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Memphis Hustle . . . Um. . . Grizzlies beat Golden State Warriors 116-107 in MLK Game

 

Unless you watch a lot of Memphis Hustle games, you could be forgiven for not recognizing many of the players on the floor for the Grizzlies-Warriors MLK Game on Monday. Fans were hoping to see Ja Morant, Desmond Bane and Jaren Jackson, not GG Jackson, Jacob Gilyard and Vince Williams Jr.

But with injuries decimating the Grizzlies roster, the young guys came to play, riding a career performance from GG Jackson to a 106-107 win in front of a weather-depleted crowd.

The game also saw the return of Draymond Green, who had been suspended since Dec. 12 for putting Rudy Gobert in a headlock. The Grizzlies emerged victorious with a 116-107 win.

“Big win for the Grizzlies and the Memphis Hustle as well,” said Head Coach Taylor Jenkins. “It’s a product of our full-on development. We’re battling a team we have some history with, and guys are taking on different roles overnight.”

Three active players from the Hustle—Jacob Gilyard, Vince Williams Jr., and GG Jackson Jr.—played critical roles in snapping the Grizzlies’ two-game losing streak.

Jenkins praised Williams and Jackson: “I am very proud of them. It’s a product of our development culture. Behind the scenes, our coaches and players invest substantial time in development. I love the competitive fire from all these guys, what Vince has been doing, and GG is constantly finding ways to get better.”

The snowy conditions outside led to one of the season’s lightest crowds at the FedExForum. Golden State Warriors fans in attendance nearly matched Grizzlies fans. The Grizzlies faithful consistently booed Green whenever he touched the ball.

The first quarter felt more like a road game for the Grizzlies, with cheers for every Warriors basket. Memphis led by four points at one point, but the Warriors ended the quarter with a 29-23 lead.

The Warriors extended their lead to seven points in the second quarter (46-39) with 4:31 left in the first half. Stephen Curry scored 16 points in the first half for the Warriors, while GG Jackson added 14 for the Grizzlies. The Warriors led 56-54 at halftime.

In the third quarter, the Warriors again pulled ahead by seven points, but the Grizzlies fought back. A three-pointer by Vince Williams gave the Grizzlies a 67-64 lead with 9:02 left in the quarter.

Gilyard’s three-pointer with 10:50 remaining in the game gave the Grizzlies a 90-88 lead. Known for his assists, Gilyard was in scoring mode, having dished out 15 assists over the last two games.

The Grizzlies went on a 24-8 run with 7:18 left, taking their largest lead of the game (106-96). Jackson and Kennard connected on three-pointers, helping the Grizzlies maintain the energy to close out the game.

The Warriors were led by Curry with 26 points, connecting on three of nine from three-point range. Jonathan Kuminga added 20 points off the bench, while Andrew Wiggins finished with 16 points and Dario Saric had 13 points.

Former Memphis Tiger Lester Quinones, getting more playing time with the Warriors this season, said, “I have been more disciplined this season. With a lot of veterans on this team, I have to be almost perfect. I’m working to limit my mistakes and play the right way to earn Coach Kerr’s trust.”

For the second consecutive game, Jackson scored over 20 points, finishing with a career-high 23 points and connecting on five of eight three-pointers. His performance earned him a walk-off interview with TNT’s “Inside The NBA” Crew, and a special moment with Shaq.

Vince Williams Jr. contributed 24 points and seven rebounds. Jaren Jackson Jr. added 18 points in his return to action, while Kennard, Gilyard, and Santi Aldama each scored 11 points.

Xavier Tillman delivered a video message about the meaning of the MLK holiday and spoke to the crowd in person before the game.

“It was pretty awesome to get the opportunity to do that,” Tillman said. “Everything he stood for, as far as being unselfish, taking care of one another, and striving for equality. I am big on that in sharing and being genuine. For me to get the opportunity, it was great.”

Jaren Jackson commented on the team’s performance: “For sure, ball movement has been great. The effort is there. There is joy out there when we are playing. That is Grizzlies basketball.”

Gilyard, reflecting on his offensive output, said, “I was taking what the defense gave me. I saw I only had three assists. I felt like I had more than that. We got good looks. Just take what they give you and keep rolling.”

Williams, comparing his play from the previous game to the current one, said, “I prayed a little more today. I watched the film from the last game. I have to capitalize on the opportunity when the ball comes my way.”

Regarding the task of guarding Curry, Williams said, “It was great just seeing stars every night and being able to guard them. Being out there and causing havoc the best that I can. I try to get them out of their flow. I feel we did a good job on him and Thompson.”

On his performance over the last two months, Williams added, “I am more confident and the coach believes in me more. With some of the guys out, I had to step up. I am taking advantage of the opportunity and looking forward, not back.”

Next up for the Grizzlies is an 11-day road trip. They will travel to play the Minnesota Timberwolves on Jan. 18 and return home on Jan. 26 to face the Orlando Magic.

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