It what was hailed as a battle of the 2020 first all-rookie team. Morant, Clarke and Nunn have all done more than enough to deserve the nod, but are looking for a more important stat now that the NBA seems ready to leave exhibitions behind and get to the meat and potatoes of their season restart beginning on July 31st. The only thing that matters now, as both teams battle for playoff seeding, is to win games and secure your spot in the tournament and the young grizzlies aren’t showing much rust at all. After going down by five point in the early minutes of their last exhibition game, they stopped trying to play half court ball against the Heat and returned to what they do best, and that is run. Quick breaks, transition threes, alley-oops and no look passes, by the end of the first quarter they lead 8-2 in fast break point and lead the game by 8 points. Rather uncharacteristically though they were smoking hot from downtown with 6 different players hitting a three and shooting 8 for 11 from downtown as a team.
Memphis got sloppy in the second quarter, especially with their decision making in the half-court. Brooks in particular seemed to get antsy and hesitant when the paced slowed down and found himself on the wrong end of a few turnovers as he tried to wire a few passes to his teammates cutting down the lane. Both Josh and Jarren were late closing in on the three point line, surrendering timely shots to Miami but the grizzlies managed to extend their lead in the quarter with a barrage of three point shots of their own, fast break point towards the end of the half and a beautiful layup off an offensive rebound by Melton to close out the half in style. Also worth mentioning, Ja showing off his insane athleticism with alley-oops from Clarke and Anderson. After almost a full season witnessing his rare breed of athleticism one might think that Grizzly fans might have become numb to his extravagant jams, but one would be wrong. His sky-walking prowess is still as impressive as ever. One of the more encouraging signs of the first half was the involvement of Tolliver, Allen and Anderson who all chimed in with threes and and good hustle on the defensive side of the ball. Allen even blocked an Olynyk point blank shot.
The second half began the same way the first half did: with Anderson showing no hesitation and pulling up from three to get to 3 for 3 from beyond the arc for the game. He said before the game that he felt completely healthy and that he no longer had a hitch in his shot. If this type of play from him carries on to the seeding games he’ll create more spacing for Valanciunas and Jarren to operate under the basket and make it easier for the entire team to get to the bucket. The continued aggressiveness from Brooks was also a welcome sight. He consistently creates space for himself and makes difficult shots. His hot streaks are hotter than most and coming in to the playoffs with the heat he displayed during the game would be a huge advantage for the young Grizzlies. Morant again showed why there is zero discussion about the rookie of the year award and why anybody arguing about it needs to stop immediately.
He slashed through the Heat at will with his rare combination of speed and vision and put up 22 and 12 before the end of the third quarter. Grayson Allen was impressive in coming back from a knee injury that should have kept him sidelined until the start of summer league. He seemed at ease on the court and more than capable of consistently playing meaningful minutes in high pressure situations. Melton was a pure ball of energy of the bench and anchored the second unit with gritty play and good decision making in the half court. If the Grizzlies can get Tyus Jones and Josh Jackson going they’ll be a tough out for any team in the first round.