Losing streaks tend to generate the desire to win any way possible short of cheating. Teetering on a three-game slide, the Memphis Grizzlies got the job done (89-85) against the Miami Heat on Tuesday.
“This is probably one of the gutsiest wins during my time here,” said Memphis head coach Taylor Jenkins, “This was a heck of a game. The intensity and execution of the game, I give both teams a lot of credit.
“The energy in the crowd was phenomenal. We have had a lot of close games lately. It is great to see our guys break through.”
The Heat (22-19) are not pushovers. Miami is one of the best defensive teams in the league and carries the swagger of a squad that took the Los Angeles Lakers to seven games in the finals of the NBA Championship. While they got off to a slow start this season, they have been, well, hot (11-1 since Feb. 18) of late.
This was a throwback game – a redo of the grit-and-grind days with Tony Allen, Zach Randolph, Marc Gasol and Mike Conley Jr.
Grizzlies star point guard Ja Morant has been preaching all season about playing for 48 minutes.
“I am very happy that we were able to pull this one out,” he said. “Percentage-wise it was not a good night for us, but for us to be out there battling was big for us.”
One of the better defensive teams in the NBA as well, Memphis (18-19) took care of business in limiting the outside shooting prowess of Miami’s Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson. The Heat, averaging 34 percent from three-point range, shot 23.5 percent from behind the arc.
The turning point in the game unfolded after Robinson hit a three-pointer to put the Heat up (52-51) with 10:10 left in the third quarter. With 5:06 left in the quarter, Miami had expanded its lead to eight (63-55).
That is when the Grizzlies responded in a big way. Memphis went on a 17-0 run triggered by its defense to take a (72-63) lead to end the third quarter.
Memphis was led by committee. Morant, Kyle Allen and De’Anthony Melton each had 13 points. Melton also had a career-high 10 rebounds en route to his first career double-double.
“Coach told us before the game he was going with a smaller lineup. He wanted all of the guards to get in there in get rebounds,” Milton said. “That is what we decided today to limit them. We had to keep on attacking them and see how they reacted.”
Morant crafted another signature moment, maneuvering the length of the court against defensive stalwart Jimmy Butler to give Memphis a two-point lead (87-85) with 1.2 seconds left.
Asked if felt good to pull off an old school Grizzlies-style win, Morant said, “Hell yeah! It is a simple as that.”
The Grizzlies have been focused on defending without fouling and managed to keep the Heat from hurting them at the free throw line.
“It shows our growth,” said Morant. “Some of the games we lost, the teams shot a lot of free throws. They beat us off the dribble one on one.”
After watching “a lot of film,” the team heightened its resolve to “having our brother’s back out there,” he said.
“It got a little scary on a couple of possessions in the fourth quarter,” Jenkins said. “Robinson and Herro had a couple of open looks and second chances with the 50-50 balls. We got a little lucky. Limiting them to one shot possession was huge for us. Our effort on Butler was huge for us.”
Notes and next:
- Grizz forward Justice Winslow played his first game against his former team, contributing five points and three rebounds in 18 minutes.
- Grayson Allen made his way back to the starting lineup for Memphis.
- Former University of Memphis star Precious Achiuwa made his return to Memphis, entering in the first quarter of the game. Achiuwa said he was excited to be back in the city and that he has followed his former college as much as he could.
- Memphis was limited to 36 paint points, ending an 84-game streak with 40-plus such points. The streak, which dated back to Dec. 13, 2019, was the longest since the NBA began tracking in 1996-97. Miami entered the game leading the NBA in opponent paint points, allowing just 40.0 per contest.
- This was the first time the Grizzlies have emerged victorious while scoring under 100 points since Feb. 3, 2020 and a 96-82 win over Detroit. The Grizzlies’ 89 points are the fewest points the Grizzlies have scored in a win since Nov. 7, 2018 and an 89-87 victory over Denver.
- Memphis hosts the Golden State Warriors (21-20), with superstar Steph Curry and James Wiseman (former East High School star and the Memphis Tigers short-lived No. 1 recruit) at 7 tonight (March 19).