The Memphis Grizzlies had a close call against the Detroit Pistons.
They tore them apart in the first quarter, closing the period with a 22-point lead. However, the Pistons kept chipping away at the lead with their 3-point attack. Though Detroit got within 1, the Grizzlies’ star guard put the team on his back and led the team to victory.
Let’s jump into some grades.
Ja Morant – 29 points, 4 assists, 10-23 shooting (0-5 from 3), +14, 32 minutes (Grade: A, 93/100)
In the spirit of Ja Morant’s homework to the media, I give a number grade for him.
Ja Morant just gave the media a homework assignment. He wants us to grade his performance tonight and get back to him.
— Drew Hill (@DrewHill_DM) February 20, 2021
It wasn’t the most efficient night shooting from deep, but there was something that stuck out to me in Morant’s game — his second half performance. Morant turned it up a notch in the second half, totaling 21 points after intermission. As Detroit started to inch back into the game, he took matters into his own hands and controlled the game. He got to the rim whenever he wanted, capitalizing on the Pistons’ struggling interior defense. It was just floater city for Morant.
As the Grizzlies are without Jaren Jackson Jr. and Dillon Brooks, it’s imperative for Morant to have that sort of attack mentality when his team is struggling. From what we saw in last night’s game, it’s a real momentum-swinger when he takes on a score-first mentality.
It was a legitimate All-Star performance.
Jonas Valanciunas: 17 points, 15 rebounds (7 offensive), 7-14 shooting, +2, 30 minutes
Jonas Valanciunas cooked Mason Plumlee. BBQ chicken.
Valanciunas continued his tear of phenomenal basketball in this game, absolutely dominating the glass as a scorer and a rebounder. The Pistons just didn’t have any answers for him. It just looks like he’s hooping on a Nerf goal, as he makes put-backs, post moves, and rebounds just look effortless.
The Grizzlies desperately needed someone outside of Ja Morant to deliver an extra punch for this team, and since his return from health and safety protocols, Valanciunas has done that. Give him his flowers, he’s vital to the Grizzlies’ success.
Kyle Anderson and Brandon Clarke: (combined) 28 points, 13 rebounds, 10-16 shooting (3-4 from 3). +27 (Clarke) and +6 (Anderson) (Grade: A-)
Brandon Clarke and Kyle Anderson are lumped together here since they had similar offensive efficiencies, but they also had the shared the task of stopping Jerami Grant.
And they succeeded.
Grant — one of the league’s most improved players — was held to 5-20 shooting from the field, 2-10 from 30, and coughed 4 turnovers. All thanks to Brandon Clarke and Kyle Anderson. They did a spectacular job attacking his closeouts and forcing him into hard shots, as it was probably one of the biggest deciding factors in this game.
Offensively, Clarke did most of his damage inside, as he demonstrated his second-jump on putbacks and his elite leaping abilities off the roll. His efficiency and his strong defensive play reminded people of the Clarke from last year, as he had a massive impact on winning (team-high +27).
Anderson continued his strong 3-and-D outing, shutting down Grant and knocking down both of his triples. Though he didn’t explode offensively like he has the past couple games, he made winning plays on both ends of the floor.
- Grayson Allen (C+): Allen broke his 10-game streak of consecutive games with 2+ 3’s, but he still impacted the game with his playmaking (6 assists) and defense (3 steals).
- Xavier Tillman (A-): This was one of his strongest outings from the past few games, as he took advantage of the mismatch inside with Detroit.
- De’Anthony Melton (B): Melton struggled offensively in his first game back, but he was a menace defensively with 4 steals.
- Desmond Bane (B): Bane’s 3-point shot wasn’t on, but his live-dribble creation was impressive.
- Tyus Jones (B): Jones didn’t dish out as many dimes in this game, but it was nice to see him re-connect on his shot.
- Sean McDermott (D): It was an interesting call to see him get minutes over John Konchar and Gorgui Dieng, but he just seemed like he was there in this one with his minimal impact.
Tune back in tonight as the Memphis Grizzlies take on the Phoenix Suns to conclude this 4-game homstand.
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