As the Grizzlies tipped off the first of two games this past weekend, fans could reasonably expect the young cubs to split the back-to-back.
After all, on Friday it was the surging but still sub-.500 Sacramento Kings in your first game at FedExForum since the All-Star Break. Saturday night’s game against the Western Conference-leading Los Angeles Lakers – with the Grizz on the second night of a back-to-back would be what NBA-types would call a “scheduled loss.”
But, as the cliché goes, that’s why they play the games.
Memphis dropped that game against Sacramento, but bounced back with authority against the Lakers, seizing control of the game in the second quarter and riding monster games from Ja Morant and Jonas Valanciunas to a 105-88 victory before a sold-out crowd.
Morant led all scorers with 27 points, along with 14 assists and six rebounds, and triggered the critical second-quarter run where the Grizzlies took command. Were it not for Morant’s big game, the game ball would have to go to Valanciunas for his 22 points and 20 boards. And while Dillon Brooks had to volume-shoot himself out of his recent slump – 9-24 from the field and 3-11 from the arc – he bullied his way to 24 points.
No other Grizzly scored in double digits. But it was a night when G-League call-up John Konchar played meaningful minutes and elevated for a block on Lebron James. John Konchar. Whatever else happens with his career, Konchar will always have that.
Check out my Three-Point Play above, as well as postgame video from Morant and James, who swapped jerseys (sort of). James talked about his respect for Morant’s basketball IQ, and Morant expressed his admiration for James both on and off the court.