by Najee El-Amin —
Memphis’ scrappy Grizzlies have reached NBA All-Star Game Weekend. And – after a 112-111 dogfight-loss to the Milwaukee Bucks – they now are resting in advance of playing more games than any other team in the second portion of the season.
When the balls start bouncing again after the break, Memphis will face playing 40 games in just under 70 days. The majority of the games will be on the road and half of them will be back-to-back sets.
At the seasonal break, the Grizzlies rank as the 10th seed in the Western Conference. Their .500 record (16-16) isn’t enough to qualify for a playoff berth, but there’s still time and reasons to think that Ja Morant and crew can get the hill climbed.
On Thursday, the Grizzlies attempted to take down Eastern Conference powerhouse Milwaukee and the NBA’s Most Valuable Player for the last two years, Giannis Antetokounmpo. Antetokounmpo dominated the paint per usual, scoring 26 points and grabbing 11 rebounds in a performance that reminded everyone why he will be joining “Team LeBron (as in ‘King’ James)” at the All-Star Game this weekend.
The Grizzlies and the Bucks flip-flopped leads in the second half before Jrue Holiday came up big for the Bucks in the last two seconds of regulation. He knocked down a shot from the corner in the face of Memphis’ Dillon Brooks, securing the win.
Despite a really slow start in the game, the Grizzlies were fantastic, according to Memphis head coach Taylor Jenkins.
“I thought Ja (Morant) had some big plays, big finishes … stepping up and shooting those threes. A lot of confidence is great to see.”
Morant, the reigning NBA Rookie of the Year, warmed up after a cold start (zero points in the first eight-plus minutes). He ended the night with 35 points, turning in his second consecutive game scoring 30-plus points.
“I just kept shooting the ball. My teammates told me to continue to shoot the ball and I was able to get going,” said Morant, who has a game plan for NBA Weekend.
“I plan on being with my family, enjoying that time off; rest my body.”
- The Grizzlies defense has been rejuvenated by the addition of Justise Winslow. After making his first appearance two weeks ago, Winslow has been a regular face on the post-game highlight reel. He only had six points against Milwaukee but still managed to snare 10 rebounds and dish two assists.
- The Grizzlies’ stat line reflected Dillon Brooks’ strong game (23 points).
- Ja Morant’s back-to-back, 30-plus points performance was the first by a Grizzlies player since Marc Gasol got it down in 2017.