The Memphis Grizzlies traveled to Denver looking to sweep the season series with the Nuggets, who came into the matchup needing a win to clinch the 6th seed and avoid the Play-in. After a back and forth first quarter, the Nuggets began to step up their intensity and outworked the Grizzlies for the rest of the game. The Grizzlies, who lead the NBA in rebounding, were outrebounded 22-13 in the first half and allowed the Nuggets to shoot 62% from the field. The defensive intensity was not up to the Grizzlies' usual standards as the Nuggets led 70-53 at halftime.
It was clear throughout the second half that Nikola Jokic, who finished with an incredible 35 points and 16 rebounds, was on a mission to clinch their playoff seeding. It was more of the same for the Grizzlies as they could not get many stops or get easy buckets in transition that they have thrived on all season. The Grizzlies have done a great job at avoiding having nights where they are thoroughly outplayed this season, but tonight was one of these rare occasions. The Nuggets won 122-109, clinching the 6th seed in the Western Conference playoffs.
Desmond Bane— C: 14 points, 5-11 FG, 2-2 3-PT FG, 3 Steals, 2 Assists, 5 Fouls
Desmond Bane was one of the few players that came out with his normal intensity tonight. He scored 8 points in the third quarter and tried to get the Grizzlies back into the game; however, it was not enough to turn the tide once the Nuggets built their lead. Bane was also in foul trouble but it did not affect his minutes much, he sat out the 4th quarter due to the score anyway. On a night where the Grizzlies as a whole were disappointing, Bane hit the shots that he has all season even though he did not get his usual number of attempts.
Dillon Brooks—D: 12 Points, 6-15 FG, 0-2 3-PT, 2 Assists, 1 Steal, 4 Fouls
Dillon Brooks got into some foul trouble and was not able to affect the game the way he usually does. Offensively he took a lot of tough shots and was inefficient. He had some success driving to the basket but his mid-range jumpers and three-pointers were not falling. It is understandable since Brooks is still looking to get back into a good rhythm after missing most of the season due to injury, but last night was one to forget.
Jaren Jackson Jr.— D-: 10 Points, 4-9 FG, 1-3 3-PT, 2 Rebounds, 1 Block, 1 Steal
Jaren Jackson Jr. was able to get to the rim pretty well and gave the Nuggets some matchup problems early on. He was solid defensively in the first half and had a nice block on Aaron Gordon, but overall it was not a great night for him or anyone else. Jackson was also forced to guard Nikola Jokic due to Steven Adams' foul trouble, a tough matchup for anyone, and struggled to get involved offensively after the first quarter.
Ideally, the Grizzlies would keep their foot on the gas and play these last few games with the same intensity they have all season. However, human nature takes over sometimes, making it hard to care about essentially meaningless basketball games. The Nuggets were the aggressors all night and built a considerable lead because of it. The Grizzlies defense that has dominated all season was late on their rotations, allowing the Nuggets to shoot 40% from three and score at will in the paint with 56 points.
This game does not mean anything for the Grizzlies, but it is still disheartening to see a lack of effort on the court.
Overall Grade: F
It was a bad night, which the Grizzlies have avoided for much of the season. It was clear that the Nuggets had much more to play for and needed this win after a tough loss against the Spurs. At the end of the day, Grizzlies fans should not be worried about this loss. The team that played tonight is not the one we will see in the playoffs.
Also, Ja Morant's return seems to be imminent, possibly as soon as this weekend, which will give the team a huge energy boost. The Memphis Grizzlies will be hosting a playoff series for the first time since 2015, which should be the primary focus at this point in the season.