Run Through The Tape
How many times have we heard it? The season isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon. The entire season can come down do the last game. Well, that is what the 2019-2020 season had in store for the Grizzlies. Win and get it. It’s as simple as that. Run through the finish line, beat the Bucks and make it to the play in serie.
Damian Lillard has willed the Trail Blazers all the way back into the conversation. Booker has done the same for the Suns. Pop has somehow kept the Spurs in it. The Grizzlies have faltered, but still are better positioned than Phoenix and San Antonio. They controlled their own destiny and a win would get them in.
Making The Extra Pass
The Grizzlies came out firing on all cylinders. Even Dillon Brooks took smart shots. And what happens when you take smart shots instead of off-balance floaters over a Lopez brother? You usually make them at a higher clip.
It was indeed the case for Brooks who scored Memphis’ first seven points. It was beautiful to behold and every Grizzlies’ fan prayed it would last, hopefully into the playoffs.
Morant struggled from the field in the first quarter. He did get his teammates good shots, but himself missed three easy floaters from six feet out. He made up for his shooting woes by grabbing seven rebounds and pushing the pace. Without Giannis on the floor, the paint was less crowded and Morant intended to take advantage.
Valanciunas was locked in and on a mission, shooting 5-7 in the first half. JV scored from all over the place. He hit shots from under the basket, from mid-range and from three. He even hit a sweet turnaround fade-away jumper with a hand in his face.
The key in the first half for the Grizzlies was the extra pass they had neglected in their previous games. Against the Bucks they always made the proper read and found the wide open shooter the defence had forgotten. It lead to very high percentage looks that Brooks, Tolliver, Allen and Anderson made consistently.
Very Encouraging Signs
It was more of the same to begin the second half. Memphis hit their two first shots from three by finding the wide open man for easy shots. Brooks made this possible by understanding that his crazy shots were hurting his team and deciding to facilitate instead of taking them. He assisted on threes from Tolliver and Valanciunas to give Memphis an eleven point lead.
Brooks then proceeded to surgically dissemble the Milwaukee defence. He realised that he was much more efficient taking shots that were created for him by his teammates. Rather than dribble down the floor and jack-up ridiculous shots, he took his time.
He moved well without the ball and allowed Ja and others to put him in great shooting positions. He cut constantly to the rim and his teammates found him for easy shots. It was refreshing compared to his usual regimen of bad looks taken on far too many possessions.
Valanciunas was a stud all game. Not only did he secure that paint on defence, but he also played a pivotal role on offence. He was automatic from within ten feet and showed a sweet touch from outside. He also displayed rare vision for a big, finishing with enough assists for a triple double.
I was a terrific effort from a young Memphis team fighting for its life. There were still a few obvious improvements possible. Morant, again, looked bad from long range, shooting 0-4 from downtown. If the Grizzlies are to advance into the real playoffs, Ja absolutely needs to pick up his shooting. Doing so will keep defences honest and make it even easier for him to drive to the bucket, not to mention create more space for Valanciunas to park his butt on the block and bang down low.
Portland still has to play, but it is safe to assume that an over-matched Brooklyn team won’t keep them out of the play-in. They will present a daunting challenge for Memphis, but if the Grizzlies can rediscover their offence as they did against Milwaukee, they have shot against anybody.