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Wednesday, July 17, 2024

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Grizzlies’ strange, unlikely, highly unpredictable season comes to an end with loss to Denver Nuggets, 126-111


GG Jackson at the rim against the Denver Nuggets. (Photo: Warren Roseborough/Tri-State Defender)

The final game of the season – one no Grizzly fan, player, or coach wanted – finally came to an end at FedExForum with the Denver Nuggets playing. The Nuggets are battling for playoff seeding, while some Grizzlies players are fighting for their professional livelihood. Denver would defeat Memphis 126-111.

For the second straight game, the Grizzlies had 13 players on the injured list. The remaining available players continue to play hard. The Nuggets held a three-point advantage after the first quarter (29-26).

Jamal Murray, recently returned after his own injury, had a good first half. He had 19 points and played a key role in a 9-0 run later in the second quarter to pull away from the Grizzlies. The Nuggets took a 66-54 lead into halftime. GG Jackson did his best to keep the Grizzlies close, scoring 20 points in the first half.

The Nuggets are coming off a disappointing loss against the San Antonio Spurs on Friday night. A win over the Spurs would have solidified their position for the number one seed in the Western Conference. Even with a win over the Grizzlies on the final day of the season, they’ll need a lot of help to get that top seed.

Nuggets head coach Michael Malone must have given his team some encouraging words at halftime, because they came out on fire in the opening minutes of the third. They quickly built a 20-point lead (76-56) with 8:12 left in the quarter. The Nuggets led at the end of the third quarter (94-75).

On what he said to the team at halftime, Nuggets head coach Michael Malone noted, “Phoenix is up 14 points. If you want to get the number two seed, go out and get it. The starting group to start the third quarter was outstanding. The guys were locked in and engaged.”

The Grizzlies made a mad push to get within 13 points of the Nuggets, but the Nuggets didn’t want to give up their chance at a top playoff seed. They’ll be the number two seed in the Western Conference with the win.

Denver (57-25) had eight players reach double-digits in scoring. Murray led the way with 21 points, and Christian Braun had 19 points and 10 rebounds off the bench. Nikola Jokic had 15 points and 15 rebounds. The Nuggets outrebounded the Grizzlies 54-44. Their 57 wins fall just one short of their record of 58 wins for the most in a season.

Jamal Murray and Scotty Pippen Jr. scramble for a loose ball. (Photo: Warren Roseborough/Tri-State Defender)

Memphis (27-55) was led by Jackson with 44 points (a career-high) and 12 rebounds. Jake LaRavia continued to be Jackson’s great sidekick, scoring 29 points with four assists. Scottie Pippen Jr. had 15 points and seven assists.

On Jackson’s development as a professional, Jenkins said, “What he has been doing on the court is a direct reflection of what he is doing off the court. GG has been unbelievable since day one. His work ethic has been phenomenal.”

Jackson, in humbleness, on his career game said, “We wanted to come out and get the win, but like Denzel Washington said (I’m leaving with something). I’ll take it. Some of them were forced. I thank all the coaches for believing in me. They told me to keep shooting. That’s what I like to hear.”

On the fans, Jenkins said, “The fans have been phenomenal. It has been a difficult season. The love our fans have for us, I could feel it all season and in the last few days. We are going to miss them over the next few months. I want to thank all the fans.”

Memphis had 33 starting lineups this season and 32 players on the active roster in games this season. These numbers are far ahead of the second-place teams. For some who played this season, it may be the end of their professional careers. For others, they will have quality work on film for other teams to evaluate.

Next up for the Grizzlies will be reconstruction and preparation for the NBA Draft Lottery in May and the NBA Draft in June. Many tough decisions will have to be made before the start of next season.

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