Another game, another professional win for the Memphis Grizzlies.
As the playoffs approach, wins like these matter more and more. The playoffs are not in question at this point – Memphis is one of the best teams in the NBA in terms of records. They will be in the NBA playoffs. The goal now is to both play your best basketball early in the spring and rack up wins against lesser teams to set you up for the highest possible seeding. The Grizzlies are in a race with the Golden State Warriors for the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference, and that home-court advantage in an eventual semifinal could be all the difference for Memphis.
That’s why when the team performs so well, especially without All-NBA candidate Ja Morant (who took the night off to rest his bad back), it’s something to appreciate. Yeah, they were ‘supposed to win’ against a banged up and a rebuild Pacers team. But how they did it – with solid defensive play and aggressive offensive execution in a stellar performance – matters. They reinstate Dillon Brooks. They’re looking to produce at a higher level than they did in the era of Grizzlies basketball. They seem to be on the right track.
Some thoughts on an impressive Grizzlies 135-102 victory.
Indiana’s own Desmond Bane collapsed
Unsurprisingly, Bane went to his home state of Indiana and put on quite a show. Desmond had over 200 family and friends watching him play in an NBA game near where he grew up, and what they saw was a microcosm of what Bane became for the Grizzlies. . The idea that he could potentially be the Klay Thompson of Ja Morant’s Stephen Curry and Jaren Jackson Jr.’s Draymond Green in this hopeful new dynasty for Memphis is so outlandish in terms of NBA Draft historical precedent. Bane was the 30th overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. He’s not expected to have that much of an impact in terms of a basketball win.
And yet, here we are. Brandon Clarke was the top draft value pick of the Zach Kleiman era…until Desmond Bane.
The good people of Richmond, Indiana should be proud of Bane. He represents them quite well, both on and off the ground. It was good for Desmond that he was able to perform well on that stage which surely meant a lot to him.
The aggressive Jaren Jackson Jr. showed up
As Bane showed up, Jaren Jackson Jr. — who has his own Indiana ties, playing basketball from his high school in Indianapolis — dominated at both ends of the court. Offensively, there was no one on the Indiana Pacers who could contain him. Several players have tried and several players have failed. He’s arrived at painting the dribble at will, a promising development and a reminder of what makes Jaren particularly unique as a goalscorer. In defense, he was a threat. He modified shots even though he wasn’t blocking them, helping pace a Memphis effort that snuffed out one of the NBA’s best offenses over the past two weeks. Tyrese Haliburton had one of the worst games of his young career. Part of that is life in the NBA – you have bad games. Haliburton will bounce back.
But part of that was the energy the Grizzlies brought to the defensive end of the floor. Jaren Jackson Jr. is the straw that moves this drink. He thrived as the two-way star he can be in this one.
- Dillon Brooks has to let the game come to him. His evening 4-12 off the floor sticks out like a sore thumb. Tyus Jones was 3-11, but he had at least 10 assists (with 0 turnovers). Brooks is trying to find his rhythm offensively, which is understandable. He can’t, at least when the games get close, pursue his individual appearance so much. He probably saw this match as an opportunity to knock off more rust, which is fair. Dillon should be fine. But on a night when the offense was effectively running on all cylinders, Dillon sometimes stalled things.
- Steven Adams – still not washed. Another double-double for the Big Kiwi. He does so many things right for this Grizzlies team – to say he’s just a rebounder and leave it at that doesn’t do him justice. His death is greatly underestimated. He places screens with such force that it almost always results in space for his teammates to create, both on and off the ball. His defense is good enough not to be strictly a single defender (though in all honesty, that’s his base appearance). It accentuates Memphis’ strengths without hindering anyone’s development. Having such a player on the roster no matter what happens the rest of this season has made a big difference for this team.
- Share the love. Memphis had 38 assists in this game. Grizzlies reserves scored 64 points and three bench players (De’Anthony Melton, Ziaire Williams, Brandon Clarke) scored in double figures. The Memphis starters had each scored at least 8 points. Absent their elite offensive weapon, they replicated its impact pretty well overall. Taylor Jenkins surely enjoyed that ball movement and offensive distribution more than anyone, because it’s an important part of the Grizzlies “norm” that he constantly preaches.
Memphis has a few days off leading to a marquee showdown as Ja Morant likely returns to the Grizzlies roster to face Trae Young and the Atlanta Hawks.