Fifty-seven games into their 82-game schedule, it’s All-Star break time for the Memphis Grizzlies after a victory that came restlessly close to being wrested away by the Utah Jazz.
Cruising with a 24-point lead at one point first half, Memphis (35-22) motored down after halftime, summoning enough down the stretch in the fourth quarter for a 117-111 win at FedExForum.
The value of getting the win going into the All-Star break was noted by Memphis head coach Taylor Jenkins.
“Yeah, especially being up 24, you definitely don’t want to go into the All-Star break after losing the lead, but we survived. I think they cut it down to three at one point,” he said. “…but it’s always good to get a win going into the break. I think it’s been a minute since I’ve been here that we’ve done that, so hopefully, that’s a little bit of momentum going in.”
With “a lot of good work over the first 57 games,” Jenkins said the coaching staff was “challenging the guys to appropriately take a break from basketball every now and then and just think about what we’ve got to do to get better in the second half. But rest up, freshen up physically and mentally, and let’s get back for this final stretch.”
Headed to his first All-Star Game, Jaren Jackson Jr. had 26 points, 4 blocks and 5 steals. He also grabbed 9 rebounds and connected on four shots from deep. Ja Morant, who will start his second consecutive All-Star Game, had a slow scoring start, but finished with 20 points, 9 assists and 8 rebounds, particularly showing up in crunch time. Desmond Bane had 24 points.
Trade acquisition Luke Kennard made his home debut as a member of the Memphis Grizzlies. He was brought to the team largely to make three-pointers, connecting on his first in the first quarter. He finished with 9 points.
“It was great. I definitely heard the cheers when I first checked in,” said Kennard. “I love playing here. They love their basketball.”
Developing chemistry with the team “is going to be a process. It is not going to take as long as people think. We are pros and get thrown into situations and we have to figure it out. Everyone has done a great job of helping me out.”
While the Jazz (29-31) cut Memphis’ lead to a one-point margin late, the Grizzlies never trailed and now are in the All-Star break winners of three of their last four games.
After the All-Star break, Memphis will have only 25 games to play in the regular season. The next game for the Grizzlies will be against the 76ers in Philadelphia on Feb. 23.
Memphis’ next home game will be on Feb. 25 against the Western-Conference-leading Denver Nuggets, who will make their first visit to Memphis this season.