The all-new, all-different Memphis Grizzlies handed a resounding 123-88 defeat to Maccabi Haifa on Sunday afternoon. It’s a game with several caveats, so let’s get the obvious ones out of the way right up front:
- Yes. It’s a preseason game, so it’s meaningless.
- Yes. It’s against non-NBA competition, so it’s meaningless.
- Yes. It’s just ONE preseason game, so . . . you know the rest.
And yet . . . a win is a win. And for Grizzlies fans who actually LIKE winning . . . we’ll take it. Rookie head coach Taylor Jenkins rolled out a starting lineup featuring rookies Ja Morant and Brandon Clarke, alongside Dillon Brooks, Jaren Jackson Jr. and veteran swingman Jae Crowder.
You’ve heard all the talk about “pace and space” and how the Grizzlies want to play a fast paced “five out” style. We’ve heard that before, and aside from the obvious absences of Mike Conley and Marc Gasol, you can tell the team means it this time.
While I was shooting photos for the game, I couldn’t help but notice how wide open the paint was. Everything is new. Let’s break this game down:
Ja Morant. Despite some early bumbling from both squads, Memphis took an early lead and never looked back. Fittingly, it started with Ja Morant simultaneously scoring the Grizzlies first bucket, also his own first NBA points, on a nifty drive to the basket. Morant finished with with 10 points, seven assists and three rebounds in just 19 minutes. He didn’t play in the fourth quarter.
Jaren Jackson Jr. Jaren led all Grizzlies with 19 points to go along with eight rebounds in 21 minutes. Jackson started slow, with just three points off of free throws in the first quarter. However, he woke up in the second quarter, particularly on the glass.
The Other Guys. Not surprisingly, once the Grizzlies seized control of the game in the second quarter, much of the bench got some run.
That meant extended run time for Bruno Caboclo (13 points, nine rebounds in 29 minutes) and Grayson Allen, who chipped in 18 points and handled the ball competently late it the game. Dillon Brooks scored 16 points. Jonas Valanciunas rested with foot soreness, but that gave us an early look at Clarke, who got the start at power forward, while Jackson manned the middle.
The shooting. All together now: “It’s preseason. It doesn’t mean anything.” Good.
Still, when the Grizzlies — YOUR Memphis Grizzlies — shoot 31 attempts from beyond the arc, and knock down 13 of them for a 42 percent game? It’s absolutely the biggest sign of a new day. Without the need defer to (insert burly former Grizz big man here) down on the block, the offense is wide open, fast and furious.
Who knows if they can continue to make them at this clip, but if you’ve been wondering when your Grizzlies would catch up to the rest of the NBA, well, they’re here. Jenkins spoke about that and more during his post game press conference:
Next up is another international matchup, this one with the New Zealand Breakers, a team you otherwise might not care about were it not for former U.S. prep star R.J. Hampton, who bypassed college to play pro ball down under. Anyway, it’s the Grizzlies vs. the Breakers on Tuesday night at 7 p.m.