Jaren Jackson Jr. rolled out a dominating performance but it was not enough for Memphis to overtake the Portland Trailblazers in the first game of the Grizzlies’ reset NBA season.
Playing in the bubble environment in Orlando, Memphis fought hard before succumbing in overtime 140-135.
Jackson scored 33 points and was a force on defense with multiple blocked shots.
“I am happy that we battled back,” said Jackson. “We can’t wait until later to do it. It was a learning experience.”
Portland powered through the first quarter, attacking the rim and getting easy shots from inside of the paint en route to 61-percent-plus shooting. The Grizzlies relied on the long ball, connecting with the three-point shot. Memphis made four long-range baskets, including three by Jackson. Jackson and Jonas Valanciunas each scored in double figures in the frame (10 and 11 points respectfully).
No offense flow in first half
Memphis struggled to get into any type of offensive flow. Ja Morant and Kyle Anderson combined for only three points. The big men kept the Grizzlies in the game, with Jackson and Valanciunas combining for 28 points. Brandon Clarke had 10 points and Josh Jackson had 6 points off the bench. Eighteen of the points came from the free throw line.
Morant’s first points of the game came with 2:20 left in the first half. While Memphis’ offense did begin to pick up as halftime approached, a late three-pointer by Portland gave the Trailblazers a 68-60 lead going into the break.
Morant scored 20 of his 22 point in the second half.
“I just had to me more aggressive,” Morant said in his post-game assessment. “I put this loss on me. I have got to be better in the first half.”
As for the second half, Morant said, “I read the defense and made the right reads. Everything started to open up for me.”
Team has no quit
After falling behind by 13 points to start the third quarter, the Grizzlies went on a 15-4 run to cut the deficit to two points (79-77) with 6:52 left in the third. With Morant more engaged in the second half, Memphis surged to an 11-point lead that shrank to three (96-93) by the end of the third quarter.
In overtime, Memphis got off to a slow start. Portland scored the first 11 points, including three 3-pointers, to push the lead to 155-144. Memphis cut the deficit to three points, but could not narrow the gap beyond that.
Defense has to be better
Portland ended the game shooting 53.8 percent from the floor, with Carmelo Anthony hitting some important three-point baskets late in the fourth and in overtime to secure the win for the trailblazers. C.J. McCollum had 33 points and Damian Lilliard had 29 points to lead the way for Portland. Anthony, a late season pickup, added 21 points.
Memphis head coach Taylor Jenkins said the Grizzlies must do better defending with out fouling. The Grizzlies committed 26 fouls that lead to 34 free throw attempts.
“I don’t think we played up to our standard in the first half giving up 68 points,” said Jenkins. “We struggled on the ball, we struggled with our rotation and they made us pay in the first half.”
Who’s got next?
The Grizzlies will face the San Antonio Spurs on Sunday at 3 p.m. CDT on Fox Sports Southeast. The Spurs, who are behind the Grizzlies in the standings, won their first game in the bubble.