Four minutes into the game and FedExForum was overcome by silence. JaMychal Green went down with a left ankle injury and it was déjà vu back to the Celtics game from the night before. Fortunately for the Grizzlies, the injury did not look as severe. However, after Green went down, the bench stepped up huge in defeating the Pelicans after a dominant second half. The win can be described in two words: Team Basketball.
Now, to team grades.
Mike Conley - A
Conley came ready to play tonight. He had a captain-like mindset leading the Grizzlies up and down the court. 27 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists was his stat line on the night as he picked up from his career year last season. In the first half, the team was a little shaky trying to get a rhythm. Conley kept the Grizzlies afloat while his big man, Marc Gasol, struggled to keep his Pelicans counterparts in check early in the first half. One under-appreciated highlight from this game was his ability to adjust to whatever roster was on the court with him. The early JaM injury could have thrown the game out of whack, but Conley helped keep them moving.
Andrew Harrison - C-
Welp, it’s not shocking that the same guy who was involved in rumors about being cut last week did not perform well in a starting role. In 19 minutes of play, Andrew Harrison still looked lost out there. He only scored 2 points on 1-6 shooting. The guess is that he started because of the injury to Wayne Selden Jr. that kept him out of tonight’s matchup. But yeesh, Harrison did not look ready to start an NBA game. Luckily, Coach Fizdale ran with the other bench players that were hot around him, unloading the burden down the stretch.
James Ennis III - C+
Ennis is yet another player that was outshone by the bench players who came in to replace him. He also only played 19 minutes tonight while scoring 5 points, hitting the only three-pointer he took. That was about the only bright spot on offense for him. Because of Dillon Brooks (oh, we’ll getting there), he was limited and sat out because Brooks was the obvious play last night. It will be interesting to see where Fiz goes next game at the 3.
JaMychal Green - Prayers.
Just four minutes into the season, Green suffered a left ankle injury. It was a blow for the team that early in the game. Hopefully, this will not be too serious as he just inked a new deal with the Grizzlies.
(Ed. Note - since this article was published, we’ve heard reports that JaM will be out 3-4 weeks with an ankle sprain - KY)
Brandan Wright - B
Brandan Wright gets a B for this game, as he came in to play more minutes than expected. He had 10 points and 4 boards. While the first half Boogie still had his way on the offensive side, the second half Wright and Gasol held him to a quiet finish to the game. A promising sign for Wright as he has still yet to find his way with the Grizzlies
Marc Gasol - B+
Gasol had a big second half on his way to earning his first double-double on the year. He had 14 points and 11 rebounds against the dynamic frontcourt of the Pelicans. For the first game of the season, Gasol was asked to defend the best low post combination in the league. Marc struggled through the first half of this game getting into early foul trouble while having Boogie Cousins dominating his way through the Grizzlies. However, he rebounded back, figuratively and literally, in the second half playing a massive part in the Grizzlies win. Subduing the Twin Towers is a tough ask, but Gasol crafted it beautifully avoiding them to cause too much damage in the second half.
The Bench - A+++
It cannot be emphasized enough how massive the bench was in Wednesday’s win. Green’s injury shocked everyone, but the depth of the roster was ready to fill the void in his absence. 53 points! That is a full team performance right there.
Specifically, it was Dillion Brooks who stole the show. What a performance in his first game in the Association. 29 minutes, 19 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 assists. The kid was ready for the big stage. He moved off screens and handled the ball much better than expected. This step back over the defense summed up Brooks’ whole night.
And, it wasn’t just Brooks. As mentioned, Wright came off the bench and played well when the team needed height. Tyreke Evans contributed with 11 points of his own. Even Chandler freakin’ Parsons hit a 3 (we won’t go into his FT%...). Coach Fizdale saw this wide range of contributions coming from his whole team and rolled with it.
The takeaways from this game can be very promising for this fresh, new season. The lineup has lots of holes, but still, the bench play led the way against the Pelicans. With some of the young guys looking good, it will be interesting how the lineup changes going forward. Mike was Mike, Marc got it going late, and unsung hero Dillon Brooks stole the show having an incredible first night in the league. Coach Fizdale will have fun with this new look Grizzlies team.
Did someone say 82-0?!?