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Report Card: Grizzlies tie series 1-1 behind masterful performance from Ja Morant

When in doubt, Call 12.

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NBA: Playoffs-Golden State Warriors at Memphis Grizzlies
Ja Morant and Ziaire Williams celebrate after winning Game 2 vs the Warriors.
Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

The Memphis Grizzlies needed a win after a tough loss to the Golden State Warriors despite controlling most of game one. The game started out with a flagrant two foul on Dillon Brooks after hitting Gary Payton II in the head on a layup, but even without Brooks, the Grizzlies opened up a pretty good lead. However, the Grizzlies made some questionable decisions with the ball to keep the Warriors in the game.

Game two seemed to be going in the same direction as game one when the Warriors took a late lead in the fourth quarter, coming back from an 11-point deficit. Then Ja Morant took over. Morant was incredible down the stretch, scoring 18 points in the 4th quarter and all of the last 15 Grizzlies points. When the game was on the line, Ja Morant was the best player on the court as he tied his playoff career-high with 47 points in a 106-101 win tying the series at 1-1.

Now for the grades.

NBA: Playoffs-Golden State Warriors at Memphis Grizzlies Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

Ja Morant— A+: 47 Points, 15-31 FG (5-12 3-PT), 8 Rebounds, 8 Assists, 3 Steals, +13

Superstar players make big-time plays when the game is on the line and that’s exactly what Ja Morant did on Tuesday night. Morant attacked the basket relentlessly and finished some miraculous layups that have become synonymous with his game. Morant also scored from behind the three-point line, hitting more threes in game two than he did in the entire first-round series against the Timberwolves. Morant became the third player in NBA history with multiple 45+ point playoff games before turning 23. The other two players are LeBron James and Kobe Bryant, some absolutely incredible company.

Morant was the best player on the floor with three first ballot Hall of Famers on the other side. Even after leaving the game in the third quarter and claiming that he could not see, Morant was everything the Grizzlies needed him to be.

NBA: Playoffs-Golden State Warriors at Memphis Grizzlies Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

Ziaire Williams— A: 14 Points, 5-9 FG (4-8 3-PT), 5 Rebounds, 1 Assist, +8

Whether or not Ziaire Williams should get a lot of minutes in the playoffs was a huge discussion all season. Williams had shown flashes but many questioned his ability to contribute at such a young age. In this game, he proved all of those people wrong. Williams played really tough defense on Steph Curry and Jordan Poole without fouling, forcing them both into very tough shots. He also made four three-pointers, including two huge ones in the 4th quarter after the Warriors took a lead. The rookie played like a seasoned veteran and made the most of his minutes in Dillon Brooks’ absence.

NBA: Playoffs-Golden State Warriors at Memphis Grizzlies Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

Jaren Jackson Jr. — C: 12 Points, 3-14 FG, (2-7 3-PT), 7 Rebounds, 2 Blocks, +4

Jaren Jackson Jr. carried his hot performance from game one in the first quarter but could not get his offense going after that. He avoided foul trouble early, but still ended up fouling out. The fouls were not near as bad as in the Timberwolves series, but he still was not available for the Grizzlies during the most important part of the game. In his 29 minutes, Jackson played well defensively and still leads the NBA playoffs in blocks, but he still has to be smarter when it comes to staying on the floor.

Other Grades:

  • Desmond Bane—C: Bane clearly was not himself, dealing with a lower back injury and only finished with 5 points on 7 shot attempts. His grade still stays at a C because of how hard he played on defense as he was a huge reason why Klay Thompson was just 5-19 from the field. Hopefully, the 3 days of rest between games 2 and 3 will help Bane get healthy for the rest of the series.
  • De’Anthony Melton—B: Melton only scored 3 points but still had a huge impact on the game. His rebounding was sensational and played very tough perimeter defense. He is a big reason why the Warriors shot 7-38 from three. He also showed his improved rim protection with three blocks including a huge one against Steph Curry in the 4th quarter.
  • Grizzlies Rebounding and Paint Defense—F: The Grizzlies led the league in rebounding all season but were outrebounded for the 2nd straight game. They also led the NBA in paint scoring but were outscored 60-42 in the paint in game two. Steven Adams returning from the health and safety protocols should help on both of these fronts, but everyone will still have to improve in these areas. If the Grizzlies can sure up this part of their game going into Golden State they will be in very good shape.

Overall Grade: B+

Overall the Grizzlies played a really solid game on both ends of the court and forced the Warriors into a lot of tough shots. The Grizzlies have yet to play their best in the postseason but continue to find ways to win. There are definitely ways in which the Grizzlies can improve going forward, but all in all Grizzlies fans should feel good about where they are at right now! Next, the series will move to San Francisco where the Grizzlies will look to take a 2-1 lead on Saturday.

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