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The Memphis Grizzlies are becoming South Lansing

This is Michigan State’s NBA team.



Memphis Grizzlies
© Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

With Xavier Tillman and Jaren Jackson Jr. standing out in the NBA playoffs, the Memphis Grizzlies are becoming South Lansing.

On Wednesday night, the Memphis Spartans *ahem* Grizzlies balled out in the NBA playoffs with yet another strong showing from Jaren Jackson Jr. and Xavier Tillman Sr. The MSU basketball 2017 recruiting tandem, turned college roommates, turned NBA teammates, are putting the league on notice.

Jackson has been on a tear this season, as evidenced by his DPOY award. However, on Wednesday, it was Tillman’s turn to shine. He made the most of a few team injuries, earning his second straight start this postseason.

Tillman logged 22 points, 13 rebounds, and three assists on 10-of-13 shooting. More impressively he committed zero turnovers in 32 minutes of floor time. Jackson also posted a very respectable 18 points, nine rebounds, three assists, three blocks, and a steal.

It has been well documented that the Memphis Grizzlies are quickly becoming South Lansing. They drafted Jackson in 2018 and then traded for Tillman from the Kings on draft night just two years later.

When they selected Jackson as the fourth overall pick, it was easy to see his star potential from the jump. His combination of size, outside shooting, as well as surprising handles make him a unicorn in today’s game.

However, not as many were expecting Tillman to be the gem of a pick that he has been. He proved against the Lakers that the Grizzlies won’t miss a step when he moves from bench reserve to starter.

Not only is Tillman extremely efficient on the floor, but he also showed just how cerebral of a player he can be. Very often a threat in pick-and-roll situations, he made the Lakers’ defense look lost on several occasions on Wednesday night. Tillman understands where he needs to be positioned, and his strong offensive rebounding frequently allows him to clean up a few buckets.

Tillman isn’t the flashiest player, but he does all the little things that allow a team to succeed. The Grizzlies drafted him because is a reliable 10- to 15-year type of player.

Tom Izzo prides his teams on defense, and Tillman and Jackson are combining to be quite the defensive force for the Grizzlies this season. The team has led the league in field goal percentage defense and is second in defensive efficiency behind only Cleveland. Jackson bothers teams with his incredible length, leading the league at 3.0 blocks per game. Tillman understands how to switch defensively in a league where floor spacing makes that incredibly tricky.

I look forward to watching these two continue to come into their own for years to come. And who knows, maybe the Grizzlies roll the dice with yet another Spartan in an upcoming draft?

I graduated from MSU in 2016 with a BS in Electrical Engineering. I met my wife there, and we now live in Madison, WI with our two boys (ages 3 and 1). I write on here and spew on Twitter as an outlet for my useless MSU sports knowledge.


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