A seven-point loss in an exhibition game played in a pandemic-forced “bubble” in Orlando on Friday provided a starting-point glimpse of the road ahead in the Memphis’ Grizzlies hunt for the NBA Playoffs.
The first of three such tune ups, the scrimmage pitted Memphis against the Philadelphia 76’ers and it was not a pretty start. Outscored 25-12 in the first of four 10-minute periods, the Grizzlies were down 54-28 at halftime.
Memphis, which shot much better in the second half, will be looking to build upon that performance in Sunday’s exhibition against the Miami Heat. The game is set for 7 p.m. and can be seen online at grizzlies.com.
The Grizzlies and other teams are operating in a “NBA bubble” in Disney World’s ESPN Wide World of Sports. With the novel coronavirus still raging, players will live and play games in isolation.
The first of the playoffs-seeding games in this COVID-19 altered season is July 31.
Three takeaways :
* Improve shooting to start the game
Memphis showed plenty of rust early on, missing wide-open shots and layups en route to shooting 28.6 percent from the field in the first half. That improved after the break, with the Grizzlies shooting an overall 39.7 percent for the game.
De’Anthony Melton connected on three of his five shots from three-point range in the second half. The team made 12 three-pointers in the game, with Kyle Anderson, who has never made more than two shots from deep in a game connecting on four against the Sixers.
Ja Morant, who hit on only 3 of 12 shots, offered this assessment.
“I was missing shots that I normally make. I have to continue to get my rhythm back,” he said. “I believe we are capable of a lot. I dished the ball well today and some guys stepped up and made some shots.”
* Defensive woes compounded by turnovers
Memphis has to improve its perimeter defense. Philadelphia shot 51.2 percent from the floor and 46.7 percent from three-point range. The Sixers made seven shots from beyond the three-point arc. The Grizzlies also were out-rebounded 22-19.
Turnovers did not help Memphis either. Philadelphia scored 19 points on 14 turnovers.
The Grizzlies showed much more energy in the second half and, notably, the team had only five turnovers after the break.
* Control the tempo
Head coach Taylor Jenkins stresses the importance of the defensive end of the Grizzlies’ game dictating the offense end. Just the opposite was on display in the first half, with things improving after halftime.