Grizzlies guard Mike Conley has been in the NBA long enough to know not to read too much into preseason play. But in a season where new Head Coach JB Bickerstaff is stressing a return to a stifling defensive identity, it’s the offense that has Conley’s attention — an offense that ran away with the Atlanta Hawks in a 120-110 win.
It was a refreshing bounceback from a blowout loss to the Houston Rockets on Thursday 131-115. Granted, it’s only preseason, but the Grizzlies are averaging 117.5 points over their first two games — and on a team that’s historically struggled to score, that’s encouraging, Conley said.
“For the first two games we’ve been able to score at a good clip,” said Conley, who finished with 11 points and three assists on 5-10 shooting. “You look up there and we’re making the ball go in the hole, doing the right things.
“And still getting yelled at for all the details the small things,” Conley added with a chuckle. “But that’s the biggest thing. As much as we’ve been harping on defense, the offense has taken a step up.”
A big part of that offensive boost came from Marshon Brooks, who poured in 18 points in a flawless shooting night in which he went 7-7 and made all three of his 3-point attempts.
“There’s not too many guys that are more natural shooters than he is,” Bickerstaff said. “However you want it he can give it to you. He can catch and shoot, put it on the floor and create. He’s got floaters, he’s got runners, any kind of way he needs to score the ball, he can score.”
“I just wanted to play well and get my teammates involved,” said Brooks, who earned his current contract after several scoring binges late last season. “I was 7-7 today, but that’s unrealistic. I’m going to miss shots. I just felt like if I could get into the paint and distribute to my teammates, it’ll take my game to another level.”
Marc Gasol led all scorers with 21 points and Chandler Parson put together another solid game, with 11 points. Rookie forward Jaren Jackson Jr. scored six points to go with seven rebounds. Tyler Dorsey led the Hawks with 18 points, while Atlanta rookie Trae Young delivered 15 points and five assists.
Memphis led most of the game and built a 29-point lead in the fourth quarter. For all of the offensive fireworks, the Grizzlies scored 29 points off of 25 Atlanta turnovers, and held the Hawks to just 37 percent shooting through the first three quarters. It wasn’t until both coaches cleared their benches late in the game that the Hawks mounted a late but meaningless run.
“Our guys competed at the end, that’s the message,” said Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce. “We were flat, we fouled too much, we turned the ball over, but we finished by competing and that’s important for this group.”
Memphis has a quick turnaround with a rare home back-to-back, when the Indiana Pacers arrive Saturday night.