MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Wednesday was debut night for the Memphis Grizzlies as the Mid-South’s NBA team opened the regular season on the road at Miami. American Airlines Arena on South Beach was loud and ready for a Heat team that’s trying to get back into the playoffs after a one-year absence.
The Grizzlies are focusing on their youth movement, featuring number two overall pick Ja Morant and last season’s number 4 overall selection Jeran Jackson, Jr. It’s also the first real NBA game for new head coach Taylor Jenkins.
It was not a great start for the young bears as Memphis turns the ball over on 3 of its first 4 possessions. Miami wastes no time turning them into highlight real dunks. Heat jumped out to a 6-0 lead, but then Ja Morant Happened. The Grizzlies Rookie point guard goes to work, calling his own number offensively. Morant on scores backdoor cuts, off alley oops and hard drives to the hole.
Ja winds up with 14 points and 4 assists. He gets plenty of help in the backcourt from free agent acquisition Tyus Jones, now showing his worth as a steadying hand offensively both scoring and passing. 15 for Jones with 7 assists.
The Heat keep pace with the play of Justise Winslow. The former Duke Star was just too strong for the Grizzlies down low, bullying his way for 27 points.
But, the Griz counter with Jeran Jackson, Jr. Triple J responded from a slow start to lead the team with 17 points, but with only 3 boards and plagued with foul trouble. He and Jonas Valanciunas end up with five fouls.
Three other Grizzlies, including Morant, wind up with 4. Grizzlies lead for most of the game until midway through the 4th quarter. That’s when Miami takes over. The Heat outscored Memphis 37-17 in the final frame. Miami wins it, 120-101.
After the game, these comments from Griz Head Coach Taylor Jenkins.
“I was proud of the guys for the way they worked during 3 quarters,” Jenkins said. “We were moving the ball and hitting shots. Then the 4th quarter came and we’ve got to keep our defensive intensity up. But we’ll learn from this and watch film and come home ready to go on Friday.”
The Grizzlies now come to Memphis for the home opener. That’s Friday night against the Chicago Bulls at FedExForum.