The Memphis Grizzlies took on the San Antonio Spurs in the first game of the 2020-2021 season. FedExForum was empty when it comes to fans, an unfortunate reminder of the ongoing pandemic in our country. The Grizzlies struggled mightily at times, an unfortunate reminder of the youth and injuries currently dictating part of the narrative as this team develops in year two of this full rebuild.
It’s not going to be easy. It is going to take time. We were reminded of that in this one.
Some quick takeaways.
One really, really bad quarter
Memphis started hot in the first quarter, building a multiple possession lead early on and taking a three point advantage in to the second frame. The third quarter was only slightly worse for the Grizzlies, as they won that period 35-33. Five point lead, with the Spurs winning the 4th 32-31! Four point win! What could go wrong?
The second quarter, that’s what.
The energy went way down, especially when Ja Morant went out of the game. The defense struggled to rotate and switch, and they allowed way too many open looks. Offensively the team lost its way as well with regard to what brings them success - attacking in and scoring around the paint. They settled far too often, and the combined lack of execution and effort meant a 36-20 2nd quarter for the Spurs.
San Antonio is young, but they have veterans like Patty Mills and DeMar DeRozan that will take every inch you give them. Memphis played well at times...but the abysmal 2nd quarter doomed them in a lot of ways.
Ja Morant cannot do it alone
Coach Jenkins has said leading up to the season that Ja Morant cannot be expected to carry the load alone with Jaren Jackson Jr. and Justise Winslow out. Unfortunately, that was indeed the case for Memphis in this game. Ja did his part - a new career high in points with 44, nine assists, and a literal takeover of the fourth quarter that included a self alley-oop off the glass...he simply could not be stopped by the Spurs. But where San Antonio had seven players in double figures, Memphis only had three - Ja, Dillon Brooks, and Jonas Valanciunas. And even those two, who did shoot efficiently, were flawed in their performances. Brooks once again had foul issues and fouled out, and Jonas’ defensive limitations were on full display in that dud of a second quarter.
There simply wasn’t enough two-way production by players not named Ja Morant. Ja was the only player on Memphis in the positives in +/- at +10. The next best? Grayson Allen, -3. If that becomes a trend, the Grizzlies will flounder without Jackson Jr. and Justise Winslow.
Memphis has Chrismas off at home! The Grizzlies are back in action Saturday night against the Atlanta Hawks.