Opening night is always filled with anticipation, especially this year for the Memphis Grizzlies. Coming off their best season in team history and playing in San Antonio, the team that swept them in the Western Conference Finals. Furthermore, there is the aspect of letting Lionel Hollins leave the team and hire Dave Joerger, a six-year assistant, to bring in some up-tempo offense. In addition, the preseason was up and down, many fans were starting to worry if the Grizzlies had peaked last year. Needless to say this opening night for Memphis was a little different.
Coach Joerger used the same starting lineup that was starting the games at the end of last year. There was a question if Tayshaun Prince would start, as he played very little in the preseason due to illness. However, he started and played well in the first quarter scoring seven quick points, he even hit a 3 on a fast break. The Grizzlies took a two-point lead into the start of the second quarter, the offense was playing OK and they had seven fast break points, but were still missing a lot of open shots. Furthermore, when the game slowed down the Grizz did not dump it down into Randolph, he only had one real touch in the first quarter. Once the second quarter started it all went downhill, the Spurs outscored the Grizzlies 30-7 in the quarter. Memphis shot 2-of-18 in the second, with many of the shots being wide open. Therefore, at halftime the Grizz were down 21 points, looking like they did not know what hit them.
The second half was better for the offense, but it is not hard to improve on a seven-point quarter, Memphis did out score the Spurs in both the third and fourth quarters. The Grizzlies had it down to a six-point lead, but could not keep the Spurs from hitting big shots. The defense never got going for the Grizz, they left the Spurs too many open 3s and layups. It looked like the lack of offense really hurt the defense throughout the game. The bench did play much better in the second half, with Quincy Pondexter and Mike Miller both in double digits. Furthermore, Kosta Koufos played great minutes off the bench with seven points and three rebounds in 14 minutes.
The Good and The Bad
Marc Gasol and Tony Allen were the only two starters who played well. Gasol had 14 points and nine rebounds, Allen led all scorers with 15 points hitting all three of his 3-point attempts. As mentioned before Pondexter, Miller and Koufos played well off the bench. In addition the Grizzlies shot 53 percent from behind the arc, Pondexter and Miller both hit two 3-point shots. Now onto the bad, Zach Randolph had probably his worst opening night of his career with only two points on 1-of-6 shooting, however, it was not all on him as the team must do a better job getting him the ball in the post earlier. In addition, Conley had a forgettable game shooting 7-of-17 from the field and missing all three of his 3-point shots. It felt like he settled for jump shots throughout the game, instead of trying to get into the lane and the fact that he shot no free throws proves his lack of aggression. Lastly the Grizzlies had seven fast break points in the first quarter and then only four the rest of the game; with that few of fast break points it would make sense for Randolph to have a big game in the paint, but that did not happen either. All in all the offense was not able to find any kind of rhythm; thank goodness they have 81 games to figure it out.
The Spurs are Kryptonite
Since 2011, including last night, the Memphis Grizzlies are 1-7 against the Spurs, that does not include the four-game sweep in the playoffs. Therefore, if you include the playoffs the Grizzlies have lost 10 of 11 to the Spurs. Many of the games, like Wednesday night, have not been pretty losing by double digits. The Spurs are not a good matchup for the Grizz, with Duncan and Splitter being able to guard Gasol and Randolph one on one, which hurts the scoring chances for the rest of the Grizzlies. Furthermore, Tony Parker is one of the few point guards that can out quick Conley and he gives Memphis fits every game. Sometimes there are matchups that do not work for teams and the Spurs are a terrible matchup for the Grizzlies no matter how you slice it.
Memphis Grizzlies Moving Forward
Last night was the first game of 82, there were good things and bad things, but again it was the first game. Coach Joerger is still trying to figure out his lineups with both the starters and bench, however, with Miller and Pondexter playing more in the second half it spaced the floor in a way that can give the bigs room to operate. With the Pistons coming to Memphis on Friday they will have to get ready quickly as they do not want to start out with two losses.