The Memphis Grizzlies have been one of the surprise teams of the season, led by Ja Morant’s breakout campaign.
Sitting fourth in the Western Conference, they have capitalized on the sluggish starts from perceived contenders in the LA Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers, Denver Nuggets and, to a lesser extent, the Dallas Mavericks, but as they continue to rack up wins, they’re making a strong case to not just be considered a young squad on the rise, but a legitimate threat in the West.
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At 25-14, they have the sixth-best record in the league and this season boast wins over the Nets, Clippers (twice), Warriors, Jazz, Nuggets (twice), Suns, Mavericks and Lakers (twice), proving they can mix it with the best teams on any given night.
In Monday night’s 118-104 road win over the Brooklyn Nets — their fifth in a row — the Grizzlies made a statement, dominating the game from wire-to-wire, breaking the game open with a 40-point third quarter, which included a 25-8 run over the final 6:31 of the quarter, against a Nets team that holds the fifth-best defense in the league.
Morant’s push for a first All-Sar selection seems all but guaranteed at this point and once again he was the focal point of the win. Fresh off being named Western Conference Player of the Week, he led the Grizzlies with 36 points, eight assists and six rebounds, not to mention no shortage of Kodak moments.
On the second night of a back-to-back, they went to Cleveland on Tuesday and after putting on a show in Brooklyn just 24 hours earlier, they weren’t content, squeezing out a 110-106 win.
Again, it was the Ja Morant show, as he led the way with 26 points, six rebounds, five assists, two steals and two blocks, coming up with two huge buckets down the stretch.
Through their win streak, the Grizzlies have now beaten three of the top six defenses in the league, kicking off the streak with a win over the Suns and tonight taking care of the Cavs, who boast the third-best defense in the league.
“We came in, it’s a back-to-back, obviously legs heavy, we just had to find a way to lock in defensively, make them feel our offense,” Morant said postgame.
“Late in the fourth we was able to do that, got some key stops at the end of the game to come out with a win.”
On paper, the Grizzlies are the second-youngest team in the league , but their combination of young talent and veteran experience gives them a balance that makes them a team nobody wants to see in the postseason.
They have all the ingredients to make a deep playoff run, with Morant playing at an All-Star level alongside fellow youngsters, Dillon Brooks, Tyus Jones and Desmond Bane, while Jaren Jackson Jr. continues to look more and more like the player many expected when he was drafted No. 4 overall in 2018.
Add in the veteran savvy of Kyle Anderson and Steven Adams, who has reinforced their interior both as a rim protector and rebounder and there’s a reason the Grizzlies are second in the league in rebound percentage, behind only the Utah Jazz.
While there’s still plenty of ball to be played this season, as it stands the Grizzlies have the fifth-easiest remaining schedule for the rest of the season, per Tankathon, as they continue to chase the Jazz, Suns and Warriors at the top of the West.
After a first-round exit in the playoffs last season, the 2021-22 Grizzlies look ready to cause havoc in the postseason this time around.
It’s time to take them seriously as a contender, whether we’re ready or not, they’ve arrived.