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Grizzlies scrap and scrape in razor-thin loss to Spurs

With very little time remaining in Tuesday’s game against San Antonio at FedExForum, Grizzlies rookie Jaren Jackson Jr. had a chance to tie the game with two free throws. He missed the first, and, in attempting to miss the second, banked it in, giving San Antonio the final possession to run out the clock.

“He helped us be in the position we were in,” Memphis coach J.B. Bickerstaff said of his 19-year-old forward. “This is part of his growth. He’s a rookie, and it’s going to take him some time and some experience. But you have to go through these situations to get better.”

For the Spurs, the 108-106 victory ended a four-game losing streak. After a night of successful 3-point shooting for San Antonio, LaMarcus Aldridge took over inside in the closing minutes.

Aldridge scored 22 points, including San Antonio’s final seven. Aldridge’s inside baskets to close the game were contrary to a Spurs offense that benefited from going 13 of 21 from outside the arc on the night, including 13 of 16 through the first three quarters.

“When (teammates) are knocking down shots like that, it gives me space to play one-on-one on the block, and I can get to my moves,” Aldridge said.

That is what happened down the stretch. Avery Bradley, who led Memphis, with a career-high 33 points, scored on a 16-footer with just under 4 minutes left for a 102-101 Memphis lead. Aldridge would then score on a tip-in, an 8-footer followed by a short hook to put San Antonio ahead to stay.

Patty Mills also scored 22 for San Antonio while Davis Bertans added 17. Rudy Gay finished with 15 points and 12 rebounds.

Jonas Valancunius — like Bradley — a trade deadline acquisition, had 23 points and 10 rebounds in his first game with Memphis. He brought a spark in the first half and finally slowed Aldridge after the Spurs forward muscled inside against a slimmer Memphis defenders.

“He’s a big help,” Jackson said of Valanciunas. “Great size. Great strength. He uses his body effectively.”


Spurs: The last time the Spurs held an opponent under 100 was on Jan. 9 in a 96-86 loss to Memphis. .The 62 percent success from 3-point range marked the fifth time this season, San Antonio shot better than 61 percent from outside the arc.

Grizzlies: Starting G Mike Conley was a late scratch with “an illness.” Delon Wright, obtained in last Thursday’s traded with the Toronto Raptors, started in Conley’s place.  Valanciunas, also part of the trade with Toronto, played his first game after his immigration status was cleared earlier Tuesday. Bradley’s previous career-high was 32 on Nov. 3, 2014 at Dallas when he was with the Celtics.


“Down two, you know, is a classic ‘dream about it’. Just got to hit those (free throws). It’s on me really. I just got to hit them.” – Jaren Jackson Jr. on the free throws in the final second.


Spurs: All-Star Break before facing the Raptors in Toronto on Feb. 22.

Grizzlies: Travel to Chicago on Wednesday to play the Bulls.

(This story is based upon the reporting of Clay Bailey.)


More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/tag/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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