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Report Card: Grizzlies’ comeback falls short against Orlando

Ja Morant’s fourth-quarter magic was not enough in Orlando.

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Memphis Grizzlies v Orlando Magic Photo by Fernando Medina/NBAE via Getty Images

Yesterday, the Memphis Grizzlies traveled to Orlando for their penultimate preseason game. The Grizzlies have had a solid preseason so far, going 2-1 ahead of Tuesday’s game. Head Coach Taylor Jenkins has not hesitated to play his starters, in the last two preseason games, and Tuesday was no different.

It was a rough start for the Grizzlies as they went down 9-2, early. The Magic’s first-quarter lead grew to 18, with Memphis struggling to find the bottom of the net. Off of the bench, Brandon Clarke helped cut the score to 31-17 at the end of the first.

Memphis started 0/6 from three and even shots from the paint were not falling for the Grizzlies. Ja Morant only made two of his 11 first-half shots and was 0/4 from deep to start the game. Morant was not the only guard whose shot was off – Tyus Jones started 0-3, missing his patented floater, over and over again. Dillon Brooks could not get anything going, only making four of his 13-shot attempts.

Desmond Bane gave the Grizzlies a much-needed burst in the second quarter. Bane scored 11 in the period and showcased his ability as a three-level scorer. Paolo Banchero starred for Orlando in the first half. He went to work on Santi Aldama and Brandon Clarke to get clean looks inside. Banchero operated like a veteran as he drew contact on his drives, getting to the free-throw line often.

Despite Memphis’s poor shooting, the Grizzlies were only down seven at the end of the first half. Memphis drove hard to the basket and frequently got to the line. In the first half alone, the Grizzlies shot 15 free throws to the Magic’s six. Bane was the game’s leading scorer at the half with 17.

NBA: Preseason-Memphis Grizzlies at Orlando Magic Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports

In the third quarter, the Grizzlies came out hot, cutting the lead to three. However, Memphis’s shooting woes continued and Orlando’s lead bubbled to 11 midway through the third. Up until a David Roddy dunk with 2:49 remaining in the third, the Grizzlies were 6/18 from the field in the quarter.

After a Caleb Houstan three-pointer extended the lead to 12 with two minutes to go, Santi Aldama scored six straight, including a third-quarter buzzer-beater, to make the score 77-71 after three.

The momentum Memphis gathered at the end of the third helped the Grizzlies to come out hot in the fourth. The Grizz started the fourth with Jones, Jake LaRavia, Roddy, Clarke and Aldama. LaRavia had an impressive drive, and Clarke hit an uncharacteristic midrange jumper to cut the lead to four.

Bol Bol was a force in the fourth quarter, reeling in rebounds and blocking everything in his path. Bol delivered a dime to Houstan to extend the lead to eight before hitting a three of his own to put Orlando up double digits.

After a Memphis timeout, the Grizzlies scored 10 unanswered to cut the lead to one. Other than a John Konchar triple, Morant scored the rest of Memphis’s points during the run. At one point, Bane was called for an offensive foul that negated a Morant dunk which would have given Memphis their first lead of the game. Jenkins had treated the first 44 minutes of play as a regular season game, and he was not taking a break now.

After an unsuccessful coach’s challenge, Konchar made another three to tie the game at 95. Memphis closed with Morant, Bane, Konchar, Brooks and Xavier Tillman. With 42.5 seconds remaining, Tillman fouled Terrence Ross on a three-point try, sending the veteran to the line with Orlando up three. The lead now five, Morant made a contested layup, absorbing the contact and drawing the foul.

Out of the timeout, Franz Wagner hit a stepback three over Clarke to make the lead five with 32 seconds to go. Wagner then stole the ball from Morant and the lead grew to seven with 19 seconds left. After a creative out-of-bounds play resulted in a Morant dunk, Memphis forced a turnover and Bane drilled a three. The Grizzlies scored five points in five seconds but it was not enough as Cole Anthony knocked down free throws to seal a 109-105 Magic victory.

In perhaps Memphis’s most competitive game yet, the Grizzlies fell short. While there were plenty of mistakes in Tuesday’s game, Memphis also flashed some bright spots for fans to look forward to when the Grizz play their first regular-season game in a week’s time. Now for a deeper look at Memphis’s individual performances against Orlando.

