In a lot of ways, the Grizzlies could have won this game. But when you looked at who was available on these teams’ respective rosters, Memphis never really had a chance, at least on paper. Without Jaren Jackson Jr., Brandon Clarke, Grayson Allen, Kyle Anderson, and Dillon Brooks, this team was a whisper of itself out on the court.
And it showed. Shortly after the game began, it was obvious that the Grizzlies would fall short tonight. After a Ja Morant bucket and a Xavier Tillman 3-point play that lead to an early 5-0 start, things would fall into disrepair.
The first quarter was plagued with unnecessary turnovers and wide-open missed shots. The 3-point disparity was one of the worst I’ve seen as a Grizzlies fan. By the end of the first half, Memphis was 1/18 from the 3-point line, while the Suns were 13/25. The first made three for Memphis didn’t come until late in the half, when Tyus Jones was given a second chance after an offensive rebound.
This lackluster 3-point shooting showed as the starters began to tire, allowing the start of a run by Devin Booker, Chris Paul, and the rest of this loaded Phoenix team. This run, by the way, was caused by awful, uninspired defense. The Grizzlies’ starters were pulled, but the bench didn’t do anything to help out. The run would continue and a Memphis 11-9 lead quickly turned into a 32-15 deficit.
Overall, the game would be highlighted by this team playing awful defense and underwhelming offense. Ja played a forgettable game and Jonas Valanciunas took care of things down low as well as anybody could have asked. It seemed like the Grizzlies just didn’t have enough guys to get the job done tonight.
The loss was bad, but there were some positive takeaways for Taylor Jenkins’ Grizzlies.
We finally got to see Justise Winslow suit up for the Grizzlies at the 6:29 mark of the first quarter. At first, this didn’t look like a good thing. He couldn’t hit a shot, starting the game by missing 9 consecutive shots, adding on two missed free throws along the way.
I know what you’re thinking: where are the positives? The bright side of Winslow’s game today didn’t show up on any stat sheet. While he shot poorly and was clearly getting some early rust out, he was playing his heart out on the court. You could tell he was enjoying being back out there, playing hard on both ends. His defense was strong and his game was aggressive, finishing with 9 points on the night after settling in during the second half.
But aggressiveness was not something that this team saw much of in the first half. Thankfully, this would change. This team bounced back in the second half, instantly marching out onto the court with more energy. Bane and Morant came out on fire, leading a much-needed scoring barrage to start the third quarter.
At the end of the day, this team missed the guys that were watching from the sideline in street clothes, but they bounced back well in the second half. It was a poor performance, but hopefully, these guys will learn something from that horrible, horrible first half.