Going into Monday night’s rematch end of consecutive games against the San Antonio Spurs, the Memphis Grizzlies were riding the high of a 129-112 victory and acknowledging signs of their own growth.
Coming off a 12-day hiatus forced by COVID-19 complications, the Grizzlies defeated the Spurs 129-112 at the AT&T Center in San Antonio on Saturday, moving two games over .500 (8-6) and into a fifth-place tie with the Spurs.
Memphis – currently on a six-game winning streak – will take on the Spurs again at the AT&T Center, with tip off set for 7:30 p.m. The game can be seen on Fox Sports South.
“Everyone stayed the course,” Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins said, referencing the team being sidelined by COVID-19 protocol. “We always preach when you have the opportunity to compete, you go full throttle. That is what these guys have done over the last 12 days.”
Accounting for the pandemic and with an eye toward health safety, the NBA schedule has numerous instances of teams playing each other in consecutive games. The Grizzlies and their fans would readily embrace a redo of Memphis’ very hot start in San Antonio, with the Grizzlies scoring 35 points in the first period.
The Spurs kept the Grizzlies in range with 27 first-quarter on the strength of some great shooting from behind the arc. San Antonio made nine three-pointers in the first period and only eight the rest of the game.
“We had a couple of coverage changes to take away some of their open looks,” Jenkins said about Memphis’ defensive adjustments on the Spurs’ long-range gunning.
“The Spurs did a really good job of getting downhill. We kept reminding our team to keep them square. How we handled the pick and rolls, we did a great job. The way we closed out to the three-point line, taking away the threes.”
The win was a result of balanced scoring, again, by Memphis. Seven players scored in double digits. DeAnthony Melton, who did not get into the first game against San Antonio, came off the bench to score 29 points, including a team high four, three-pointers.
Melton talked about the importance of the team sticking to the game plan.
“It just shows our team fight. We don’t really care who is up,” Melton said. “We just want to keep getting our game up. Our team is in a great spot right now.”
Memphis scored 56 points in the paint and welcomed 54 points from its bench. They also controlled the boards, out-rebounding the Spurs 45-38.
After the Grizzlies pushed the lead to 18, the Spurs focused on cutting into it and trailed by only five (110-105) with five minutes to play. The Grizzlies went on a 19-3 run to close out the game.
Ja Morant was spectacular, scoring 19 points and dishing out 11 assists as the mainstay in the Grizzlies response to the Spurs’ charge.
“Basketball is a game of runs. San Antonio is a great team and we knew they were not going to give up,” Morant said. “For us, staying comfortable out there and not being rushed … being able to come out here and get this big win late, it just shows our growth.”
Morant has a developing a reputation as “Mr. Fourth Quarter.”
“I lock in. I go into this drive, I cannot really speak on it,” he said. “I am just seeing red, smelling blood and I know when it is up.”
- Balanced scoring has been a staple of the Grizzlies. Other players in double-digit scoring were Kyle Anderson (16), Gorgui Dieng and Desmond Bane (15) and Brandon Clarke and Dillion Brooks (14).
- The Grizzlies’ Tyrus Jones got to play against his brother, Trey Jones, for the first time. Both were in the game at the same time with less than three minutes left to play.
- Ja Morant, who missed several games with an ankle injury, had the entire fan base of the Grizzlies hold its breath when he went up for a missed-shot rebound and landed awkwardly, but he bounced up like nothing happened.