Memphis reserve forward Brandon Clarke called it “that pop.” By whatever name or label, it was present at FedExForum as the Grizzlies handled the Minnesota Timberwolves 128-107 on Friday night.
Clarke had 14 points in 19 minutes, along with 4 rebounds and 4 assists.
“It was that pop that we’ve been missing. You know, that pop that we always play with,” said Clarke.
“We just kind of lost that for a second, and I think that’s just a part of the season. That’s a part of the league. It’s very hard to be the team that you are when you’re playing well always.
“I think that we just kind of had that pop back, and I think that that’s why we all just felt so good on the floor and why playing … felt so easy.”
Memphis (34-21) was second in the NBA’s Western Conference after Friday night. Trailing Denver (39-18) by four games, the Grizzlies were three up on the third-place Sacramento Kings (31-24).
Now winners of two straight after a dizzying 8 of 9 losing spiral that followed an 11-game ascent, head coach Taylor Jenkins said the work the team has been putting in foreshadowed the likelihood of better games ahead even in the 106-103 lost to Toronto on February 5th.
“Sometimes it takes a couple of days to reset yourself. I felt like … despite losing the Toronto game, there were things that we learned from that one,” he said. “But going into it, I thought we played more of our brand.”
OK, Jenkins’ “brand” reference gets us back to Clarke and “that pop” thing and how, from his view, the Grizzlies made it “back” to win two in a row.
“We’ve had a couple of days of practice. We’ve had a couple more meetings together and have been working more as a team together,” said Clarke.
“It’s tough … when you start to lose, that can be kind of contagious, and we can all start playing bad and second-guessing. I think that when our team is playing well, we don’t have that issue, and we’re all just playing so well, and we’re all just being us,” he said.
“So, I think it’s just getting back to just being us. We all have very, very high goals for the team. We all know what it takes to win, and I think that we all know where we’re trying to get to in the future.”
The immediate future is primetime on Super Bowl Sunday when the Grizzlies take on the Celtics at 1 p.m. in Boston. Against the Celtics, Memphis will be looking to get to a place (the winner’s locker room) they’ve not been in while.
Boston swept the two-game series last season and won the first matchup this season in Memphis at FedExForum.
The game can be seen nationally on ABC; online live stream, ESPN3; online radio broadcast, 92.9 FM in Memphis.