In the not-so-distant past, a Sacramento Kings six-game winning streak would have struck many as an oxymoron – a figure of speech that just made no sense.
The Kings team that the Memphis Grizzlies played at the FedExForum on Tuesday night came in with present-tense body language suited for the outcome: A 113-109 road win recorded as the seventh straight victory for 10-6 Sacramento.
The Grizzlies (10-8), who now have lost four of their last five, had reason to think that good fortune was on their side. Ja Morant, who was scheduled to be reevaluated on Friday regarding the condition of his injured ankle, delivered a pre-game surprise.
Memphis’ All-Star point guard let it be known that he was ready to go, a conclusion that junked the week-to-week projection of time he would be out with the injury.
Morant led all scorers with 34 points, which he meshed with 7 rebounds and 6 assists. Power forward Jaren Jackson Jr., whose minutes have been restricted as he returns from an injury, nonetheless finished with 22 points, 5 blocked shots and three rebounds.
Ahead by three (31-28) at the end of the first quarter, the Grizzlies trailed by six (64-59) at the half. They scored the first 4 points of the second half in two minutes and six seconds, forcing a Sacramento timeout.
Then the wheels came off. Memphis shot 30 percent in the third quarter, only scoring 17 points, with a slew of consecutive, empty trips on the offensive end. Five turnovers that led to points for the Kings worsened the mix.
“Too many turnovers and missed opportunities,” said Memphis head coach Taylor Jenkins of the underwhelming third quarter. “We missed 25 shots in the paint. They got 26 points off of turnovers.
“Credit to (the Kings’) activity, but also some undisciplined offense (for the Grizzlies). I thought we had great looks from the three-point line, we just couldn’t get them to fall. Just offense hurt us in the third.
Morant, too, had a matter-of-fact assessment.
“We missed shots. We got some open looks, we missed, and they turned our misses into points, turned our turnovers into points. They put us in a hole to where we had to fight back late in the game.”
Down 99-85 with 6:06 left in the game, the Grizzlies became THE Grizzlies with a 16-5 run that had them within three (104-101) with 1:16 remaining after two free throws by Dillon Brooks.
Memphis had a couple of opportunities to tie the game. Morant was fouled with 1.7 seconds left and the Grizzlies again trailing by three (111-108). He missed the first, made the second and purposely missed the third, attempting to set up a scoring opportunity on the rebound.
“We were down double digits. We just kept fighting for 48 minutes,” Jenkins said. “I think they’ve been on an historic offensive pace, and we held them to close to 20 points below their average. I love where our defense has been recently.
“Offense just has to be a little bit better. I thought we competed for the most part. Second quarter got a little loose. There were too many communication errors for us in the second quarter, but I loved the defensive effort in the second half.”
The Kings were led by De’Aaron Fox with 32 points. Grizzlies-killer Harrison Barnes finished with 26 points. Sacramento made 15 three-pointers. Memphis – playing without their injured sharp-shooter in Desmond Bane – only made 7 from deep.
Memphis beat Sacramento 125-110 in the teams’ first meeting on Oct 27. The Kings are coached by Mike Brown, the former head coach for Cleveland and the Los Angeles Lakers. Brown spent the last several years as an assistant for Golden State, netting a championship ring with them last season.
Memphis will play the New Orleans Pelicans at 7 p.m. on Friday (Nov. 25) at FedExForum. This will be the second meeting between the teams this season. The Grizzlies lost to the Pelicans last week in New Orleans.