The Memphis Grizzlies hosted their home opener Friday night against the Chicago Bulls.
The energy the team got from the home crowd was greatly received and the team responded by building and maintaining a comfortable lead for much of the game.
But learning to close out a game will be a recurring theme with these young cubs. The Bulls rallied at the right time to steal a 110-102 win, sending a capacity crowd home contemplating the loss.
The faces of the franchise – Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. – did their part in the first half to keep the team on the right track. They helped build a 60-47 lead going into the half, and kept it until the waning minutes of the third quarter.
With the Grizzlies’ starters on the bench, Chicago trimmed the lead down to 81-79 entering the fourth quarter.
“Our team took a big step defensively, coming out and setting the tone,” said Grizzlies head coach Taylor Jenkins. “We had to face some storms in the third quarter. We can’t stray away from who we are going to be, but this is a great growth opportunity for us.”
The fourth quarter was hotly contested. Chicago finally took the lead on a Coby White three-pointer with 3:54 left in the game, but Grizzlies guard Dillon Brooks answered with a three-pointer of his own.
The teams went back and forth for the rest of the game, but ultimately a more experienced Bulls team was just too much for the young Grizzlies. Zach Lavine dropped a game-high 37 points on Memphis to go with White’s 25 points. The Bulls outscored the Memphis 31-21 in the fourth period, and that was that.
Despite the loss, Jenkins praised his team’s improvement.
“I thought there was more consistent offensive production,” Jenkins said. “Chicago had a different style of play than Miami defensively against us. I think we did a great job against that in the first half and not so much in the second half.”
Jackson had a double-double (23 points and 11 rebounds). Morant finished with seven points, and five assists, but had four turnovers. Rookie PF Brandon Clarke pitched in 14 points off the bench. And playing in only his second game after sitting out the preseason, Jonas Valanciunas scored 10 points and grabbed 13 rebounds.
Jackson, who has struggled with foul trouble so far in his career, picked up his third personal midway through the second quarter, but played smart defense and didn’t foul again until the final frame.
“We played hard,” Jackson said. “We played with an aggressiveness. There was no fear. Everyone came in and did their roles.”
Memphis will be in search of their first win of the season when they host the Brooklyn Nets and Kyrie Irving at FedExForum on Sunday October 27 at 5 p.m.
Memphis native Thaddeus Young contributed five points in the first half for the Bulls. Now in his 13th season, the former Mitchell High standout played last season with the Indiana Pacers and finished the game with seven points.
TSD Photographer Warren Roseborough put down his camera long enough to be honored during the Ashley Homestore salute to veterans. Roseborough served in the U.S. Army and currently works at the VA Hospital, where he’s expected to retire soon.