The Memphis Grizzlies traveled to Orlando looking to extend their win streak to five against the Magic. Both teams were missing key pieces in Desmond Bane and Bol Bol after winning on the first night of a back-to-back. There were offensive struggles on each side to start, but as the Grizzlies' offense started to heat up in the second quarter, their lead began to grow. The Grizzlies shot 51% from the floor compared to just 36% for the Magic and made 5 more three-pointers in the first half. Led by a dominant Jaren Jackson Jr. on both ends with 18 points and three blocks, the Grizzlies took a 65 to 43 lead into halftime.
The game continued to go the Grizzlies' way in the 3rd as Ja Morant began to take over as he scored 14 in the quarter. However, the Magic made a run of their own, led by rookie Paolo Banchero (30 points) and Franz Wagner (22 points), cutting the lead to six late in the 4th. However, a nice lob from Morant to Jackson and some clutch free throws extended the Grizzlies' win streak to five.
12 & Trip yet again pic.twitter.com/MnAZWtQwUS— Bally Sports: Grizzlies (@GrizzOnBally) January 6, 2023
Let’s get to the Grades.
Jaren Jackson Jr. - A+: 31 Points, 12-14 FG (2-3 3-PT), 5-7 FT, 10 Rebounds, 3 Blocks, 1 Steal, +22
Jackson was the best and most impactful player on both ends of the floor in Orlando. Offensively, he was aggressive inside and finished in a variety of ways, both in the post and on drives. He also hit two three-pointers, including one that was a 4-point play. Jaren didn’t hit his career-high of 43 points, but this was the most efficient game of his career. He also scored in a more sustainable way with inside scores and post-ups than in his previous games of 30+ on many threes.
Defensively he bolstered his DPOY case with three more blocks, his 9th straight game with multiple as he continued to climb the total blocks chart. Jackson is now 4th in total blocks with 69 despite playing only 22 games, the least of anyone in the top five. When he plays like this on both ends of the floor, the Grizzlies are very tough to beat.
Ja Morant - A: 32 Points, 13-21 FG (1-5 3-PT), 5-7 FT, 6 Assists, 5 Rebounds, 1 Steal
Morant was clearly dealing with pain in his hip but played through it, providing another great offensive performance. Ja put on a show, getting to the rim and finishing in various ways, while his floater continues to impress and has become one of the most dangerous parts of his game. Morant has also worked on his mid-range game and showed off a bit of that tonight as well.
Performances like these are becoming the norm for Morant, who has scored 30+ in three of the last four games, and his play has been the engine behind the Grizzlies' win streak. On New Year’s Eve, Morant said he wanted to be more consistent in 2023. So far, he is keeping his word.
Ziaire Williams - A: 16 Points, 6-7 FG (3-4 3-PT), 1 Rebound
No one needed a good game more than Ziaire Williams, who came through with his best for the season in Orlando. He hit three of his four attempts from behind the arc, where he had shot just 14% coming into this game. Williams also scored by getting to the rim, which got him into a better offensive rhythm. Despite the struggles, Williams showed why the Grizzlies are still very high on his potential contributions in the future.
Huge bounce back game for Ziaire Williams with a season high of 16 on 6-7 shooting. The confidence is buildingpic.twitter.com/FD55VyQanf— Bryson (@BrysonWright3) January 6, 2023
The Grizzlies' bench has needed another spark, and Williams is poised to fill that role. The emergence of players like David Roddy and Santi Aldama has helped, but Williams has the potential to be the best option for the Grizzlies’ bench. It was awesome to see him find his shot and have a big night on the road after dealing with injuries for most of the season.
Overall Grade: A
The chemistry between Morant and Jackson is one of the most promising parts of this game, as both players scored 30+ points in a win for the first time in their careers. If they can continue building this rapport and learning to emphasize the best parts of each other’s game, the Grizzlies will have great success from now on. After a tough stretch near the end of 2022, Memphis has responded with a 5-game win streak and continues to fight for the West’s 1st seed nearing the halfway point of the season.