It has been a long time coming, but after four long months the Memphis Grizzlies returned to the floor in Orlando, FL. The Grizzlies got a tough draw in a veteran Philadelphia 76ers team that, to the Grizzlies chagrin, came out firing on all cylinders while Memphis shook off a lot of obvious COVID-19 rust on both sides of the floor that resulted in a 26 point halftime deficit. The Grizzlies responded after halftime with a fiery third quarter that showed glimpses of the pre-quarantine Grizzlies. While the Grizzlies did ultimately fall 90-83, there were a lot of things accomplished in this opening scrimmage because it was just that a scrimmage.
The Grizzlies staggered their bench rotation with the 76ers starters and vice versa, allowing the players to get a number of different looks to improve upon a somewhat expected poor shooting performance in the first half (28% as a team is less than ideal) to finish the game at 39.7% and 37.5% from 3PT range. The poor offensive showing combined with providing the 76ers a number of open looks from deep made for a recipe for a disaster if it were one of the seeding games. They were outrebounded 44-41 while leaving 7 points on the table by shooting 56.2% from the charity stripe compared to the 76ers’ 83.3.%.
The Grizzlies opening effort was not as magical as their new home away from home at Disney, nor should that have been the expectation, but there were bigger things to take away from this game than what amounts in the win-loss column. The effort given by the Grizzlies was not one full of doom and gloom, as the Grizzlies showed a number of positives as they prepare for the race for the eighth seed. After a four month layoff, nobody knew what to expect but some Grizzlies stood out against the 76ers.
That being said it’s grade time.
Jonas Valanciunas – 22 minutes played, 8-13 shooting (1-3 3PT), 20 points, 11 rebounds, 1 block, 1 steal , +10 +/-
The Grizzlies center made his presence felt throughout the Grizzlies opener. Taylor Jenkins could not have asked for much better showing offensively from Jonas Valanciunas, who showed that he worked hard to stay in shape over the break as he flew around the court throughout the afternoon. The veteran center was a menace inside, shooting an efficient 70% in the paint while cleaning the boards with 5 offensive rebounds, leading to a number of second chance baskets.
While playing good interior defense against All-Star center Joel Embiid was a highlight as he played a pivotal role in his interior struggles, his perimeter defense left a little to be desired as Embiid had a number of uncontested shots from three, hitting two. Valanciunas gets a pass for his 50% performance at the free throw line as I’m sure the big man, who has shot 73% from the stripe this season, is still adjusting to the radio silent arena in the bubble.
Valanciunas is ahead of the curve so far, and if this effort is any indication, he is in store for stellar performances in the bubble.
Grade - B +
Kyle Anderson - 22 minutes played, 5-7 shooting (4-5 3PT), 14 points, 8 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block
From one standout performance to another.
Who is this Kyle Anderson and what did you do with the old one? Kyle Anderson, a player notorious for not taking threes, came out well rested and shooting threes in rhythm and at a rate he hasn’t done since college.
Kyle Anderson has not made three 3’s in a game since January 18, 2014 in a conference game at UCLA vs Utah when he went 5-5 from deep— Bryce Hayes (@nxtprodigy) July 24, 2020
Kyle Anderson is primarily known for his ability to be a defensive cheat code due to his ability to guard positions one through five but after the injury to Justise Winslow if Anderson can add the three ball to his repertoire consistently and help the Grizzlies spread the floor offensively it’s an added bonus. If Anderson continues to perform like he did today it only increases the odds of Coach Jenkins sticking with him in the starting lineup.
Grade - A
While Anderson and Valanciunas stood out, they were not the only positives. Jaren Jackson Jr. came out aggressive in his first action putting the ball on the floor showing the playmaking ability Coach Jenkins said to look forward to seeing more of all while keeping out of foul trouble in 27 minutes of play.
Of course in a loss, it can’t be all positive as the Grizzlies attempt to find their rhythm offensively and cut down on the sloppy turnovers. The bench was a low point with nobody in the second platoon netting a positive +/- as turnovers were rampant and shots simply were not falling for anyone besides Brandon Clarke. That will correct itself in time as these mistakes were expected against a tough defensive team in Philadelphia after a long absence. That improvement started in the second half as the Grizzlies responded to their slow start with a fiery 2nd half that included a 34 point third quarter.
Grizzlies fans shouldn’t panic from one scrimmage. The team has two more tuneups before stuff gets real.
GRIZZLIES GRADE - C