There were a lot of feel-good moments on opening night for the Memphis Grizzlies. And as hometown-favorite, Derrick Rose, noted about the FedExForum crowd’s reaction to his first game as a member of the Grizzlies, “That is cool, but we lost.”
The New Orleans Pelicans spoiled the home opener by snatching a 111-104 win on Wednesday night.
Two former Memphis Grizzlies legends – Tony Allen and Zach Randolph – got the crowd revved up as they introduced the starting lineups for the Grizzlies. Randolph had his jersey retired last season and it is expected that Allen will have his hung in the future.
Memphis, which played without All-Star guard Ja Morant (suspension) and starting center Steven Allen (season-ending knee injury) opened with an impressive first quarter. Jaren Jackson Jr., the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, blocked three shots. Desmond Bane had 10 points. Newcomer (by trade) Marcus Smart and Xavier Tillman Sr. had six points each.
Rose, who starred at the University of Memphis and was the NBA’s No. 1 draft pick in 2008, entered the game to a standing ovation with 4:04 left in the first quarter, which ended with the Grizzlies ahead 28-25.
“Well deserved, man,” said Bane of the crowd’s welcome-back acknowledgment of Rose. “He’s a Memphis legend. He’s the best player (that) ever played there. To come back here and lead us and contribute to winning here, it’s almost like a picture-perfect story.”
The Grizzlies were far from perfect shooting and Rose was asked why the team missed so many open shots.
“I really don’t know,” said Rose. “I’m in the same boat. I missed a ton of floaters (that) I normally hit. It is just one of those nights. It is just the first night.”
New Orleans dominated the second quarter, opening up a 15-point lead with 3:54 left in the first half. The Pelicans continued to cause problems for the Grizzlies in the third quarter but the Grizzlies would not quit, trailing 82-70 as the quarter ended.
Key among the elements that contributed to the loss were rebounding and bad three-point shooting (12 of 43 for 28 percent).
Former No. 1 draft pick Zion Williamson had 23 points and 7 rebounds for the Pelicans. Brandon Ingram contributed 19 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists. Former Memphis center Jonas Valančiūnas had 12 points to go with his 12 rebounds.
Bane led the way for the Grizzlies with 31 points, 5 rebounds and 5 assists. Tillman did what he could to keep Memphis competitive on the boards, grabbing 12 rebounds while scoring 17 points. Smart also finished with 17 points. Jackson tallied 8 points, 5 rebounds, and 3 assists.
Bane reflected on takeaways from the game.
“The things that we talked about early on before training camp even started, the first day of training camp, media day, had a team meeting… (we) talked about rebounding, body language, transition defense. In the first half, our transition defense struggled a little bit. We tightened it up, but we gave away too many second-chance points. Teams are going to make shots. We’ll make shots and we’ll miss shots, but staying positive and keeping our swag is Grizzlies’ basketball, and we didn’t have that for 48 minutes tonight.”
Next up for the Grizzlies are the Denver Nuggets, who visit FedExForum on Friday (Oct. 27), with tipoff set for 6 p.m. The game can be seen on Bally Sports.
“We’ll watch the film from our game … And then after we watch that film, all eyes turn to Denver,” said Bane. “They’ve got a lot of talent. We’ll do everything we can to slow them down.”
Playing his first game for the Grizzlies, Smart said, “It felt good. It definitely wasn’t the result we wanted, but I’ve never seen a championship won in the first game. We have 81 games left. It’s part of it. I’ve been doing this for a long time.”
As for building chemistry and going forward, Smart said, “For us, and for me personally, it’s important to continue to find these guys and continue to build confidence in my guys. We had a lot of shots there that just didn’t go in for us, both in the paint and outside the paint.
“And for me, we have a bunch of young guys who continue working, and every day I’m in the gym and seeing them work, I have to continue to find them and give them the confidence that they need to keep going because we’re going to need everybody.”