There were a lot of positives in Friday night’s home opener. However, the bears were unable to come away with a win in a game where there were several exciting individual performances.
Earlier in the week during their loss to the Heat, the Grizzlies played at a frenetic pace, and their three point shooting percentage suffered. They dialed it back a bit in this one and it helped them shoot 35% from deep to the Bulls 25%.
What the Grizzlies failed to do was sufficiently guard Zach LaVine and rookie Coby White. LaVine scored 37 points and was 4/8 from behind the arc. The Grizzlies threw multiple looks at him including Jae Crowder, Dillon Brooks, and Grayson Allen. None of them were able to contain the outstanding scorer who is becoming much more than a slam dunk champion.
Coming off the bench, Bulls rookie point guard Coby White worked Ja Morant, earning 25 points and 6 rebounds.
The Grizzlies went into halftime leading 47-60, mostly due to sharpshooting on their end and a scarcity in the shooting department for the visitors. At that point, the Grizzlies were also leading in hustle stats, something that they would not maintain in the second half.
The Bulls won both the third and fourth quarters and bullied (pun) their way back to defeat the Grizzlies 102-110.
The Bulls had no answer for Jonas Valanciunas down low
This matchup was primed for Valanciunas to do what he does best as a bruising post player. Chicago has a 7-footer on their roster, but he happens to only weigh 240 lbs and is more of a finess player. Due to that, Lauri Markkanen was matched up on Jaren Jackson Jr. (more on that next).
The only Bulls player who was able to match up with Jonas at all was 2nd year player Wendell Carter Jr., who struggled with fouls, which would ultimately disqualify him.
Valanciunas is still player under a load management strategy due to a recent foot injury, so he only played 18 minutes in a matchup where he could have been the difference. In fact he was the only Grizzlies starter who earned a positive +/- with +2.
In those 18 minutes, Jonas earned a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds. He cleaned up the boards with a 48% defensive rebounding percentage. I liked how he played and wish that he could have helped out towards the end of the game.
Jaren decided he was the man
One of the key matchups going into this game was at the PF spot between Jaren Jackson and Lauri Markkanen.
Jackson decidedly won that battle, earning a double-double of 23 points and 11 rebounds. He consistently took guys off the dribble down the left side of the lane. His body control from that angle frequently produces contact and he is proficient in playing through that contact to earn the hoop and the harm.
On the flip side, Jackson held Markkanen to 9 points on 27% shooting. The front court is not where the Grizzlies lost this game.
Dillon Brooks fading fast
Brooks may be the starter for now, but his shot selection and lack of defense may push him out of the first five very soon. From three, Brooks is 3 of 6 on the season, but outside of that, he is shooting 26%. Dillon is forcing too many shots near the paint and creating a logjam in the offense. He is much better suited to catch-and-shoot, which is a valuable skill that the Grizzlies need to look to capitalize on.
On the defensive side of the ball, just look at Zach LaVine’s numbers to see how Dillon was unable to contain him.
Since Grayson Allen has also failed to separate himself from the others in the SG slot, we may see some De’Anthony Melton in the lineup soon. I don’t think that would be the worst thing.
Brandon Clarke continues to impress in every way possible
For now, Clarke is still coming off the bench, but he might be taking advantage of his minutes better than anyone else on the roster.
Clarke shot an incredibly efficient 7 of 9 from the field and added 3 blocks and 5 rebounds to his 14 points in 25 minutes.
In addition to several highlight blocks, his adept passing vision and execution have added an extra element of opportunity for Taylor Jenkins’ offense.
Kyle Anderson with a sneaky solid game
Don’t sleep on Kyle Anderson. In this contest he had the best +/- on the Grizzlies roster with +3.
He went for 9p/5r/5a in only 20 minutes of play. Anderson hit 4 of 6 shots, including a three pointer. When Kyle shoots, you can bet that there is a good reason for the shot, and an increased chance it will go in.
The combination of Anderson and Clarke on the second unit is very intriguing. They are both highly efficient guys who are adept passers and capable defenders. It’s not likely they will go for 30 very often, but with them anchoring the second unit, their steadying hand will go a long way to maintaining any lead that the Grizzlies might have.
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