A balanced attack led by Jonas Valanciunas and Ja Morant helped the Memphis Grizzlies secure a 118-111 victory over the Miami Heat on Monday night at FedExForum. The Grizzlies have now won four out of their last five games, including back-to-back games at home.
“This team has been playing extremely well,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said about the Grizzlies after the matchup. “They have a lot of young talent that is growing and getting better as the season is going on. They got in such an incredible rhythm in that first half. Might have been our worst defensive half of the season. Finishing plays, basically all across the board, it was pretty uninspiring.”
Spoelstra added, “We picked up our activity level in the second half and fourth quarter. A little of that was maybe due to the zone [defense]. It was still back-breaking second chance opportunities that really hurt us.”
The Grizzlies shot an astounding 65.9 percent (27–41) and 68.8 percent (11–16) from three to garner a season-high 73 points in the first half.
A zone defense in the second half by the Heat slowed the Grizzlies’ offensive output. Memphis went 2-of-20 in the second half from the three-point line and 15-of-45 from the field.
After being down by many as 17, the Heat bounced back to take the lead 105-104, with 5:57 remaining in the fourth quarter. However, the Grizzlies closed out on a 14–4 run to seal the victory.
Valanciunas posted his 14th double-double of the season, finishing with a team-high 21 points and 10 rebounds, plus two blocks, while going 8-of-9 from the field. Memphis had six players in double figures.
Morant ended with 20 points and 10 assists to complete his fourth double-double of the season. After the game, the Grizzlies’ rookie said, “We just learned. I feel like we’ve lost a lot of games late in the 4th quarter up 10 [points], and the other team would go on a run and we just weren’t able to bounce back from it. We were just able to learn from our mistakes, go back with a run of our own, and finish the game off.”
Jaren Jackson, Jr. converted on 5 of 11 of his three-point shots and tallied 15 points, five rebounds, two assists, and two steals.
De’Anthony Melton continues to make his case for more playing time. Melton had 16 points, seven rebounds, and four assists. He was a +12 on the night. Melton talked about his newfound role with the team, “ It’s fun to play. It’s fun to get out there with my team and compete, battle with them. I’m having a blast. I think it’s a great group, and you know, we all love each other and we’re all having fun with it.”
Brandon Clarke had another efficient night, going 5-of-9 from the field, with 14 points and nine rebounds on the night.
Melton and Clarke combined for seven of the Grizzlies’ season-high 16 offensive rebounds.
The other guys
Jimmy Butler led the Heat with 25 points, eight assists, and four rebounds. Rookie sensation Tyler Herro finished with 22 points, five rebounds, and three assists. Kendrick Nunn added 18 points and three assists.
Miami entered the game 10–0 against sub-.500 teams, and Monday night was their first loss in such games.
Quotes from De’Anthony Melton
On the win:
“We battled. We were just battling out there. We know we can play with anybody, so we just went out there, played together, played hard, helped each other out, and came out with the dub [win].”
On playing a lot alongside Jaren Jackson Jr., Brandon Clarke, and Ja Morant:
“Athleticism, athleticism, you know. Quick up-and-down, blocking shots, getting steals, dunks, all that. We’re just having fun, like I said, with all that athleticism out there.”
On the flipped dynamic where he is often a six-foot-three rebounder and Jaren Jackson Jr. is a six-foot-eleven shooter:
“I mean, he thinks he’s Melo [Carmelo Anthony], so there’s that. But [Jaren] has been shooting it great. [I’m] always finding him, and he’s been hitting [shots], so why not?”
On whether he enjoys surprising people with his rebounding ability:
“Yeah, I mean, it’s part of my game. I like to go out there, play hard, get second, third opportunities for my team. It pays off sometimes, like today — it paid off.”
The Grizzlies head to Oklahoma City to take on Steven Adams and the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday, Dec 18th. Tip-Off is at 7 pm CST in Chesapeake Energy Arena.