Grizzlies Keep Winning, Nearing Full Strength


The Grizzlies’ resiliency in recovering from a sole loss, followed by three brilliant wins, proves that perhaps, at last, Memphis can achieve basketball glory too long denied a ferociously competitive franchise.

The one loss? Well, it was easily their ugliest setback on the season and one of the sloppiest games Memphis has played in recent memory. 

This type of game has the potential to affect a team’s season profoundly. How a franchise chooses to respond reflects the realisticness of its championship pursuits. 

Memphis’s response? 

They rattled off three wins in a row where the Grizzlies asserted their will across every level of the game. 

Was this against a shorthanded 76ers team and a Cade Cunningham-less Detroit? Sure, but the Heat were at full strength, and Memphis won that game with half their guys out, while also ending the Thunder’s winning streak. 

This team seemed to find its stride this week, and this was still without key players for parts of it. With injury news dropping this week as well, there was plenty happening to get one stoked in Memphis. 

The Good

Steven Adams, All-Star? 

The Grizzlies played against three All-Star centers this week in Rudy Gobert, Joel Embiid, and Bam Adebayo.   

Quite frankly, it didn’t matter. Memphis still had the best big on the court each game, and it wasn’t close.

That designation belonged to Steven Adams.

In their loss against Minnesota, Steve-O (12 rebs) would not only out-rebound Gobert but also hold him to a single board. 

Adams would keep this momentum going against Philly. Embiid was due to get his buckets, but that would be about all he got against the Big Kiwi.

Adams finished the game with 9 points, 16 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals, and 3 blocks. He was the definition of a nuisance, the most dominant big man on the floor, and Embiid wanted nothing to do with him.  

Adams has played with purpose this season. 

He’s currently twelfth in the league, averaging 10 rebounds per game, and first in the NBA in offensive rebounds with 349. For comparison’s sake, second place, Mitchell Robinson, has 295.

We’re in the midst of seeing Adams unleashed, and it’s finally time to start putting him in the same category as those All-Star centers, all of whom he outplayed this week. 

The Rest of the Frontcourt

It wasn’t just Adams delivering from the frontcourt; Memphis received contributions from numerous helpers.

Jaren Jackson Jr. also pestered Embiid. Jackson produced 22 points, 9 rebounds, 1 steal, and 4 blocks against the 76ers while continuing his stellar play since returning from injury.

His block against Embiid to close out this game may net Trip the block of the year.    

Additionally, Santi Aldama seems to be settling perfectly into his role as a bench big.

In 22 minutes of action against the Sixers, he contributed 13 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, and 3 blocks. 

He also proved he’s still a capable spot starter, as evidenced in the Miami game when filling in for JJJ. Santi’s 18 points, 10 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, and 1 block were a significant reason why the shorthanded Grizzlies ground out the dub.  

Even Brandon Clarke sparkled. When the Canadian got the start in place of Adams for the Detroit game, he was good for 14 points, 14 rebounds, and 2 assists. 

The Grizzly’s frontcourt had their way with opponents this week, even in their loss to the Timberwolves. The fact that they succeeded regardless of which big played, and did so consistently, is exactly what one wants to see out of a championship team. 

Stones in his Bag  

It’s not that Tyus Jones has been playing badly this season. 

Quite the opposite: he’s playing pretty great. 

He’s averaging a career-high in points per game (10.4) while hitting his second-highest mark in assists (4.5). He’s still shooting the ball and rebounding just as well as in previous seasons. 

It’s just that when one has grown accustomed to seeing Tyus take such command and control over a game when that dominance is not present, it’s noticeable.

That struggle all changed Monday. 

Against the Heat, Stones went off recording a career-high in points with 28 while shooting 62.5% from the field, 50% from three, and 100% from the line for the game. 

On top of the 28 points, he also recorded 10 assists, 5 rebounds, and 2 steals. 

This is the type of performance we’ve come to expect from Jones: masterful control over both the game and his team. With the Grizzlies down seven players, Stones demonstrated why Memphis re-signed him. 

The Bad

Holy Turnovers Batman 

One never wants to turn the ball over, but it happens. 

It doesn’t occur 24 times typically. That is poor basketball. 

Bad basketball, however, was precisely what the Grizzlies displayed against Minnesota. Memphis turned the ball over 24 times. Every player (minus Steven Adams) that saw action had at least one miscue.

That performance is unacceptable for a team with championship aspirations. 

Memphis agreed; they had fewer than 15 turnovers in the three following games.   

The Whistle 

The Grizzlies have improved this year with defensive attention to detail. Currently, they are averaging the eighth fewest personal fouls per game with 19.8. 

This strength didn’t stop Memphis from eclipsing this mark in three of their four games this week, though.

Against the Timberwolves, the Grizzlies had 20 personal fouls; Minnesota made 78.9% of their free throws. 

Further, Dillon Brooks and Ja Morant were ejected in the final minutes of this game. 

The whistle wouldn’t stop, unfortunately. Memphis’s issues continued against Philadelphia and Detroit, with 21 personal fouls a piece in those games. The Sixers and Pistons shot 88.2% and 88.3% from the line respectively. 

Memphis’s numbers improved against Miami, but that may have had more to do with the officiating team being down a member than anything else. The Grizzlies only had eleven personal fouls called against them. 

The problem is the Grizzlies don’t convert on their free throws at a rate where they can afford to go blow for blow with opponents at the free-throw line. Until they improve at the charity stripe, Memphis must reduce fouls. 

What Happens In Minnesota, Stays in Minnesota 

What happened against the Timberwolves was gross and sloppy. It was a weird basketball game and flat-out not Grizzlies hoops.

How else does one explain Memphis nearly doubling Minnesota in rebounds (59 to 29) and still losing? Or Memphis having five more fouls than Minnesota yet only converting on 60% of their own attempts?

One can’t expect to win a game when you double the number of turnovers as your opponent. Indeed, the Timberwolves only turned the ball over 12 times compared to the Grizzlies’ 24. 

Considering Memphis bounced back in such an emphatic fashion, let’s hope they can continue to get this loss as far in the past as possible. 

The Verdict

The Grizzlies are still finding ways to grind these games out, and they’re doing so without their three best players having shared a single minute on the court together.

This hindrance appears to be changing soon, and it won’t be long before Memphis is finally at full strength. Good luck to the rest of the league when that happens. 

Editor’s Note: Due to technical difficulties, this piece was unable to publish on its original date of 12/6 and as such some statistics and details may have changed since the time of original writing.


About Luke Hatmaker

Luke is based out of Nashville, TN where he lives with his cat, Dr. Alan Grant. In addition to contributing to Grizz Lead, he is one of the hosts of the No Bluffin' Podcast for the Grizz 901 Podcast Network and is also a cast member the RPG Radio Show Podcast.

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