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Grizzlies 109, Magic 97: Magic struggle in preseason opener

Paolo Banchero and the Magic struggled with their shot and ball protection against the Grizzlies

NBA: Preseason-Orlando Magic at Memphis Grizzlies Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

The opening possession of the Paolo Banchero era went well.

The No. 1 pick intercepted a pass and went coast-to-coast for the lay-in, giving him his first bucket against an NBA team.

But that would be the only lead of the game for the Orlando Magic as they dropped their preseason opener to the Memphis Grizzlies, 109-97.

Like the majority of a Magic team that is still shaking off the rust, Banchero struggled with his efficiency and ball protection.

He had eight points, two rebounds, one assist, two steals, one block and four turnovers in 24 minutes. He shot 2-for-9 from the field, missing both of his three-point attempts, and made all four of his free throws.

Banchero did show off his handle and ability to finish at the rim when he beat his defender off the dribble and threw down a two-handed dunk.

Starting alongside Banchero was Jalen Suggs, Cole Anthony, Wendell Carter Jr. and Mo Bamba. Orlando was without Franz Wagner, whose workload is being managed after his impressive offseason EuroBasket run with Germany’s national basketball team, as well as the expected absences of Markelle Fultz (toe), Gary Harris (knee) and Jonathan Isaac (ramp up).

The Magic shot just 39.7 percent from the field and had 25 turnovers that led to 33 Memphis points. Jalen Suggs, following offseason surgery to address a stress fracture in his ankle, had five turnovers in just 17 minutes, including one easily-intercepted pass that led to a Ja Morant 360-dunk.

“Just kind of the lack of everyone playing super organized basketball like that,” Anthony said of the turnovers. “In practice, we haven’t really scrimmaged too much and honestly we’ve had limited practice time too so that’s probably a big testament to that. That’s the best way for us to kind of clean that up is to kind of get out there and get it out of our system. It’s preseason, that’s what we’re gonna do.”

That inefficient and sloppy play did not apply to R.J. Hampton, who was first off the bench and went on to play a team-high 25 minutes. It was a very encouraging start to the preseason for the 21-year-old Hampton, particularly after he struggled in Summer League, as he operated within the flow of the game and didn’t show the reckless abandon he has had a tendency of playing with while running the point. He finished with 14 points on 6-for-11 shooting and had seven assists while turning the ball over just once.

Anthony had a team-high 17 points, going 4 of 8 from deep. Moe Wagner also was efficient from the outside, finishing with 15 points on 4-for-6 shooting from three. Terrence Ross added 12 points off the bench and Devin Cannady made three of his four attempts from deep for nine points. The Magic bench combined for 12 of the Magic’s 18 made threes in the game as the team combined to launch 54 attempts from deep (33.3 percent).

Second-round pick Caleb Houstan was scoreless in 10 minutes during his debut, missing all four of his three-point attempts. Bol Bol also made his Magic debut, recording one point, six rebounds and two assists in 20 minutes.

The Magic couldn’t stop Morant from making his way into the paint as he led the Grizzlies with 22 points in 22 minutes. Second-year forward Santi Aldama added 21 points.

The Magic are back in action on Thursday as they begin a Texas back-to-back in San Antonio against the Spurs. They then play the Dallas Mavericks on Friday before returning home for games against the Grizzlies and Cleveland Cavaliers to wrap up the preseason.