Four games into the Grizzlies season, an epic battle was waged on the floor of the FedExForum, with Memphis’ tandem of sharpshooting guards signaling to the NBA world that when at their best they are an elite pair.
All-Star Ja Morant and his backcourt mate, Desmond Bane, each had 38 points and 7 assists as they led the Grizzlies (3-1) to a 134-124 win over Brooklyn in a game that saw the Net’s duo of Kevin Durant show out with 38 points apiece.
A crowd of 17,392 got to see in person what television audiences throughout the country witnessed and what Memphis’ Dillon Brooks aptly called “a great game to be a part of and to watch.”
“(Bane) being able to go out and do both, score the ball from all three levels and also get teammates involved, is a big key to our success this year,” said Morant. “Tonight, I felt like was his best game at doing both at a high level. As you can see, it shows in the stat book, and it shows in our win column, what that does for us on the floor.”
Bane’s multi-level effectiveness opened up the court for Morant and the rest of the team.
“Credit to our other guys, being able to knock down the three at a good clip and also get themselves involved on catch-and-go’s and other areas of the game,” said Morant.
Notably among the performances of the “other guys” was Santi Aldama’s17 points in 32 minutes of action and Brandon Clarke’s 13 points off the bench.
With his points output, Durant became the twentieth leading scorer in the history of the NBA.
“The 3-point line killed us today. The two top scorers (Morant and Bane) hit more threes than me and Kyrie Irving. We matched them in scoring, but it’s the 3-point line that separates us (9-to-16),” said Durant.
“They couldn’t stop us either. We shot 54 percent. We got to the line, like I said, we passed the ball well, did not turn it over. They shot better than us from the 3-point line.”
Morant set the tone for the Grizzlies, getting off to another great start. He finished the first quarter with 15 points as Memphis led 39-34. In the second quarter, the star power of the Nets showed up. Brooklyn outscored the Grizzlies 35-25 and took a 69-64 lead into halftime.
A 6-0 run with two three-pointers from Bane to start the third quarter quickly erased the Net’s lead and forced a timeout with Memphis up 70-69. To say the Grizzlies got hot in the third quarter would be an understatement. The team scored 45 points in the quarter, including 19 from Bane 4 of 5 three-pointers. At the end of three, Memphis led 109-97.
The fourth quarter was just a battle of wills as the teams traded baskets. The closest the Nets would get to the Grizzlies would be six points.
Morant and Bane’s 76 combined points set a franchise record for combined points by two teammates, surpassing their previous record (74) set on Feb. 16, 2022 against Portland.
“So impressive. Just the balance, the way they do it,” said Taylor Jenkins, Memphis’ head coach. “Both of them scored in the paint, free throw line, finishes at the rim, three-point shooting. …”
Jenkins reveled in the team’s “great balance,” detailing it this way: “58 points in the paint, 16 threes, all-around great effort by the group, but especially those two guys.”
Nets head coach Steve Nash said, “I thought we lost our focus there a little bit, especially starting the third. I called an early timeout, but I think we gave up 45 (points) in the third quarter. That was it. …
“It’s four weeks together tomorrow. We have to stick to the process; we have to continue to improve. We showed signs and after not a great first quarter defensively, we found our way back into the game and had a lead, but 45 is too much.”
As for Bane’s impressive second half, Nash said, “I thought we lost him too many times. We were not staying attached. We weren’t talking, so there was some confusion. He was getting space, and we weren’t able to catch up, just losing our game plan and our coverages. He got free too often. Obviously, he made everything. We gave him too many opportunities, as well.”
The Grizzlies are on the road for the next four games. They will return to FedExForum on November 4 to face the Charlotte Hornets.