This is how you kick off a four-game, eight-day road trip to the West Coast.
Impressive perimeter play and the timely contributions of several members of the Memphis Grizzlies led Ja Morant and his company to a big win in Los Angeles against the Clippers. Other than a tough stretch at the end of the first quarter (more on that in a moment) and a few exploits from Paul George, there wasn’t much to complain about if you’re a Grizzlies fan given that Memphis is the 3rd youngest team in the NBA. The bench could have done more (only 13 points!) But the starters were so good that that night it didn’t matter. The defense was much stronger than it was in Wednesday’s opener, and while the attack wasn’t as explosive, it still made an impact, especially in transition. And the dagger three at the end of the fourth quarter that Jaren Jackson Jr. hit after Ja Morant’s dribble penetration was a thing of any beauty.
I can’t wait for that to happen in the 2024 NBA Finals – dream about it, Memphis. Dream it.
Some points to remember from a great victory.
Ja enjoys playing basketball with Desmond Bane and De’Anthony Melton
And they also like to play with him.
All three players were instrumental in the Grizzlies’ victory over the Clippers. Two of the three shots from more than 50% of the field (Morant and Melton). They all showed flashes of brilliance in transition (especially Morant, of course). They all made timely defensive plays despite their size. Paul George was extremely effective as a scorer in this game, in part because of the time the smaller Melton spent defending him. But the formation of three guards continues to be explosively effective on the offensive side, in particular.
Whoever Bane or Melton goes to the bench (and yes, one of them should go to the bench – Memphis misses Dillon Brooks’ size defensively right now) will be a sixth candidate of the year this year. season. It might be an overreaction after just two games … but Bane and Melton have been exceptional. De’Anthony has played better so far, but neither he nor Desmond will lose any playing time when Brooks returns. Only the roles will change.
Are we sure Steven Adams is washed?
Because we shouldn’t be.
A nearly double-double (17 points, 9 rebounds) against a talented youngster tall at Ivica Zubac is further proof that Adams’ demise may have been greatly exaggerated. He is a revelation as a passer (five assists!) He does not have the offensive talent of his predecessor Jonas Valanciunas. But Memphis doesn’t need that skill level anymore from that position with the development of Bane and Melton and the expected return / jump from Jaren and Ja. However, they still need a rebound and solid filtering, and between those things and improved defensive mobility, Adams certainly looks like part of a better fit right now for the evolving Grizzlies.
Grayson Allen and Jonas were good Grizzlies, and they both deserve the extensions they just got. It makes sense, given what we’ve seen these first two games and preseason, that these expansions haven’t come to Memphis. Both statements can be true.
- Uh … Kyle Anderson … are you okay? As much as anyone can “disappoint” right now, Kyle probably fits that bill for the Grizzlies two games this season. 1-9 shots in 17 minutes played, beyond the 7 rebounds he’s racked up, he just hasn’t made too many winning games for Memphis. He seems in a bad mood – and that needs to change quickly. The good starts from Bane, Melton and others are likely to chill some … and the Grizzlies will need Slow-Mo’s seasoned know-how to help soften that blow.
- Ziaire Williams seems to be part of the game. And by “the part” I mean he looks like a rookie worthy of investment and patience. He did a few big hits and a shaking game here and there during his 16 minutes on the ground. When Brooks returns, John Konchar is expected to be the odd one out and Williams is expected to become the 10th man in the rotation. Each outing is valuable in terms of experience.
- A lesson in rotation. The Grizzlies’ first half was relatively strong … except for the last 2:30 hours of the 1st quarter. It was the time when neither Ja Morant nor Jaren Jackson Jr. were on the field for Memphis… and the unit made up of all reserves fought mightily. With Kyle’s problems there was no scoring threat, and the Clippers went 10-0 to finish the frame because of it. It didn’t cost the Grizzlies the game, but it should be a correctable mistake for Taylor Jenkins. If the team fails when Jaren is on the ground without Ja or vice versa, so be it – it’s valuable experience for two fundamental pieces anyway. But at this point, especially with Dillon Brooks absent? Either Ja or Jaren should be present at all times where the situation permits.
Memphis is back at work tomorrow night at Staples Center, this time against the other NBA team in LA. You may have heard of it … LeBron James and the Lakers. Game Tips at 8:30 p.m. CT