The Memphis Grizzlies hosted their first preseason game against the Orlando Magic and while there have been changes, Memphis looked a lot like the team that finished last season.
Nine players did not play in the preseason opener on Saturday against the Milwaukee Bucks, which the Grizzlies won 107-102. Memphis kept their winning ways going by controlling the Magic in a 109-97 win.
Familiar faces – Ja Morant, Dillon Brooks, Desmond Bane, Steven Adams and Brandon Clarke – all played against the Magic. Morant (22 points) and Santi Aldama (21) led the team in scoring.
Aldama, who has faced health challenges since joining the organization, came into the season healthy, even adding some weight for effectiveness. He has been given the first opportunity to fill the void as Jaren Jackson Jr. recovers from an injury.
It’s the preseason, but for the record, the win over the Magic was triggered by the Grizzlies’ defense and their bench play. The Grizzlies had 23 steals. The reserves had 42 points and showed some flashes of the bench play from last season.
The Grizzlies took the early lead and never looked back. And, with 5:18 left in the first half, the loudest cheer occurred. Superstar point guard Morant picked off an errant pass and streaked for a 360 dunk.
Up next, the Grizzlies will host the Miami Heat on Friday (October 7) at 7 p.m.
“I’ve really liked what I’ve seen from Santi (Aldama) all summer, but the last two games, just an aggressiveness on the offense end. He’s doing a great job of spacing the floor, being in the right spots. His teammates are finding him. He’s shooting with confidence – that’s the word we’ve been talking a lot about with him.” – Grizzlies head coach Taylor Jenkins
“I’m big on guys setting the tone. Everyone has an opportunity to make that impact, but when Ja (Morant) is doing that on both sides of the floor, especially now, really making that a focal point for him… Him becoming the best two-way player he can be is only going to help the Grizzlies become the best version of ourselves. I love that he is attacking that side of the floor. Now, the challenge is to do it every single night on and off the ball.” – Grizzlies head coach Taylor Jenkins
“Through Summer League, we had a lot of good workouts and hard work. We worked on shots and defense, getting stronger. I’ve done it before. I’m not doing anything new out there. That’s where I get the confidence from. – Grizzlies forward Santi Aldama
“I will say, I feel way stronger. I can bump into people now. That’s the thing I like the most, that change of mindset. I’m stronger now, so I can take the physicality to them instead of just taking it. I think that’s the best. Doing a bit of everything is what I like to do.” – Grizzlies forward Santi Aldama
“Pretty much just showing (that) I can guard. Using my athleticism, how fast I am… on defense to disrupt ball handlers, contest shots, and make shots harder for the defender. Coming into this season, that was one of my goals, to be better on that end. Get steals, force deflections, get out and run.” – Grizzlies point guard Ja Morant
“It felt good man. But, preseason, regular season, playoffs, if I’m out there on that floor, I’m giving 100 percent at all times. That’s pretty much my mindset coming into any game no matter what it is.
“As far as getting along with my teammates, building that chemistry, we’ve been working with each other a lot. Doing 5-on-0, 5-on-5 stuff during training camp. My film study allows me to also be ahead, knowing where to put them in certain situations where they want the ball. I can say it’s easy, but it’s not.
“Obviously, you can do all of that, and the other teams still have different coverages and stuff they want to run. So, it’s just me making the reads, and whatever I see, I tell that to the team and we execute from there.” – Grizzlies point guard Ja Morant