Who says it is too early to start talking about playoffs basketball? The fans in Memphis don’t think it is too early.
The dreaded San Antonio Spurs entered Friday’s game a half-game ahead of Memphis for eighth place in the Western Conference. Memphis defeated the Spurs, 134-121 – and if the playoffs started today, Memphis would be prepping for a first round matchup with LeBron James and the L.A. Lakers.
Memphis entered the game with their longest winning streak of the season at three wins. The Spurs put the Grizzlies in a bad Christmas spirit on December 23, defeating them 145-115 in Memphis. The season series was tied at one win each. Memphis defeated the Spurs in San Antonio on November 11.
Memphis got off to a good start thanks to some balanced scoring. Jaren Jackson Jr. and Jonas Valanciunas each had 11 points in the first half. In fact, all eleven Grizzlies players who played scored. The Grizzlies shot 44.4 percent from the floor and made all eight of their free throws. Memphis largest lead swelled to 15 points.
The Spurs cut into the lead and only trailed 63-57 at the half. The Spurs were led by DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge, who each had 13 points at the half. DeRozan also had six assists in the first half.
The game was cleanly played in the first half. The Spurs had five turnovers and the Grizzlies only had two turnovers. Ja Morant quietly dropped off seven assists and six points in the first half with nlo turnovers.
In the third quarter, the Grizzlies pulled out to a 10-point lead, but the Spurs would not be denied. DeRozan scored 18 points in the third period. San Antonio cut the Grizzlies’ lead to four points on several occasions, but Memphis would push the lead back up.
Jackson had eight points in the quarter. A turnover as the period was ending led to a layup for the Spurs. The Spurs ended the quarter down only two points 100-98. The Grizzlies were not having any of that and went on an 8-0 run to start the fourth quarter, taking back momentum, and sealing the game.
Memphis had 39 assists in the game – one short of the franchise all-time record, but still the most assists in a game since the team relocated from Vancouver to Memphis. Morant finished the game with 22 points, 14 assists and only two turnovers.
“They embrace our style of play. We have a ton of unselfish players and low ego players and has led to our trend on the offensive end” said Taylor Jenkins on the progress of his team.
Morant was most proud of having only two turnovers in the win. He feels that he has been playing very poorly lately and wanted to cut down on the turnovers.
In all, seven players scored 20 or more points in the game. Three by the Spurs (DeRozan 36, Aldridge and Byrn Forbes each had 21 points). In addition to Morant, Memphis had three players (Jackson 24, Valancinunas 21, and Brooks 22).
Memphis would hold off the Spurs to move into the eighth spot in the playoffs. The Grizzlies (17-22) are currently on a four-game winning streak, their longest of the season. They have a golden opportunity to stretch that streak on Sunday when they host the Golden State Warriors.