Adjustments in the second half were the key to the Grizzlies' victory over the Golden State Warriors on Sunday evening before more than 16,000 fans at FedExForum.
The Grizzlies improved to 18–22 for the season and extended their win streak to a season-high five straight games. It's the team’s longest winning streak since November 2018.
“They were fantastic tonight in the second half,” said Warriors head coach Steve Kerr about the Grizzlies’ second-half performance. “They are having a really special season, when you think about it. From where they started and it being Taylor’s [Jenkins] first year to where they are now and what they have done the last few weeks, it is really impressive.”
Kerr added, “Tonight was really about Memphis continuing their play. They are one of the best stories in the league this year. What they showed us tonight was a complete effort. They were well-coached. They play hard. They play for each other. They play together. It was a great game for them.”
Playing together has been the Grizzlies’ philosophy all season — only now it has started to resonate for the guys on the floor. And that didn’t go unnoticed by Kerr. He said he thought Memphis had more confidence on Sunday night than they did in the game on November 19th. Kerr continued: “Now you can see they believe in what they are doing — they believe in themselves and each other. I think they are in the eight spot right now if I’m not mistaken, so they are playing for the playoffs, they’re playing for each other, and they’re on a great run.”
The Return of the Big Man
In a recent interview with a Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital patient, Jonas Valanciunas was asked what he would change about the NBA. Valanciunas said, “Bring back the big man.” On Sunday afternoon, he brought back the big man in a decisive way.
Valanciunas led Memphis with 31 points and 19 rebounds, while going 13 of 17 from the field, plus two blocked shots. He scored 15 of his 31 points in the third quarter. “It was a team win — it was not just running a play for me or someone else, you just shoot the ball, play together, find the open man,” said the Lithuanian native. “As I said earlier, it’s fun to play that way. The ball was coming to my hands. Tonight was my night. Maybe the next night, it’s going to be someone else’s night. We play that way, so it’s to our advantage.”
The Grizzlies’ center added, “We have a lot of areas to work on, to grow and get better on, but we’ve started moving towards the right direction, so it’s fun. It’s good to see.”
When asked if the team upcoming schedule was important, Valanciunas replied, “Every game is important to us. We play extremely hard. We’re trying to set a mentality that we’re the hardest-playing team on the court. Every second we are trying to play hard. Find a guy on the floor. That’s our mentality. Those good teams coming in, we’ve got to play hard against them.”
This was Valanciunas’ 20th double-double of the season and his second game of at least 30 points and 15 rebounds. Valanciunas and Brandon Clarke combined for 30 of the Grizzlies 60 rebounds. To top it off, the Grizzlies’ center even went 2 of 4 from deep.
In 19 minutes, Clarke chipped in nine points, a career-high-tying 11 rebounds and two assists while Ja Morant gained his sixth double-double of the season with 11 points and 10 assists plus seven rebounds in 30 minutes. After the game Morant talked about the team's new-found success. He said, “It’s just we’re learning. We’re learning from our mistakes in the past and just getting better each and every day.”
Off the bench, Grayson Allen finished with 11 points, four rebounds, and two assists, while going 3 of 3 from beyond the arc.
The Other Guys
The Warriors dropped to 9–32 on the season. D’Angelo Russell led Golden State with a game-high 34 points (12–24 FG, 5–9 3P), seven rebounds, and four assists in 35 minutes. This marked his ninth 30+ point game of the season. Jordan Poole chipped in 13 points, three rebounds, and two assists while Alec Burks added 13 points and six rebounds.
The Grizzlies have now scored 110+ points in 11 consecutive games, marking the longest streak in franchise history and the longest active streak in the NBA.
Golden State lost its eighth straight game, the Warriors’ longest losing streak since the 2011–12 season.
Memphis out-rebounded Golden State 60–47 on the night, marking a new season-high for the Grizzlies. The previous season high was 56 on October 25th against the Bulls. The Grizzlies also garnered a new season-high for offensive rebounds in a game with 18. The previous season best was against the Miami Heat on December 16th.
This is the fifth time in franchise history the team has grabbed 60-plus rebounds and the first time in a regulation game since February 9, 2009 vs New Orleans. The franchise record is 64.
Memphis, which leads the league in points in the paint per game, recorded its 14th game this season with at least 60 paint points. The Grizzlies scored 62 points in the paint while the Warriors only scored 26.
Memphis outscored Golden State 37–14 in fast break points, including 12–0 in the first quarter.
The Grizzlies bench outscored the Warriors bench 47–32 on the night.
Quotes from Jaren Jackson, Jr.
On how much the team has changed since last season: “It’s a blessing. You take it for what it’s worth. You understand that it’s because of the work that you’re putting in and you just take every game, enjoy the moment, and you move on. But, in that moment, you just thank God for putting you in the position you’re in to play on a team in which everybody’s personalities are meshing and where everybody is just serving one another to try to get everyone better.”
On the team’s ability to close out games:
“That’s the NBA, so I don’t really get nervous like that anymore about leads. I just know if we keep playing the right way, we’ll be fine, but once I see us getting out of character, that’s when you’ve got to dial back in and focus.”
On the Grizzlies’ ability to pull away in the second half of games:
“It’s the third quarters. We just put an emphasis on it to make sure we correct all the mistakes from the first half. We definitely come in (the locker room) and talk about little things, so we just try to replicate that and just correct all of the mistakes.”
Who Got Next
The Grizzlies continue their homestand against the James Harden and the Houston Rockets on Tuesday at FedExForum. Tip-off at 7 pm CST.