Nobody likes to lose, but losing can offer valuable lessons. The Memphis Grizzlies haven’t had the start to the season they anticipated. They’ve experienced the most games missed due to player injuries but never used that as an excuse.

Reflecting on the early losses, Jaren Jackson Jr. said, “I think it was just about having more games to play together and getting comfortable. Win or lose, we were going to grow. I think the losses just pissed us off, actually. We already had a fire lit, but you never know how much more can be ignited until you’re down a bit. Then you’re like, ‘Alright, f— this, let’s go.'”

The Grizzlies recently faced the Orlando Magic at home. Lessons from earlier in the season helped Memphis (18-27) edge out a win over the Magic (107-106). Jackson played a pivotal role, scoring 30 points and grabbing eight rebounds.

Head coach Taylor Jenkins commented on the team’s ability to halt runs and make critical plays. “A couple of things stood out. I must give credit to our bench unit. They came in, especially in the second half, and helped build a lead when the Magic went on a run. We improved our execution, point-of-attack defense, and help defense. That end-of-game play where Joe Ingles gets a great look, and Franz Wagner almost tips it in, showed our team’s resilience. I told the guys that our defense improved from the first quarter to the second,” Jenkins said.

Jaren Jackson and Orlando Magic F Paulo Banchero battle for possession during a Jan. 26, 2024 game at FedExForum. Memphis won 107-106. (Photo: William Weeks/Tri-State Defender)

Memphis quickly doubled Orlando’s score (18-6) with 7:39 left in the first quarter. Behind Paolo Banchero’s 10 first-quarter points, the Magic clawed back, tying the game at 31-31 by the quarter’s end. Banchero, however, sat out the end of the quarter with three early fouls.

The Magic led by five points at times during the second quarter. However, a 10-2 Grizzlies’ run with 1:55 left gave them a 60-54 lead, and they went into halftime ahead 68-59, marking the largest lead for either team.

Four Memphis players reached double-digit scoring in the first half. Jackson had 18 points, Luke Kennard 12 points and five assists, and Ziaire Williams 10 points. Both teams shot 55 percent from the field. The Grizzlies connected on 12 three-pointers, compared to the Magic’s four, outrebounded them 21-15, and had 18 assists.

In the third quarter, the Magic narrowed the gap to 72-69 with a Cole Anthony three-pointer at 8:12. They managed two three-pointers in the first four minutes but couldn’t overtake Memphis, which led 90-84 going into the final quarter.

Banchero’s free throws with 3:20 left (103-100) made it a one-possession game. Although the Grizzlies led by as many as 11 points in the quarter, Orlando used a 15-6 run to come within two with 2:54 remaining and within one with 4.7 seconds left. Ingles’ 3-point attempt at the buzzer hit the rim, securing Memphis’ win.

John Konchar gets Jitty with it at the rim! (Photo: William Weeks/Tri-State Defender)

Despite being smaller, Memphis outrebounded Orlando 43-40. Jackson attributed this to a team effort. “I think we did a good job, not relying on one person. Everyone’s got to be engaged, especially on boards. We did well as a group,” he said.

Ziaire Williams had a significant impact off the bench, scoring 17 points. Reflecting on his performance, Williams said, “I’ve just been taking it one day at a time, taking the good with the bad. Staying true to myself, putting in the work, and I’m glad it paid off today.”

This victory marked only the fifth home win for the Grizzlies this season, complementing their 13-12 road record. Jackson remarked, “It’s always good to win here. We’ve had a better record on the road, so winning at home means a lot. Every game from now on is crucial. We’re fighting to make a push, and every game will be played with playoff intensity.”

The Magic were led by Banchero with 27 points and six assists. Wendell Carter Jr. contributed 20 points and nine rebounds, while Moritz Wagner added 18 points. Jonathan Isaac and Markelle Fultz each had 10 points.

David Roddy tied a career-high with 10 rebounds. Kennard scored 15 points with five assists, Santi Aldama added 14 points and seven rebounds, and Vince Williams Jr. finished with 11 points. The Grizzlies, having recorded 30 assists, achieved this feat in their last three games, all wins.

Kennard spoke on the team’s recent performance. “Guys are hitting shots. We’ve been focusing on playing with the pass and moving the ball. It’s shown in our recent games, where we’re getting good looks on offense.”

Next up, the Grizzlies will embark on a one-game road trip to Indianapolis, IN, to face the Pacers on Sunday, Jan. 28, at 2:30 p.m. Central. They return home to play the Sacramento Kings on Monday, Jan. 29, at 7 p.m. at the FedExForum.