This was the Memphis Grizzlies that fans had been waiting to see – a team that did a lot of things right en route to whopping the Oklahoma Thunder 121-92 in the NBA bubble in Orlando.
“We translated stops into fast breaks. We were making the right plays. We were sharing the basketball,” said Dillion Brooks, who scored a team-high 22 points and grabbed 6 rebounds.
Ja Morant scored 19 points, with six assists.
“We played together. We played hard. We played defense,” said Morant. “We had over 20 assists in the game. That shows that we are unselfish. We have to continue playing like that.” said Morant.
With the win, Memphis moved to a one-game lead over the ninth-place Portland Trailblazers and a two-game lead over the San Antonio Spurs in the race for the final spot for the Western Conference Playoffs. Next up are the Toronto Raptors at 1 p.m. on Sunday. Toronto has practically locked up the number two seed in the East and could choose to rest some of their key players.
The smashing of OKC was the first win in five starts for Memphis since the NBA resumed the pandemic-altered season. Memphis did something it has not done since the seeding games began in Orlando, taking a lead (63-60) into the locker room. The Grizzlies never surrendered the lead.
“We channeled what we have done all season long. We played Grizzlies basketball,” said Grizzlies head coach Taylor Jenkins. “Grizzlies basketball equals Grizzlies win more times than not. We have not done that for the first four games.”
The defense, which had been lacking most of the restart, returned and helped Memphis erase a deficit and take a nine-point lead near the of the second quarter before two late three-pointers by the Thunder.
“Our defense completely changed the game,” said Jenkins.
Memphis took advantage of its size on the inside, feeding the ball Jonas Valanciunas, who finished with another double-double, 19 points and 11 rebounds.
Morant took a hard fall in the first half, but he was not looking to come out.
“Nah, I’m good. I’m a dog. I’m a Warrior,” said Morant.
Anthony Tolliver got his first start as a member of Grizzlies. He had been averaging two points and scored eight points in the first half His best performance in Orlando.
Gorgui Dieng, who was playing increased minutes because Jaren Jackson Jr.’s season-enduring injury, scored 12 points in the first half.
Memphis as a team had 24 assists and also won the rebounding battle 58-36.
Brandon Clarke, who started the previous last game and was ineffective as a starter was more like himself coming in off the bench, scoring 12 points and grabbing 8 rebounds. The Grizzlies’ bench scored 46 points.