The Memphis Grizzlies managed to claim their first win of the 2023-24 season Sunday evening, besting the Portland Trail Blazers by a final score of 112-100 and, in turn, halted their winless slide down the standings at six losses.
Aside from a lousy showing against the Utah Jazz back on November 1, each game the team has taken part in thus far has been rather close, though, unfortunately, they’ve struggled to secure a lead before the sounding of the final buzzer.
Fortunately, this streak came to an end during their latest bout against the Blazers, and, during his postgame interview, coach Taylor Jenkins dished on a key rotational alteration that helped pave the way to win number one.
Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins dishes on desires to ‘play bigger’ against Blazers
"“We had [Xavier Tillman] in the starting lineup as he just kind of felt a little soreness before the game, it kind of crept up just a couple of minutes after pre-game warmups so we just wanted to be smart, precautionary reasons. And then just, I wanted to trust [Bismack Biyombo], I wanted to play bigger,” Jenkins said. “Then [Kenneth Lofton Jr.] got an opportunity, Santi [Aldama] back in the lineup. It’s kind of a comfort level for us. We’ve been trying to play small ball with some big lineups but I kind of wanted to go 48 minutes of big against a big Trail Blazers team.”"
Taylor would continue to heap praise upon the play and overall impact of newcomer Biyombo during the interview, saying he was “phenomenal” and proceeded to highlight his “screen setting, the playmaking, the rebounding, the blocked shots” that he contributed.
During his second game and first start as a member of the Grizzlies, the veteran registered a +18 box plus-minus rating and finished with 8 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists, and 3 blocks (altered several others as well) and converted on 50 percent of his shot attempts.
His efficiency proved to be contagious for the team as a whole, as Memphis pulled down 49 boards (10 on the offensive side of the floor) and shot 50.6 percent from the field and 40.6 percent from deep.
This showing against Portland appeared to be far more reminiscent of their highly successful ground-and-pound brand of play over the last two seasons than the perimeter-oriented game plan they’ve been attempting to run with Xavier Tillman manning the middle during the six games coming in.
Though there’s no definitive answer at this time as to whether Jenkins will opt to revert back to the aforementioned small-ball lineups moving forward, based on his upbeat comments and their overall success in Sunday’s win there may be a real possibility that Biyombo finds himself once again slotted into the primary pivot position in their next outing against the Miami Heat.