It’s only happened four times this season and – before Wednesday night – not once on the Memphis Grizzlies homecourt at the FedExForum.
With streamers finally falling from the rafters, the Grizzlies (4-13) won their first home game of the 2023-24 campaign, beating the Utah Jazz (6-12) by 14 points (105-91).
Newcomer Bismack Biyombo responded with a smile when asked about the win. “You even smiled when you asked the question,” he said, responding to a reporter. “Every struggle that happens in our lives has a purpose. We just have to grow and learn from it.”
Saddled with a four-game current losing streak and a 0-8 winless mark at home, the Grizzlies tipped off against Utah with a different look. Head coach Taylor Jenkins changed the starting lineup, inserting forward David Roddy and point guard Derrick Rose to help address a string of slow starts.
“Those guys responded,” Jenkins said. (David Roddy) had a heck of a first half. I thought he was locked in on the defensive side, let the game come to him on the offensive side. Derrick was phenomenal tonight. Just his pace of play, nine assists, obviously the scoring ability … it was great.”
Roddy finished with 19 points and 6 rebounds. Rose had 14 points in 26 minutes of action.
The Grizzlies got off to a good start offensively thanks largely to Roddy, who scored 8 first quarter points. Desmond Bane had 7 points in the quarter. After making the game’s first basket, Memphis fell behind by as many as 7 points before a rally pulled them to within one (25-24) as the quarter ended.
The second quarters of games have been bad this season for the Grizzlies. Double-digit deficits have set up the need to fight just to back into the games. But not Wednesday night, as the Grizzlies dominated and outscored the Jazz 36-17 to take a 60-42 lead into the half.
Roddy connected on his season-high of 5 three-pointers in the first half.
“I don’t know. It is just the energy we needed on the defensive end that turned into a lot of offense,” said Roddy, putting his fast-start into context. “I had a lot of shots today. I was in a good rhythm and relaxed.”
Ziaire Williams was effective off the bench as he scored 9 points in the second quarter and that included his first fast-break lob dunk of the season.
The Grizzlies kept the pressure on Utah in the third quarter as the lead ballooned to 25 points. The quarter ended with Memphis up by 21 (88-67).
Jaren Jackson Jr. and Bane – the duo that has carried the offensive workload for most of the still-young season, took over in the third quarter. Both had 8 points in the frame. Jackson led the Grizzlies with a season-high 6 blocked shots and a game-high 20 points, along with 6 rebounds. Bane had 17 points and 9 assists.
A 9-0 run by the Jazz cut the Grizzlies’ lead to 16 points (92-76) with 9 minutes left to play. The Jazz continued to chip away at the lead, but the Grizzlies responded with timely shots that helped maintain at least a 10-point advantage.
John Collins led Utah with 17 points. Simone Fontecchio and Jordan Clarkson had 12 points each. The Jazz connected on 16 three-pointers, but the Grizzlies did not allow them to go on massive runs.
“It’s great to get that one (the firs win at home) under the belt,” Jenkins said. “Obviously, the fans were phenomenal tonight, turning out with us struggling at home. I think, hopefully, they can be proud of the competitive juices from our guys and how they responded, holding the Jazz to 91 (points) when they’ve been basically averaging 120-plus against us.’
The game followed what Williams said may have been the toughest practice of his career as the Grizzlies sought to reverse fortune on a rough start to the season that still has star-guard and floor-general Ja Morant eight games away from completing a 25-game, NBA-imposed suspension.
“Really impressive, the carryover from the last couple of days, but even just what we’ve been talking about all season long,” said Jenkins. “You’ve got to keep chipping away, keep fighting and all that stuff. This was an example of it, but as I told them, don’t be satisfied. This isn’t good enough.
“We’ve got to be (even) better … moving forward. This sets a tone, home or away, but to get that first (win) on your home circumstances is really good.”
Jackson took note of what signals a home win – “The streamers, the ‘Grizz Win’ sign, not hearing that one song that comes on after a loss. … It makes you appreciate this win, but there’s totally more to do, and there’s more coming for sure. It’s gonna be a good next month.”
Next up for the Grizzlies is a three-game road trip – the Dallas Mavericks on Friday (Dec. 1), the Phoenix Suns on Saturday (Dec. 2) and the Detroit Pistons on Dec. 6. The next home game is Dec. 8 against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Tuesday (Nov. 28) was national giving day. Jackson, who made a donation to Girls Inc., said, “We’ve been doing great work for a long time. I work with so many great organizations and great people – me and my team. It goes beyond anything in the workplace. And making a difference, especially around holiday time, to put a smile on somebody’s face, is everything.
“It was great. Holiday time we turn up. We always like to do that stuff around holiday time. So it’s special and it means so much to me.”