Ja Morant, who already had a posterized dunk over Jacob Poleti that reverberated through the league, added another on Wednesday at FedExForum. (Photo: Warren Roseborough/The New Tri-State Defender)
Terry Davis

For a team that has lost to the Memphis Grizzlies eight straight times, the San Antonio Spurs certainly can be a troublesome bunch. They were so again on Wednesday night at FedExForum before succumbing 135 to 129.

Memphis (28-13) had to hold on to defeat the Spurs (13-29) even though they entered the fourth quarter with a 15-point lead. With 1:43 left to play, San Antonio had cut the Grizzlies’ lead down to three points (130-127) before a 5-2 Memphis run closed out the game.

Ja Morant, who returned to the starting lineup after a two-game absence (thigh soreness), scored four of the final five points. For the fifth time, Morant scored 30-plus points against the Spurs. This time he finished with 38 points and five assists.

Morant scored 21 points in the first half.

Ja Morant scores on a three over Tre Jones. (Photo: Warren Roseborough/The New Tri-State Defender)

“He got the soreness out, had rest, had a good workout the other day, good workout this morning. To come out, he had a pop to him for sure,” said Memphis head coach Taylor Branch, who noted a Morant “high-level dunk as “a momentum play for us.

“He was huge for us tonight: 38-points, assists, rebounds. … This (was) a tough game. … They throw a lot of different looks out there, but he got to his spots. When he does and he plays at that level, it’s really important to us.”

Morant said he felt “pretty good” after missing the last two games.

“I had a couple of days off, but that didn’t stop me from working. Credit to our staff in the training room and in the weight room for keeping me in shape,” he said. “It’s different when you actually get on the floor. A little bit of fatigue set in, but all in all, I feel good.”

The Spurs started the game with more energy and fire than the Grizzlies. They took an early lead and held on to it for most of the opening quarter, doing it by committee. Of the 10 players getting minutes in the first quarter, nine scored. Jeremy Sochan had seven points and the Spurs led 37-32 going into the second.

As Desmond Bane goes for three over Romeo Langford of the Spurs, fans signal that it’s going to be good. It was. (Photo: Warren Roseborough/The New Tri-State Defender)

Memphis countered with six three-pointers in the first five minutes of the second quarter to pull away from the Spurs. Desmond Bane drained two, one of which was closer to the half-court line than the three-point arc. Santi Aldama also made two three-pointers as the Grizzlies led 54-44 with 7:07 left in the first half and were up 14 (76-62) at the half-time break.

Bane had 15 points in the half and 18 for the game, including four of five shots hit from deep. Dillon Brooks went scoreless as foul trouble limited him to 10 minutes. He finished with seven points and five rebounds. Tyus Jones had 16 points off the bench. Steven Adams had 11 points and 18 rebounds.

Jaren Jackson Jr. dominated – again – on the defensive end. He had two blocks, 21 points and a career-tying 12 rebounds.

“ I don’t have to do too much, I just know my role,” said Jackson. “Everybody’s playing their role defensively. The numbers show. I know our team numbers and how they end up translating. I know when we’re winning games, we usually end up top-two in defense. I know that’s what it’s really going to take in the playoffs.”

Kiedon Johnson led the Sours with 14 points. Tre Jones had 22 points and 6 assists. Zack Collins had 14 points and 12 rebounds off the bench. The Spurs only had 12 turnovers in the game, which allowed them to stay close to the Grizzlies for most of the game.

Next:

The Grizzlies travel to Indiana to play the Pacers on Saturday (Jan. 13) and return home to play the Phoenix Suns for the Martin Luther King Jr. Game on Monday (Jan. 16) on TNT.