The Memphis Grizzlies started their projected regular season for the first time against the Orlando Magic. After a comeback win led by the rookies and sophomores in the first preseason game, it was time for the vets to get some action, and they did not disappoint.
After a slow couple of minutes from both teams to start the game, the Grizzlies began to take over in the first quarter. Santi Aldama started the game 2-2 from behind the arc and Ja Morant finished a nice Eurostep layup that got the scoring started. A nice run got the Grizzlies out to a 10-point lead, but the Magic responded with a run of their own cutting the lead to just four at the end of the 1st.
The second quarter was more of the same as the teams traded buckets and sloppy plays in a very high-paced game. Aldama continued to show his range as he improved to 4-4 from behind the arc. The Grizzlies also continued to play great defense holding the Magic to just 42 points on 37.5% shooting from the floor.
Before halftime, they had also turned their 16 forced turnovers into 22 points in spectacular fashion, including a 360 jam from Morant and a nice outlet pass from John Konchar to Ziaire Williams.
The Grizzlies surged into halftime leading by 14 behind really good halves from Ja Morant and Santi Aldama with 17 and 14 points respectively.
The 3rd quarter started as more of the same for the Grizzlies starters as they extended their lead to 20 behind more incredible plays from Morant and a quick 5-0 run from Desmond Bane. However, the Magic were not going to go away easily with an 8-0 run of their own led by Cole Anthony. There was also a lot of sloppy basketball, which is to be expected in preseason, but 47 turnovers between the two squads through three quarters is still ridiculous. The Grizzlies responded again though and went into the 4th quarter with a 17-point lead.
The 4th quarter was more of the same. Dillon Brooks found Brandon Clarke on a very nice alley-oop slam which effectively ended the night for most of the Grizzlies rotation players. The younger Grizzlies, with rookies Kennedy Chandler, David Roddy, and Jake LaRavia, were able to hold onto the lead winning 109-97. Now for the Grades.
Ja Morant- A+: 22 Points, 7-11 FG (7-10 FT) 7 Assists, 4 Rebounds, 3 Steals, 0 Turnovers, +25
Morant looked even faster and more agile than he has in past years, which seemed impossible based on his first 3 seasons. Ja was patient and read the defense very well, deciding when to score and when to find his teammates. When he was on the court, the Grizzlies played with a pace and swagger that was already in mid-season form. He got to the rim whenever he wanted and called it “easy” in the post-game press conference. It seems like we are in for another incredible year of watching Morant dazzling on the court.
Santi Aldama- A+: 21 Points, 7-9 FG (4-5 3-PT) 6 Rebounds, +9
The biggest question of the offseason was what would the Grizzlies do without Jaren Jackson Jr.? It was defiantly answered by Aldama tonight. He was able to score both inside the paint and on catch and shoot opportunities, starting 4-4 from behind the arc. He was efficient and played some pretty solid, connective defense. Obviously, he is not Jackson Jr. on that end of the floor, but he was definitely serviceable on that end. It is exciting to see Aldama continue to improve as his minutes increase and it will be important if the Grizzlies want to get off to a hot start.
Brandon Clarke- B+: 13 Points, 5-9 FG, 5 Rebounds, 1 Assist, 1 Steal, +8
Clarke did what he has done since he came into the league, scoring efficiently in the paint, especially on floaters. Defensively his rotations were not the best and he gave up a few open threes, but overall he was definitely a positive. It’s good to see that his play from the playoffs last season has carried over, and the work he put in during the offseason will become apparent as the season goes on.
Desmond Bane- C+: 11 Points, 5-13 FG (0-5 3-PT), 6 Rebounds, 2 Assists, 2 Steals, +15
Bane had an off-night, which is extremely rare for one of the statistically best shooters in NBA history. You will not see him go 0-5 from behind the arc very often, I’d even bet that it won’t happen again this season. The last thing Grizzlies should be worried about, however, is Bane’s jumper. The good thing is that he clearly worked on his handle and his ability to score off the dribble, so he now has a counter for those few games where his shot is not falling. Bane also got a lot of good looks, if he hit the shots that he usually does tonight he would’ve scored 20+.
Dillon Brooks- D+: 9 Points, 2-7 FG (2-5 3-PT), 3 Rebounds, 2 Assists, 1 Block, 5 Fouls, +12
At media day, Dillon Brooks joked that he would be using all of his fouls this year, and that was certainly the case tonight. Brooks was in foul trouble for most of the game, picking up four of them before halftime, and it definitely hindered his effectiveness. He took some bad shots and was a little too ambitious on his takes to the basket as well. Brooks did play really solid defense against 2022 first overall pick Paolo Banchero though, as he was a big reason why the rookie scored just 8 points on 2-9 shooting with 4 turnovers.
Grizzlies Ball Movement-B+: 27 Assists on 36 Made baskets
The Grizzlies’ ball movement and offensive sets looked awesome tonight, resulting in a lot of open looks for everyone on the court. As was the case last season, most of the Grizzlies’ passes came off assists. The only reason they don’t get an A or even an A+ in this category is because of the turnovers. It’s only the 2nd preseason game and was the 1st for the entire starting lineup, but having 27 turnovers is not acceptable. They will get more refined as the season goes on and the turnovers will decrease, so it’s not anything to be worried about for now.
Overall Grade: A
All things considered, this was a really solid performance from the Grizzlies. There is a lot to improve on, just as there is for every NBA team before the beginning of the Regular season, but the foundation for a contender is there. Grizzlies fans should be ecstatic for what’s to come for the rest of the season.