Saddled with the tag of not being able to close out games, the Memphis Grizzlies clamped down on the Golden State Warriors and continued a recent run of fourth-quarter success on Saturday night.
Holding a tenuous 104-100 lead heading into the decisive fourth, the Grizzlies refused to allow the Warriors to tie the game or get any momentum to take the lead. With three minutes left to play, it was all over but the shouting. Memphis (43-27) won its eighth straight home game with a 133-119 win over road-weak Golden State at FedExForum.
“Defensively we have been trying to figure some things out,” said Memphis head coach Taylor Jenkins, reflecting on the Grizzlies being able to successfully close out games in recent weeks.
“Execution-wise, we have been knocking down some shots. I think we are playing with a really good rhythm. It is a product of putting the work in and watching the film.”
The win knotted the season series with Golden State at 2-2 and moved the Grizzlies closer to clinching a playoff spot. And, it followed one of their most compelling games of the season. On Friday, the Grizzlies were down by 29 points to the San Antonio Spurs. They came back to win in overtime (126-120).
Memphis now has won eight in a row at FedExForum. Golden State suffered its 11th consecutive loss on the road.
Santi Aldama, who had 15 points and 7 rebounds off the bench for the Grizzlies, put Memphis’ recent success in closing out games this way: “We learned from our mistakes. We are starting to play our own basketball. In the past, we were just stopping, but now we are playing our own game and it is showing.”
The Grizzlies showed no ill effects from having played the heavy-minutes overtime game against the Spurs the previous night. They came out with energy and had a 10-point lead (22-23) – despite the 11-point outburst off the bench by the Warriors’ Johnathan Kaminga – after the first quarter.
The Warriors closed to within four points (36-32) in the second quarter before the Grizzlies surged to a 15-point lead (61-46) that Golden State rallied to whittle to eight points. At halftime, Memphis led 71-59.
The Warriors started quick after the break, cutting Memphis’ lead down to 73-66. With 7:29 left in the third quarter, Kuminga hit a three-pointer to pull the Warriors to within 4 points (80-76).
Dillion Brooks stepped up and helped the Grizzlies trigger a 6-0 run as he and Desmond Bane hit back-to-back three-pointers to quickly push the Memphis lead to 10 points (86-76). With Jordan Poole (22 points) continually getting to the free-throw line, Golden State closed to within four points going into the fourth quarter.
And with the way the Grizzlies have been playing late as of late, advantage Memphis.
The Warriors were led by bench scorers: Kuminga (24 points and 8 rebounds) and Poole with 21 points. With the Grizzlies leery of the scoring prowess of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, each of the “Splash Brothers were held to 16 points.
Jaren Jackson Jr. dominated for he Grizzlies with 31 points and 7 rebounds. Bane had 26 points. Tyus Jones, who has been starting in the absence of All-Star guard Ja Morant and recorded his first career triple-double against the Spurs, had 13 points and 14 assists.
Brooks, who has a running verbal battle with several of the Warriors, had 18 points on 7 of 19 shots and kept the prolific Curry in check most of the game. He and Thompson jawed at each other throughout.
“He’s got four (championship) rings. That’s all he was saying,” said Brooks. “It’s motivation to us. We want a ring as well. We need to go through the process of steps that we did last year, and you keep going and learning from it all. It’s friendly trash talk, but you know, I just hold a lot of real estate over there in San Francisco.”
Brooks said he took the court against the Warriors with four hours sleep after the Friday night comeback against San Antonio.
“I just wanted to really lock in on our details and try to be the best I could be or the best player that I could be the next game,” he said. You’re on such a high winning those types of games and then automatically try to lock back in … we did great.
“We had some minor lapses in the second quarter, or in the third quarter, but we found a way to figure it out, and that’s just us being who we are and doing it our way and figuring out each and every game how to get better.”
The Grizzlies held the Warriors to 119 points, below their season average. After the final horn sounded there were no friendly handshakes often seen at the end of NBA games.
With the 11-game winning streak Memphis notched earlier this season as a point of measurement, Jenkins was asked how close the Grizzlies are to that point.
“It is hard to compare because we had a different roster then,” he said. “Our guys are able to be locked in on what our expectations are. For me, it is finding a grove with this group. Understanding what our standards are and our priorities. The ball movement is huge.”
Morant, who was suspended eight games by the NBA following a high-profile infraction after a game in Denver, is eligible to rejoin the team on Monday (March 20) as the Grizzlies host the Dallas Mavericks. However, he is not expected to make his return in that matchup.
On hand for the Memphis-Golden State battle was former Memphis Grizzlies star and fan favorite Zach Randolph, who was saluted for his upcoming induction into the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame this summer.