The Memphis Grizzlies are already one of the NBA’s best teams scoring in the paint. When they combine that with elite 3-point shooting, good luck.
Seven different Grizzlies players made 3-pointers as the San Antonio Spurs offense tried to keep up in the high-scoring affair. The Spurs kept the pressure on, and then Ja Morant announced his return to the lineup with a thunderous dunk over Jakob Poeltl.
The return of Morant and the hot shooting was enough for the Grizzlies to defeat the Spurs 135-129 on Wednesday night at FedExForum.
Morant led the Grizzlies in scoring with 38 points. Desmond Bane and Jaren Jackson Jr. also had big nights with 18 and 21 points, respectively.
The Spurs (13-29) got Keldon Johnson, one of their top scorers, back on Wednesday, but the Grizzlies made him work for every basket in his 24-point game. Memphis has now defeated the Spurs in its last two games.
The Grizzlies (28-13) have the longest active winning streak in the NBA at eight games.
Here are some takeaways from Wednesday’s game.
JA MORANT MAKES AN INSTANT IMPACT
It didn’t take long to realize Morant had some of the freshest legs on the floor. After missing the past two games due to right thigh soreness, Morant returned to the lineup. The All-Star point guard scored 14 points on 5-for-9 shooting in the first quarter. He didn’t stop there. He made two 3-pointers in the third quarter, but it was his fourth-quarter dunk over Poeltl that sent the crowd into a frenzy. That was the second time Morant has dunked over the 7-footer.
GRIZZLIES STAR IN THEIR ROLES
The Grizzlies’ full starting five didn’t play its first game together until Dec. 23. Wednesday’s performance may have been their best this season. Each starter shined in his respective role. Steven Adams was a major factor on the glass with 18 rebounds and showed off his improved playmaking with one of his best passing games of the season. Morant put constant pressure on the paint, Bane was knocking down 3-pointers, Dillon Brooks played tenacious defense and Jackson extended his streak of games with multiple blocks to 12.
When all Grizzlies starters are getting involved at a high level, Memphis can be as tough to beat as any team in the Western Conference.
Finding minutes for Tyus Jones will be one of the biggest challenges for the Grizzlies as he continues to be one of the team’s best offensive sparkplugs. Jones played 35 minutes with Morant out on Monday. Jones didn’t enter Wednesday’s game until 1:08 was left in the first quarter, but he still made the biggest offensive impact off the bench with 16 points and three assists in 18 minutes.
Jones wasn’t the only player who gave the Grizzlies a big impact on the second unit. Ziaire Williams put together his fourth consecutive positive performance, and Santi Aldama knocked down two 3-pointers.
Memphis will head to Indiana on Saturday for a road game against the Pacers (6 p.m., Bally Sports Southeast). The Grizzlies have an eight-game winning streak, but the Pacers have been one of the NBA’s biggest surprises with a young core that features potential All-Star point guard Tyrese Haliburton. Memphis will have two days off and the Pacers will be on the second night of back-to-back.
– Damichael Cole (Memphis Commercial Appeal)