Memphis Grizzlies basketball is back. And in some ways, it is as if it never left.
Memphis played an absolutely awful first half against a very good opponent in the Philadelphia 76ers. Then, in the third quarter they decided to play with more pace and space and as shots began to fall the energy and movement that made this group so fun to watch before the season’s suspension in March returned. The outcome - a Philly win and Memphis loss - isn’t as important as the state of things for the Grizzlies heading in to the games officially counting again starting next week.
Some quick takeaways from the first Grizzlies basketball in 4.5 months.
The first half was really bad
Really, really bad.
Memphis had more turnovers (14) than made baskets (10). Philly shot 51% from the floor and also held the Grizzlies to under 29% shooting in the first two quarters of the 40-minute scrimmage. Memphis was led in made threes by Kyle Anderson, with two (he would up making four!) Jonas Valanciunas and De’Anthony Melton made shots from beyond the arc, and no one else did - like Jaren Jackson Jr. or Dillon Brooks.
That isn’t all because of rust. Philadelphia is very good defensively, and Memphis struggled with their length early on in terms of their passing and attempts at the basket. But the Grizzlies could have controlled their environment better - too many uncontested threes were shot by the 76ers and Memphis did not go out in transition well enough, or often enough.
But it also wasn’t all bad. Even in the first half flashes of growth were shown - Jaren was active both as a rebounder and passer. Ja was slashing and cutting off ball. While it didn’t amount to winning basketball in the first half, these scrimmages are more about executing and working through issues.
Boy did Memphis do that in the third quarter.
The third quarter was terrific
Now, an important fact to point out - Joel Embiid did not play in the second half. On top of that, the Sixers treated the fourth quarter like an NFL team would in a preseason game, emptying their bench. Coach Taylor Jenkins opted to ride with the starters all the way to the end.
Being without an All-Star surely matters, and the Grizzlies being in the mix at the end surely had to do with Philly’s approach. But as poorly as the Grizzlies played in in the first half, they did that well in the third quarter especially (when outside of Embiid the Sixers key players were still on the floor). Dillon Brooks stepped up and hit shots. Jaren made some threes and also did a wonderful job with dribble penetration and even created an open corner three opportunity for Brandon Clarke - which he converted!
From Melton made threes to better defensive energy, the 34-18 third frame showed the resiliency that Memphis displayed throughout the season before it was suspended. They executed their offense and were much more efficient defensively. It didn’t ultimately culminate in a victory, but it did make for better basketball and something to build upon.
The Grizzlies are back in action Sunday evening against the Houston Rockets. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 PM.