The Memphis Grizzlies suffered a humiliating 41-point loss to the Dallas Mavericks over the weekend and were determined to get back in the game on Monday night. And that’s exactly what they did with an impressive 134-124 victory over the visiting Brooklyn Nets in one of the most spectacular games of the first week.
Ja Morant and Desmond Bain led the way with 38 points each – the latter setting a new career high – they beat Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, who each scored 37 points. Morant was on his best flight with an incredible left lane, while Bain ended the show with a 10 straight run at the bottom of the fourth to single-handedly fend off a late Nets comeback attempt.
The scoring ability shown by all four of these players was remarkable; each of them scored at least 37 points in 50 percent of the game and in total scored 150 of the 258 points scored in the game. The fact that they did it mostly on jumpers makes the feat all the more incredible. We may not see such a productive duel until the end of the season.
One of the players who did not participate in the offensive was Ben Simmons. Another disappointing result: he had just seven points, three rebounds and eight assists on 2-for-5 from the field. To make matters worse, he fouled for the second time in three games and now has 17 points and 14 fouls for the season.
In fact, one of the most interesting games Simmons was involved in all night was when Morant lured a sixth foul out of him late in the fourth quarter. After Kyrie Irving scored to close the gap to six, Morant allowed the ball to roll across the floor without touching it to keep the game clock running and the shot clock to remain at 24. Simmons then pressed to force Morant to pick up the ball. ball, and the Grizzlies defenseman immediately drew a foul and sent Simmons to the bench.
After the game Morant explained that he was prepared for this situation due to playing during his rookie years:
“My rookie year was in Philadelphia, the same thing happened to Ben. [Simmons]. In the first half, I went to see the coach to get the ball, and he ran over the ball, intercepted it, went and dunked. I knew it at that moment, I rolled the ball and I looked at the coach and I see [Simmons] try looking like, “Oh yeah.” So I knew that I had it. He was going to press and I was going to make the referee call.”
This is a fascinating anecdote and explanation from Morant, showing how experience pays off, even in the smallest cases. For those who are interested, here is the play Morant referred to a few years ago.
“You tell me you saw it. I don’t want to be fined,” Simmons said. “I just saw the game online. There was no foul. He called it a foul, made a mistake, that’s what it is. Very frustrating, but all I can do is support my team from the bench. It’s frustrating.” because it’s a late game, fourth quarter, physical close game. This is the NBA. This is not a college, not a high school. People will get hit, some people will bleed, that’s basketball.”
As sly as Morant’s play is, it’s more about Simmons. This moment summed up a frustrating and disappointing start to Simmons’ tenure with the Nets.
He didn’t find his place alongside Durant and Irving on offense and didn’t have the expected impact on defense. You can’t read too much into the on-off stats after only three games, but Simmons’ net rating difference of minus 40.3 is still staggering. An eye test doesn’t dispute these numbers too much either.
Simmons missed all of last season and is also recovering from back surgery, so being a little off pace is one thing. Fighting to this extent, however, is not only amazing, but worrying about the Nets moving forward. There’s still plenty of time, but if Simmons doesn’t start showing signs of improvement soon, the buzz in Brooklyn around his game will only intensify.