That’s how many consecutive losses the Memphis Grizzlies (19-50) faced heading into its Saturday night St. Patrick’s Day tilt with the Denver Nuggets (38-32). The team had not won a game since January. They needed one, if not for the fans then for themselves.
With a 101-94 victory inside FedExForum, the Grizzlies officially snapped the longest losing streak in the NBA this season.
"No group of guys deserves it more than they do" -- Coach Bickerstaff on the importamce of this win— Grizzly Bear Blues (@sbnGrizzlies) March 18, 2018
Led by Dillon Brooks’s 24 on four of nine shooting from deep, the rookie also played good defense, especially down the stretch. Wayne Selden, who finished with 16 on six of seven shooting from the floor, added a strong defensive performance in the final minutes as well.
While those two held it down on the defensive end late, Tyreke Evans showed his skill on the other. He finished with 20 points, seven assists, three rebounds, two steals, and a block, and was the offensive catalyst late in a tight game.
It looked early like the Grizzlies had this one in the bag. Up 21 with a crowd of over 16,000 at their back, it felt like the Grizzlies might actually get off the snide. But one thing we’ve learned about this Grizzlies team is that winning does not come easy to them. A third quarter free throw fest brought the Nuggets back into a game they’d eventually tie several times in the fourth.
The battle between Marc Gasol and Nikola Jokic could not have gone more according to plan. Both played well, passing, rebounding, and shooting at a high level while being physical on both ends. Yet neither one stood out terribly as Jokic shot just 33 percent from the floor for 17 points and 12 rebounds. Gasol, who finished with 14 points, 6 rebounds, and five assists was outdone by his teammates Brooks and Evans.
Memphis out-rebounded, out-assisted, and generally out-hustled Denver in the first. The home team ate off second chance points, scoring 10 as opposed Denver’s two. Wayne Selden led all scorers with eight in the period, a performance that was indicative of the team’s entire bench brilliance. Memphis’ role players outscored Denver’s bench 13-5 in the quarter.
The stats in this quarter for the Grizz are a thing we haven't seen in ages...— Grizzly Bear Blues (@sbnGrizzlies) March 18, 2018
MEM shooting 56.5%, 55.6% from 3
DEN shooting 21.7%, 22.2% from 3
MEM up 15-9 in REB
MEM up 9-3 in AST
MEM up 10-2 in 2nd Chance Points
MEM up 13-5 in Bench Scoring
MEM winning 34-14 after 1st Q
The Grizzlies opened the game on a 15-5 run, nailing all three of its triples while holding Denver to below 25 percent shooting. They kept that blistering pace, shooting 56.5 percent from the floor and five of nine from distance for 34 first quarter points. The Nuggets, on the other hand, shot very poorly. Denver shot just above 21 percent from the field while hitting just two of nine from distance.
While things began to edge closer in terms of stats for Denver, the one key number that began to balloon was the score. Memphis opened a 21 point lead at one point in the second quarter fueled by crisp passing and mindful rebounding. However, a collapse in the final two minutes saw that Grizzlies lead cut to shred as the Nuggets trailed by just 5 at the break, 53-48.
Denver shot 52 percent in the second quarter, but because it shot so poorly in the first, it still shot less than 40 percent at the half. Memphis, conversely, came back down to earth, rounding out at 43.5 percent form the floor.
Dillon Brooks came out the half shooting literal fire out of his hands like “Go Go Gadget Flamethrower.” He hit three straight threes in the first two minutes and tacked on another for 12 points in the period on perfect three point shooting. Selden tacked on eight of his own including a late three that got the crowd cheering louder than it has in 20 games.
Coach Bickerstaff said he doesn't want Dillon Brooks "to be a gunslinger." Wants him to be a more complete offensive player— Grizzly Bear Blues (@sbnGrizzlies) March 18, 2018
The Grizzlies though, despite the efforts from those two, lead by nine after three. The reason for that can be explained by the fact tat the Nuggets shot 16 free throws in the quarter for 11 points. They also created extra possessions by turning Memphis over 10 times for 16 points through the third period.
The Grizzlies will play again Monday against the Nets in Brooklyn.