Desmond Bane - A+: 33 Points, 11-18 FG (4-6 3P) 1 Assist, 1 Rebound, 2 Steals

Whenever Memphis needed a spark on Tuesday, Bane provided it. After only scoring two points in the first quarter, Bane went on a tear in the second and came up big in the fourth. After shooting 1-7 from deep against Miami last Friday, Bane found his shot against Orlando. His jumper looked as clean as ever and he made four of the Grizzlies’ nine three-pointers. What really stood out from Bane’s performance was his burst off of the dribble. On many drives in the second quarter, he showed an enhanced acceleration that could make him one of the league’s best three-level scorers.

Ja Morant - B-: 23 Points, 8-24 FG (0-6 3-PT, 7-10 FT) 4 Rebounds, 4 assists

Through three quarters, Morant was not the Second Team All-NBA guard Grizzlies fans have come to love. Morant’s shot did not look right and he did not seem comfortable. The Magic have many great shot blockers, which made Morant’s drives to the paint increasingly difficult. His jumper was off and his floaters were hitting the back iron. His aggressiveness led to 10 free throws but he only had 11 points in the first three quarters. While he did start off poorly, without Morant’s heroics in the fourth, Memphis would not have been in the game. In the final quarter, he was finally making his signature push shot and he helped spark the Grizzlies’ late run. Even on an off day, Morant finished with 23 and proved he can not be contained for four quarters.

John Konchar - B: 6 Points, 2-5 FG (2-4 3P), 4 Rebounds, 2 Assist, 1 Steal

While he only finished with six points, Konchar did what he does best – get rebounds and drill spot-up threes. His two triples came in the final six minutes and were pivotal to keeping Memphis in the game. Konchar soared for boards and defended well when matched up with Wagner. Jitty played 25 minutes, the most of any bench player and he was part of Memphis’s closing lineup. With only one game left before the regular season, Konchar has proven he is a crucial role player for the Grizzlies.

NBA: Preseason-Memphis Grizzlies at Orlando Magic Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports

Santi Aldama C+: 10 Points, 3-6 FG (0-3 3-PT), 8 Rebounds, 2 Assists, 1 Block

Aldama has been a revelation during the preseason but he did not find the same success he had against the Magic last week. He failed to make a three-pointer but he made all of his two-point attempts. Aldama reeled in eight rebounds, including four offensive rebounds. His scoring toward the end of the third quarter kept Memphis within fighting distance but he was a non-factor in the fourth. Aldama was often matched up with Banchero, who torched him in the first half. Banchero’s shiftiness and shotmaking from the midrange were too much for Aldama. His defense will need to improve as he is expected to fill in for Jaren Jackson Jr. until he is back from injury.

Dillon Brooks - C-: 10 Points, 4-13 FG (1-6 3-PT), 2 Rebounds, 4 Assists, 1 Block, 3 Turnovers

Brooks shot early and often against Orlando. He was 2-6 in the first half and 3-11 through three quarters. While DB had some strong takes, he took many contested jumpers that banged off of the front of the rim. Brooks matched up with Banchero some in the Grizzlies’ first preseason game against Orlando, but on Tuesday, Brooks guarded Wagner for most of his possessions. Despite taking 13 shots, Brooks had four assists, something he said he would like to improve this year.

Grizzlies Turnovers - B+: 13 Turnovers

In Memphis’s first preseason game against Milwaukee, the Grizzlies committed 22 turnovers. Against Orlando, a week ago, Memphis turned the ball over 27 times. Last Friday versus Miami, the Grizzlies had 19 turnovers. Memphis cut their turnovers down to 13 on Tuesday. However, Orlando turned these turnovers into 31 points. Memphis turned 21 Magic turnovers into 17 points. This was the story of the game as the Grizzlies were dominated in transition, an area they thrived in last season.

Still, the Grizzlies had their lowest turnover count of the preseason. Last year, Memphis averaged 13.2 turnovers per game. If the Grizzlies can remain close to that number, they will continue to be one of the West’s top contenders.

Overall Grade: B

Despite the loss, Memphis gave a valiant effort. They played some of their worst ball of the preseason and still almost came away victorious. The Grizzlies treated this like a regular-season game, playing their starters to the very end. While they might have come up short on Tuesday, the Grizzlies are ready for the regular season.

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