NBA home openers are memorable standing along, and when the team's new primary owner is in the house, well, you get the picture.
On Monday (Nov. 5), the 2012 version of Memphis Grizzlies took to the court at FedExForum against the Utah Jazz. It was the first game before new owner Robert J. Pera.
The Grizz got off to slow start. The game was about two minutes deep before starting guard Mike Conley broke the scoring drought with a layup. In front of 17,401 screaming fans, the Grizzlies pulled it together and went on to beat the Utah Jazz 103-94 with five players in double figures.
"We were taking too many jump shots," Memphis head coach Lionel Hollins said of the team's exit out of the starting gate. "They (Utah) were getting the ball in the paint; they were cutting, getting wide open shots. We went with the bench and they did an outstanding job of playing with more intensity and got us going."
Grizz center Marc Gasol led all scorers with 22 points, adding eight rebounds and eight assists. Hardworking forward Zach Randolph tallied 16 points, with 18 rebounds and one dunk (yes, Zbo dunked). Conley also finished with 16 points.
"For us, it's always important to get into the paint," Gasol said. "Everybody played good off the bench."
Randolph offered this assessment:
"We just have to pick it up and come out with a defensive mindset and an offensive mindset," he said. "The fans were great tonight. They had a lot of energy. We need them."
Memphis held Utah to only 18 points in the third quarter and outrebounded the Jazz 51 to 42.
Grinding on the inside, the Grizzlies nearly doubled Utah's free throw attempts, 25 to 13. Memphis converted 22 of their 25 attempts, while the Jazz was 9 for 13.
Quincy Pondexter scored a season-high 14 points in 23 minutes off the bench, as he and guard Wayne Ellington gave the Grizzlies the momentum needed to get back in the game.
"I think Quincy has always understood his role," Hollins said. "I think you've got to play well, you've got to improve your skill level."
After Utah's Al Jefferson tied the game at 61 with 4:25 remaining in the third quarter, the Grizzlies scored eight straight points and kept the lead for the rest of the game.
For the Jazz, Gordon Hayward had a team-high 19 points, with five rebounds and two assists, followed by Mo Williams with 17 points and eight rebounds.
"I thought we came out very strong in the first quarter. Later down the stretch I think we stopped executing," said Hayward.
Jazz head coach Tyrone Corbin said his team came out focused and aggressive early on both ends of the court.
"They (Grizzlies) were on the line and they had a lot of second-shot opportunities," said Corbin. "We have got to understand what cost us the game and continue to get better."
Greetings, Mr. Pera
New owner Pera briefly greeted Grizz players before tip-off.
"He seems like he can relate to us and we all can't wait to get to know him better," Conley said.
"He didn't say much," said Rudy Gay, as he laughed. "My kind of guy."
Randolph said he was excited about the new headman. "We've got a young owner. He didn't say too much."