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Recap: Kenneth Lofton Jr. shines in Grizzlies’ 2nd Summer League game

The Grizzlies fell to the Thunder, but Kenneth Lofton Jr. made a huge statement with his play against Chet Holmgren.

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2022 NBA Salt Lake City Summer League - Memphis Grizzlies v Oklahoma City Thunder

Kennedy Chandler’s late-game steal sealed the Memphis Grizzlies first summer league victory on Tuesday. The Grizzlies looked to build on that success, as they faced off against the Oklahoma City Thunder, who also won their first summer league game behind an incredible performance from Chet Holmgren.

The roster changed greatly between games one and two. Ziaire Williams, Jake LaRavia, Santi Aldama, Kennedy Chandler, David Roddy and Xavier Tillman were resting, giving some new players a chance to get some minutes. It was ugly at times, but the Summer League is meant for development and it gave the front office a chance to evalúa some of the relatively unknown players on the roster.

The game started out quickly as Kenneth Lofton Jr. attacked Holmgren on the opening possession. He would go on to score 7 points in the first quarter.

However, the Thunder responded with a quick run led by Holmgren and Jalen Williams, however Dakota Mathias responded with a quick 5-0 run of his own. After the first, both teams were tied at 20.

Going into the 2nd quarter, both teams began to empty their benches, and it was very apparent during the first half of the period. Both teams struggled to create offense, defend, and take care of the ball. The Thunder reinserted Josh Giddey and Holmgren, two players that will start next season, back into the lineup — and the Thunder began to build a bit of a lead. Shaq Buchanan and Lofton Jr. kept the Grizzlies in the game, but they trailed 48-43 at halftime at the half.

The second half was dominated by the Thunder, as the Grizzlies started to become sloppy with the ball and questionable with their decision-making. There were still some highlight from players like Lofton and Shaq Buchanan, but overall they did not have enough firepower. The game probably would have turned out differently if the Grizzlies played all of their guys, but with a 3rd game in a row coming on Thursday they decided to give them some rest.

The Grizzlies made a late run but I’m the end the Thunder defeated the Grizzlies 87-71 behind 11 points from Chet Holmgren and a triple-double from Josh Giddey.

Now for some individual grades:

2022 NBA Salt Lake City Summer League - Memphis Grizzlies v Oklahoma City Thunder

Kenneth Lofton Jr.: A+— 19 Points, 8-17 FG (3-6 3-PT), 6 Rebounds, 3 Assists, 4 turnovers, 5 fouls

Lofton Jr. started the game with a great move on Holmgren and continued to attack him all night. He was able to score inside at will and easily moved any defender out of his way. His touch around the rim, post footwork, and playmaking ability out of the post have all been even better than advertised through the first two games. Defensively, Lofton struggled and picked up a lot of fouls — luckily you get 10 in Summer League, if he probably would have been set down — but all in all it was a really promising performance. Zach Kleiman has been known for finding players in unlikely places, and Lofton looks to add to that list. The undrafted, two-way player held his own with one of the best prospects in this draft class in Holmgren and led all scorers for the night.

Shaq Buchanan: A- — 16 Points, 5-15 FG (2-9 3-PT, 7 Rebounds, 2 Assists, 1 Steal, 1 Block, 3 Turnovers

Without Chandler, the Grizzlies turned to Memphis Hustle star Shaq Buchanan, and he did not disappoint. He was not very efficient, but he was the most consistent scorer outside of Lofton. He also brought a sense of calm to a game that felt out of control at times and made some impressive defensive plays.

Dakota Mathias: B— 11 Points, 2-8 FG, (1-4 3-PT), 8 Rebounds, 1 Assist, 1 Steal, 2 Blocks

Mathias was one of the most experienced players on either team, and it showed last night. He only made two shots from the floor, but scored 6 points by drawing two three shot fouls with the clock running down. He was also active on the boards and defensively making the small plays that often don’t show up on the stat sheet; all things considered he had a very solid game.

Overall shot selection: D

I understand that it is Summer League and it’s supposed to be for development, but some of the shot attempts were extremely questionable. The Grizzlies shot just 22-73 (30.1%) from the floor, a lot of them being contested jumpers and selfish drives to the basket. It was a major change from the Grizzlies first game where they assisted on 29 of 37 baskets. Missing Ziaire Williams and Kennedy Chandler, they assisted on just 12 of their made baskets, and the ball movement simply was nonexistent at times. They also struggled from three, making just 8 of their 39 attempts.

Overall Grade: C

The Grizzlies did not look great, but that is to be expected with the number of players they were missing. It was obvious that the Grizzlies are focused on the Las Vegas Summer league and wanted to avoid playing any of their players on 3 nights in a row before getting there. I would expect to see the starting 5 from Tuesday’s win against the 76ers when the Grizzlies play tonight against the Jazz.

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