Memphis Grizzlies, Ja Morant win preseason opener after fire alarm suspends game
Morant drove the length of the court before trying to dunk over Milwaukee Bucks center Brook Lopez. Morant missed but responded in the third quarter with a monster, one-handed dunk down the lane as Lopez wisely moved out of the way.
Morant's dunk fired up FedExForum, and the arena was still steaming that a fire alarm went off after the period due to a sprinkler activating in a non-public area.
Fans were evacuated and both teams went to their locker rooms. After the Grizzlies announced the alarm was inadvertent, Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer and his team returned the court with their gear and walked toward their team bus.
The game was suspended by the NBA with the Grizzlies leading 87-77. Here's what we learned before things abruptly ended.
Why was the Grizzlies-Bucks game suspended?
The game was delayed for an hour because of the alarm and the Bucks' decision to leave their locker room. The NBA's official statement said "the interest of player safety" was the factor in suspending the game.
The delay meant players could be at risk hurting themselves trying to play after being idle for so long and then trying to warm up.
Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins declined to speak on the Bucks' decision to leave the locker room. He wasn't in his team's locker room as he was gathering information from Grizzlies personnel before eventually addressing his team with more information.
"No one could have foreshadowed that would've happened but great collaboration between both teams and the league," Jenkins said. "A lot of dialogue and everything and it's definitely unique but a decision was made."
Morant still in great shape
Morant finished with 27 points, six rebounds and four assists, and he pleased the crowd with a trio of dunks. He also showed off a pull-up jumper and confidence making his first 3-point attempt..
Of course, Morant thrived in the paint, where he took most of his shots. There were also some wrinkles as he and Steven Adams weren't always in rhythm on their pick-and-roll plays. But the signs were there that Morant has added more to his repertoire this offseason.
Bane, Melton show improvement
Desmond Bane and De'Anthony Melton were expected to have greater roles with Grayson Allen traded to the Bucks. Neither disappointed as both started alongside Morant, Adams and Jaren Jackson Jr.
Melton was 4-for-6 on 3-pointers with 14 points and three steals. Bane had 10 points (2-for-4 on 3-pointers). As much as Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. could have breakout seasons, Bane's potential for a breakout year can make the Grizzlies better with his shooting.
Adams, Williams introduce themselves
Adams had 11 points and 10 rebounds in his first preseason game with the Grizzlies, and he excited the crowd with a put-back dunk in the third quarter. He also showed off his passing with three assists.
Rookie draft pick Ziaire Williams made his NBA preseason debut in the first quarter and had a steal on his first possession. He also had an early assist to Adams for a fast-break dunk, scored his first basket on a left-handed layup but also picked up three fouls as a rude welcome to the NBA.
Brandon Clarke sits out
With Dillon Brooks sitting out due to thigh soreness, the Grizzlies had room to see more players. A mild surprise was Brandon Clarke not playing, as Jenkins opted for John Konchar and Xavier Tillman Sr.
Jenkins said pregame he'll be experimenting with rotations and lineups throughout the preseason. Kris Dunn made his Grizzlies debut but Clarke, who fell out of the rotation at the end of the last season, could only watch from the bench Tuesday.
Jenkins added his starters might not play heavy minutes in the preseason so younger players can fight for playing time. It's too soon to read deeper into Clarke not playing, but it's something to watch.
The Grizzlies start a two-game preseason road trip on Thursday (6 p.m., Bally Sports Southeast), starting with the Charlotte Hornets.
Want to stay informed on the latest Memphis sports news? A Commercial Appeal subscription gets you unlimited access to the best inside information and updates on local sports, and the ability to tap into sports news from throughout the USA TODAY Network's 109 local sites.