The Memphis Grizzlies started off on the right foot. Jaren Jackson Jr. made his presence felt immediately on defense — corralling 2 blocks and 2 steals, and those 2 swats were on Lauri Markkanen. Xavier Tillman and Desmond Bane put together a nice 2-man game with some work around the elbows and drive-and-dumpoff’s. Santi Aldama also had a thunderous dunk over former Grizzly Rudy Gay:
Santi's in his bag like it's still Christmas pic.twitter.com/6Up18HK30P— Grizzly Bear Blues (@sbnGrizzlies) January 8, 2023
The Grizzlies did a great job of forcing turnovers (6), but their offense stalled out towards the end of the quarter. In the last half of the period, they only scored 8 points, and rookie Walker Kessler served as a huge roadblock for Memphis — swatting 5 shots in the quarter. The Grizzlies trailed the Jazz 24-23 in the first quarter.
Jackson started the 2nd quarter by going right at Walker Kessler, unbothered by his presence inside. David Roddy provided quick offense by attacking closeouts and hitting outside shots. The Jazz went on a small run, but the Grizzlies answered with a larger one to generate a 66-52 lead going into the half.
Also... Xavier Tillman and Santi Aldama lobs? Was that on your preseason bingo card?
The Jazz trimmed the lead with a 17-6 run to start the 3rd quarter. Both teams had a parade from the 3-point line tin the period. A bright-spot for the Grizzlies though, Desmond Bane drilled 2 three’s including a 30-footer straightaway jumper. The quarter ended with chaos, as the Grizzlies and Jazz got into it after Jordan Clarkson smacked Bane in the head on a drive. Jaren Jackson came to Bane’s aid, which led to him and Clarkson needing to be separated.
Jordan Clarkson took a swipe at Desmond Bane then immediately squared up pic.twitter.com/QnbPc8c44V— Jomboy Media (@JomboyMedia) January 9, 2023
There wasn’t as much firepower in the 4th quarter, as the previous quarters. There were big shots here and there, but ultimately the Jazz kept things close in the period. Jaren Jackson Jr. had a thunderous throw-down after a defensive stop that sent the crowd into a frenzy.
Grizzlies ultimately pulled away with a 123-118 win.
- Tyus Jones is the best understudy at the point guard position. Tyus Jones stepped in for Ja Morant in tonight’s matchup, and his extraordinary play as a starter continued. Prior to tonight’s game, he averaged 20.6 points and 8.4 assists in 5 games as a starter. Tonight, he finished with 21 points, 6 assists, and 4 steals. His confidence as a scorer and shooter has shined this year en route to a career year in that department. Having a backup point guard like Jones allows the Grizzlies to rest Morant if he’s not 100%, while not worrying about a significant drop-off or a “scheduled loss.” The Grizzlies paid Jones for these moments, and he keeps showing that it’s a good investment.
- Desmond Bane is finding his flow while adding value across the board. Desmond Bane hasn’t been himself shooting the basketball since his return, but he’s rounding closer to form. He connected on 4 of his 7 three-point attempts, though only finished 4-11 shooting from 2. His contributions across the board stood out — as he dished out 9 assists, hauled in 6 rebounds, and came away with 2 steals. He took up a lot playmaking responsibilities in Morant’s absence, and in turn, he looked the most comfortable he’s played since his return. He’s on the way back to his old self.
- Xavier Tillman, the next man up. Xavier Tillman hasn’t had the most consistent minutes since the start of 2022, but he’s doing his best to make the most of his opportunities. He recently took over as the backup 5 after Brandon Clarke’s injury, and tonight he received some starter minutes at the 5. He set a tone early with his activity, hustling his tail on the glass and revving up his defensive activity. Through moments like these, and his level of preparation through reps with the Memphis Hustle, he’s made himself a viable big man option whenever his number is called.