on the defensive end of the floor does not all show up on the stat sheet, but is the main reason he receives an A+. Tillman also out-hustled the Timberwolves for the majority of the game and was even able to contribute offensively which is more than many Grizzlies fans would ask of him. Tillman was the X-factor tonight after not playing for a lot of the season, which is something he should receive a lot of praise for.
Jaren Jackson Jr.— B+: 16 PTS, 5-12 FG (4-7 3-PT), 7 REB, 1 STL, 1 BLK
Jaren Jackson Jr. was not happy with his performance in game one and got into foul trouble again early in game two, along with almost everyone else. However, his ability to protect the rim and switch out onto perimeter players was on display again. Even though he did not finish with his normal number of blocks Jackson altered shots for all four quarters and rebounded pretty well in Adams's absence. The most promising part of Jaren’s performance offensively was the return of his three-point shot, both off the dribble and in catch and shoot scenarios.
Grizzlies Bench—A+: 60 Points
In the first game, the Grizzlies bench that had been great all season did not play to their usual standards. Tonight, the bench was back. Ziaire Williams was very impressive in his minutes, finishing with 13 points, bringing a spark off the bench and getting the crowd going in the first half. Brandon Clarke and Tyus Jones also scored in double figures off the bench and proved why the Grizzlies have one of the deepest benches in the NBA. It was a great bounce-back game overall for the Grizzlies’ reserves and it was a key part of their big win.
After losing game one, this was exactly the type of game the Grizzlies needed before heading back to Minnesota. The intensity on both ends of the floor was there from the opening tip even with the refs slowing the game down. It was a great game from top to bottom and the Grizzlies found some successful matchups to exploit going forward.