Adversity gives way to success for dogged Grizzlies

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Terry Davis

Down by 19 points in the first quarter of the second game of a back-to-back on the road, the Memphis Grizzlies chose to build upon their budding reputation as a young, gritty team capable of winning under difficult circumstances.

The result Thursday night was a 104-101 overtime win over the previously unbeaten Golden State Warriors despite 36 points from NBA superstar Steph Currie. And this after a 20-point loss the night before against the Portland Trail Blazers.

“We did not have the start that we needed,” said head coach Taylor Jenkins. “We did not handle our business in transition. Despite being down by 17 (at the end of the first quarter), I told our coaches this is going to be a great test for our team.”

Not settling for an “A” for effort, the Grizzlies (3-2) pushed back and then past the Warriors. They cut the deficit to 10 points by halftime, six at the end of the third quarter and were knotted at 98 at the end of regulation. In OT, Memphis outscored Golden State (4-1) six to three.

“We talked better. We responded well,” Jaren Jackson Jr. said of the Grizzlies’ improved defense over the course of the game. “In the first quarter they made a lot of shots.  For the rest of the game, we made sure we were locked in to the right people on the court and not letting the shooters be wide open.”

Jackson finished with 15 points and eight rebounds in a performance that included some timely three-pointers.

Ja Morant, who entered the game as the league’s leading scoring, had 30 points, 7 rebounds and five assists, scored 18 points in the third quarter. Desmond Bane continued his hot streak on offense with 19 points and 6 rebounds.

The bulk of Morant’s points came after the halftime break. Jackson said Morant just figures things out.

“He knows how to get to his spots. He knows what he wants the defense to do,” said Jackson. “He just manipulates it. You see it time and time again.  He can make reads that many can’t.”

As for the Grizzlies’ defense, Morant said, “We locked into the game plan. We were able to get stops.  We were able to get out and run in the transition, which we love to do. It ignites our offense.”

De’Anthony Melton, who had a tough night shooting in Portland, only had seven points against Golden State. However, his dogged defense helped slow down Curry, who had 36 points at the end of the third quarter but did not score the rest of the way.

Morant’s offensive eruption in the third quarter helped offset an explosion by Curry in that frame.

“I felt like I just got out of the bed in the third quarter,” said Morant. “I was wide awake. I got out in transition and was more aggressive. Once I see a couple fall, (it) is a scary site for a team.”

Jenkins said the 2-2 road trip, which included a win over the Los Angeles Clippers and a down-to-the-wire loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, had a “lot of good learning opportunities …. We have to keep building on what we have done.”

The win over the Warriors certainly was building-block material.

“The last game of a long road trip and we bounced back,” said Bane. “It is good to get a win like this for sure.”

NEXT:

The Grizzlies face the Miami Heat on Saturday (Oct. 30) at 7 p.m. at FedExForum.

As of Thursday (Oct. 28), Shelby County Health Department Directive No. 27 lifted the mask mandate, although masks still are highly recommended for all events at FedExForum.

Through at least Nov. 19, all unvaccinated fans age 12 and older must present proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken at least 72 hours prior to entry. All vaccinated guests must show proof of at least one dose of vaccination for those same events.

For quicker access to the arena, download the CLEAR app and enter your vaccination information.