The Memphis Grizzlies traveled to face the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 3 of their first-round series on Saturday night. The Grizzlies tied up the series at 1-1 without Ja Morant, and they were hoping his return to the lineup would spark them to a key road victory.
Instead, Memphis laid an egg after Dillon Brooks’ trash talk. Morant had a monster game with 45 points (22 straight at one point), 13 assists and nine rebounds, but a totally disastrous first quarter put the Grizzlies in a huge hole. It was 35-9 Lakers after the opening quarter, and they wound up cruising to a 111-101 win. Morant was the only reason the game ever got as close as it did, with Brooks’ ejection adding even more drama.
A solo Ja Morant show cannot continue to happen if Memphis wants to advance past the first round. Thus, these are three individuals who must improve their performance for the next games after a rough Game 3.
3. Jaren Jackson Jr.
In Game 1, Jaren Jackson Jr. was a force in all areas of the floor. He scored 31 points on 62% shooting from the field despite their 16-point loss. His Game 2 contributions were decent, but his Game 3 numbers took a drastic turn, as he only tallied 13 markers and five boards. Moreover, Jackson committed six costly turnovers in his 32 minutes on the floor.
As the winner of the Defensive Player of the Year plum, his responsibilities have continued to increase with the Grizzlies, and he failed to flourish in that role on Saturday night. To make matters worse, Anthony Davis dominated the paint with 31 points, three blocks, and a whopping 17 rebounds. If Memphis wants to get back in this series, Jackson must replicate his Game 1 production.
2. Tyus Jones
Tyus Jones is one of the best backup point guards in the NBA. The Grizzlies often don’t miss a beat without Morant in the lineup, which is what happened in Game 2 as Jones played 36 meaningful minutes and recorded 10 points and eight dimes.
In Game 3, however, Jones was 0-of-7 from the field with zero points in 17 minutes. Even with Morant in the lineup, Jones is usually effective as the spark plug off the bench while also sharing some minutes with the superstar point guard, but that simply was not the case on Saturday night.
In addition to missing all seven of his field goal attempts, including five 3-pointers, Jones had only three assists and two turnovers. Jones’ assist-to-turnover ratio is usually sublime, but it was a rough night for the guard on all fronts in Game 3.
1. Dillon Brooks
The noise this guy has been making has been a big story in the series, but his play has not really backed it up. Dillon Brooks was the main topic of conversation before Game 3 because he called LeBron James “old” after Memphis’ Game 2 victory. James responded on the court by propelling the Lakers to a rousing 18-2 start in Game 3, as Brooks looked clueless on how to contain the Lakers.
Brooks finished with seven points on a disappointing 3-of-13 shooting in only 19 minutes of play. He did not play his usual minutes because of an early ejection in the second half when he hit James in the groin area, resulting in a Flagrant 2. Brooks went to the showers early, and James’ mind games again worked to perfection.
If he wants to limit LeBron James’ numbers in the remaining games of the series, he must play better than his trash talking.
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