Jaren Jackson Jr. is sidelined, likely for the rest of the season. Mike Conley was resting with thigh soreness. Avery Bradley also out with injury. Add in an Oklahoma City Thunder team that starts two All-Stars (Russell Westbrook and Paul George) that’s also fighting for playoff position. It’s a perfect recipe for a Grizz loss, if not a Grizzlies blowout, right?
So, of course, contrarian team that they are, the Memphis Grizzlies zipped out to a 16-2 first quarter lead and never looked back, riding career performances from Delon Wright and Bruno Caboclo to a wire-to-wire win over OKC. Final score: 115-103.
“Our guys play extremely hard and when you do that consistently, good things will happen for you,” said Head Coach J.B. Bickerstaff after the win. “It’s a compliment to those guys for sticking with it, you know? (Some media members) asked if we were waving the white flag. I think (this game) answered that for everybody.”
In this week’s print edition, I’ll be rewinding to a piece I wrote a few weeks ago about likely wins and losses the Grizzlies would encounter as they try to “convey the pick” But in short, like these Grizzlies like to do, they seem to rise up to beat the Houstons and the Oklahoma City’s of the world, but fall to bottom feeders like the Washington Wizards and Minnesota Timberwolves. That said, my math had them needing 31-33 wins to convey, and they just might hit that.
As for the OKC game, this version of the Grizzlies did something that was virtually unthinkable back in January: they dominated the glass, outrebounding the Thunder 57-41. Meanwhile Caboclo had a career night, scoring 24 points to go with 11 rebounds. Delon Wright subbed in for Conley admirably, dropping 18 points and dishing a career-high 13 assists, two of which were late-game breakaways to Caboclo for game-sealing baskets.
“Coaches have been doing a good job of just telling me to keep penetrating into the paint and either finish or find my teammates on the perimeter,” said Wright after his first career double-double. “I think I did a good job of that today and it translated into assists.”
And Jonas Valanciunas continued his “Marc who?” campaign, with 18 points, 14 rebounds (Marc WHO?) and two blocks. Valanciunas is averaging 23.5 points and 16.8 rebounds in his last four games.
The Grizzlies now have 30 wins on the season, which strangely enough will mark the first time the franchise has posted a 30 win season. Either they’ve been in the 20s or upwards of 40-wins, but never in the 30s. Right now, the Grizzlies have the eighth worst record in the league, trailing the New Orleans Pelicans who have 31 wins.
Next up, the defending NBA Champions, the Golden State Warriors in their first appearance at FedExForum this season. Of course, the Grizzlies are overmatched. Which means they’ll probably win. Tipoff is at 7 p.m.