No fans in the stands, winter weather worse than many can recall in Memphis and the still-real jolt of a 31-point loss the previous day were all accounted for and surmounted by the Memphis Grizzlies en route to outlasting Oklahoma City at FedExForum on Wednesday night.
The inclement weather that forced much of Memphis shut prompted the safety-oriented decision to close the game to fans. And while the energy of the fans – even the limited numbers because of the coronavirus pandemic – is always welcomed, the Grizzlies generated the force they needed to turn back the Thunder 122-113.
After the debacle against the Pelicans the day before, Memphis (12-12) put on a noticeably better performance against the Thunder, especially on defense.
“I thought our guys did a heck of a job defensively,” said Memphis head coach Taylor Jenkins.
“Obviously, we gave up a lot of threes. I want to be able to take everything away, but I thought we did a heck of a job taking away the paint against one of the best paint scoring teams. They had to beat us from the outside. I thought we were able to do just enough to make sure they weren’t able to beat us.”
Down by one point after the first quarter, the Grizzlies took a one-point lead into halftime, held on to that margin in the third and stretched it by eight in the final frame.
Ja Morant notched a triple-double game, with 15 points, 12 assists and 11 rebounds.
“I’m always looking to share the ball. Obviously, I was missing some bunnies, but I just kept playing,” Morant said. “As far as the rebounds go, just being able to help our guys rebound the ball. …
“OKC has some guys that can crash the board, and I felt like most of the time it was my man that was crashing. So, you know just get into the box, rebound and … get out in transition. That’s what we look to do.”
Grizzlies’ center Jonas Valančiūnas, who had 22 points and 12 rebounds, has been one of the most frequent beneficiaries of Morant’s passing prowess. He recorded his 13th double-double and his fifth game with at least 20 points and 10 rebounds.
All the starters finished in double-digit points, with Grayson Allen scoring 22, Kyle Anderson contributing 20 and Dillion Brooks adding 17 points
Anderson’s improved shooting has some mentioning him in the conversation for comeback player of year.
“Just being healthy and shooting with a lot of confidence,” Anderson said of the improvement. “These last 18 to 24 months, I’ve put a lot of tedious, hard work into shooting the ball.”
He detailed “long days and nights in the gym not shooting past 15 feet for two hours. You know, it’s just paying off finally. Just getting back to where I feel like I used to be with my shot and having the confidence.”
Notes and next
- Shai Gilgeous-Alexander led Oklahoma City with 22 points, his 16th 20-point effort in 22 games this season.
- The Grizzlies’ Grayson Allen tied a career high with six 3-pointers for second time this season.
- Memphis forced 18 turnovers, scoring 23 points off of them, and 14 steals.
- Memphis outscored Oklahoma City 52-24 in the paint. The Thunder entered the game averaging 47.5 points in the paint per game (14th in the NBA). The Grizzlies improved to 11-6 this season when outscoring their opponents in the paint.
- Memphis’ Desmond Bane is still out for personal reasons and DeAnthony Melton missed another game with shoulder soreness.
- The Grizzlies improved to 5-8 at the FedExForum and have two more games left on this four-game home stand.
- Memphis is set to host Detroit on Friday night and the Phoenix Suns on Saturday.