preseason undefeated Memphis Grizzlies came away with a meaningless big victory last night against the overrated up and coming Philadelphia 76ers by the final score of 110-89. This performance, without Mike Conley and Marc Gasol, is promising, but not particularly enlightening. The 76ers were debuting talented-but-unproven rookies in Markelle Fultz and Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid did not play, and more often than not, these early games as a whole do more for finding conditioning and footing than projecting to the regular season.
Still, there are some things that can be taken from a showing like this for the Grizzlies, who have now clearly shown a desire to push the pace and play a different style than they have the past seven years or so.
Before we dive into the box score to try to make sense of last night’s game, here are some highlights-
Just the highlights show a clear push by head coach David Fizdale and his staff to get the offense moving. Memphis was attacking the basket and taking shots within the first ten seconds of the shot clock time and again, which is a welcome sight for those who have been calling for the team to pick up the tempo for some time. Now that the roster has shifted toward being younger and more athletic, this style of play fits the team more than ever before.
This plays right in to the hands of players like Brandan Wright, who posted 16 points and 8 rebounds in just 20 minutes of action against Philly. The player who made sense in trades this offseason due to seemingly being out of favor with the rotation of David Fizdale also makes all the sense in the world on this new-look Grizzlies squad. Wright’s game has always been built around athleticism, getting out and running, and finishing on lobs at the rim. That has not been a focus of the team in the past, but now that Memphis is getting into sets faster and pushing the pace, Wright should shine as the third big off the bench for the Grizzlies.
Another player who looks to be in a position to thrive in this style of play is Chandler Parsons, who had another good showing against the 76ers. By no means was it great - he only shot 2-6 from the floor in 18 minutes of play - but it’s in other areas of the game where he showed promise. 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks, and continued evidence that he’s feeling better by moving better. He isn’t all the way there - those highlights above include lots of Sixers taking advantage of Parsons either not getting back fast enough or not being able to keep someone in front of him. But small steps forward are encouraging for Parsons.
Other players who performed well...
- James Ennis III- 9 points, 7 rebounds in 23 minutes. Another example of a wing who could benefit from the new pace of Memphis. Could he fill the Tony Allen role of expert perimeter rebounder?
- Dillon Brooks- 9 points, 4 rebounds, 2 steals in 18 minutes. The young wing from Oregon is not shy. He attacked and attempted multiple shots that weren’t perhaps the most efficient, but when he takes them his confidence is clear. He believes in his game, and over time he will likely get a chance to show Memphis that they should believe as well.
- Andrew Harrison- 14 points, 5 assists, 3 rebounds, 2 steals in 19 minutes. The backup point guard conundrum has become even more convoluted. After Monday night’s showing from Mario Chalmers and Wade Baldwin IV, Harrison became the popular choice of fans for the team to move on from. This seems premature, and Andy was borderline dominant in this game. Granted his shooting wasn’t the best (more on that in a moment) but he was aggressive (6-6 from the charity stripe) and facilitated well. The Grizzlies will have a tough decision on their hands when the time comes to cut this roster down to the league-mandated 15.
It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows, even in a lopsided win. Where did things go wrong?
- Shooting. While the overall team percentage of 46.2 isn’t bad, the other two team percentages were bad to awful. Memphis shot 6-32 from three, which is 18.8%, and 18-26 from the free throw line, or 69.2%. The Grizzlies shot well in other areas of the court, such as the mid-range, but that’s not where good-to-great teams win a ton of games in the NBA today. Andrew Harrison (0-3 from three) and Wayne Selden (1-5) need to improve their shooting from beyond the arc in particular, while Selden needs to be better than 1-3 from the charity stripe.
It is just one game, of course, but improved efficiency is always a goal when it comes to the Grizzlies and offense.
There were other blips on the radar - the aforementioned missed defensive assignments from Parsons and others, Kobi Simmons’ 4 turnovers which contributed to 17 total for Memphis stand out. But the Grizzlies are without their defensive general Marc Gasol currently, and Simmons is a young player and is expected to make those mistakes. Overall, this Grizzlies team dominated Philly. They outrebounded them 57-40 while the Sixers only shot 34.8% from the field overall and 29.7% from three. There are reasons for optimism with Philadelphia, who has a team loaded with young talent, but they have a ways to go.
Memphis, meanwhile, may be better than most expect them to be. Of course two preseason games do not a team or season make, but the changes in pace and overall offensive movement are working for the Grizzlies so far, and they have yet to put Marc Gasol in to the process in-game, at least. From Parsons moving well to Wright looking more at home to Mario Chalmers performing at a high level, there is a lot to be positive about right now for Memphis as well.
The Grizzlies are now off until Monday, October 9th, when they will take on the Atlanta Hawks in Atlanta.